12 hours after training, deputy saves a life

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
On behalf of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin (left) presents Deputy Justin Roberts with a life saving award and certificate for his efforts in helping the victim of an accidental gunshot wound.

(Posted June 10, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

On the morning of May 24, Justin C. Roberts, a deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, attended a training on the use of tourniquets. Little did he know that just 12 hours later, he would use what he learned to save a man’s life.

The 9-1-1 call came in just after midnight on May 25. A 35-year-old Mount Sterling area man had suffered an accidental gunshot wound to the leg when his gun fell out of its holster while he was exiting his truck. He had just gotten home from work. Held shut with bungee cords, the truck’s damaged driver’s side door popped open, the man slipped, the gun bumped out of the holster, the man attempted to catch the gun and it discharged.

On patrol in the area, Roberts was dispatched to the scene.

When he arrived, the patient was lying in the driveway between two vehicles with his family around him. A family member was applying pressure to the wound with a towel. The bullet had entered the patient’s left thigh, about four inches above his knee. There was no exit wound.

“Once I saw the towel was soaked (with blood), I knew the towel wasn’t going to be enough,” Roberts said.

He ran back to his patrol car, retrieved one of the tourniquets he’d put in the car following the training, and applied the tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The patient was then kept warm and calm until medics from the Sterling Joint Ambulance District arrived.

The events unfolded in just a matter of minutes. The 9-1-1 call came in at 12:21. Roberts arrived on scene at 12:24. The squad arrived at 12:36, at which time the patient was transported to Grant Hospital in Columbus, where he received a blood transfusion and emergency surgery for a shattered femur.

“If (Roberts) didn’t show up and do what he did, I wouldn’t be alive,” said the patient, who asked to remain anonymous. “I am very grateful for what he did.”

This was the first time Roberts had used a tourniquet in his five years with the Sheriff’s Office and his nine years with the Army National Guard. Until May 24, he had not carried a tourniquet with him while on duty as it is not typically part of a deputy’s gear.

Local participation in the national “Stop the Bleed” campaign is changing that.

The White House launched “Stop the Bleed” in 2015 to empower bystanders to act as immediate responders in emergency situations. The goal is to provide public access to bleeding control devices and the training to use them. The initiative was launched in the aftermath of mass casualty events like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“Mass casualty events seem to be occurring more frequently. No community is immune,” said Pat Lentz, director of emergency preparedness for Madison County Public Health. “Hardly a week goes by that another incident isn’t reported in the news. No matter how fast 9-1-1 is called and professional emergency responders can arrive, bystanders will always be first on the scene.”

Such preparation also is valuable in accident situations like the one in Mount Sterling, especially in rural areas where response time is affected by the ground that emergency personnel have to cover. A person can bleed out in as little as three minutes, so time is of the essence. The tourniquet training and equipment is useful not only to civilian bystanders, but also non-medical emergency responders who often are first on the scene.

“It could be used for home or work-related injuries or motor vehicle crashes,” said Lt. Trish Hull, a paramedic with the Madison County Emergency Medical District. She said such training for the lay person goes hand-in-hand with CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and use of AEDs (automated external defibrillators).

The Central Ohio Healthcare Coalition adopted “Stop the Bleed” as its major project for 2016-17. Medical personnel in a 15-county region are being trained to train others on how to use bleeding control tools.

Hull volunteered to be Madison County’s trainer. She and Amber Bidwell, a paramedic and registered nurse also with Madison County EMD, led the May 24 tourniquette training.

A total of 34 individuals volunteered to take the free, two-hour class, the first of its kind in the county. Most were local law enforcement and health department personnel. Future trainings will target school personnel, county courthouse workers, and the public, said Roger Roberts, director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

Using grant funding, the EMA purchased 150 tourniquets to distribute to the courthouse, all schools, and all law enforcement agencies in the county. Some also have been set aside for large events, like Farm Science Review, the county fair, and festivals. The tourniquets can be used on adults, children and pets. Anyone who takes the training leaves with a tourniquet.

Hull and Bidwell were excited to hear the news that the first training yielded immediate results.

“We had just taught the class the day before—our first class—and (Deputy Roberts) used it within 12 hours! This legitimately made a difference,” Bidwell said.

“That’s the empowerment part—being able to walk in, see what it is, and think immediately, ‘Ah, I know what to do.’ ”

The Mount Sterling man said he thinks every patrol car should be outfitted with tourniquets and every law enforcement officer should be trained on how to use them.

“That little bit of knowledge would save a lot of people,” he said.

Deputy Roberts is glad he volunteered for the training.

“It was obviously worth it,” he said.

For his actions, Roberts received a life-saving award from the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association. On May 30, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin presented Roberts with a a medal to wear on his uniform and a certificate from the association.

“This underscores that the very broad trainings that law enforcement takes and takes seriously—in this case, it was voluntary not mandatory—pays off to the highest extent,” Sabin said.

If it hadn’t been for the tourniquet training, he continued, the outcome in the Mount Sterling call “would certainly, tragically been different,” he continued.

“According to the medics, the squad personnel, and the hospital, the actions that Justin took resulted in saving this man’s life,” Sabin said.

To learn more about local “Stop the Bleed” efforts, call the Madison County EMA at (740) 852-4200 or Madison County Public Health at (740) 852-3065.

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