Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Use of the IFAK - a Student's Perspective

For this month's Journal of a Sheepdog, we asked one of our students, Ben, to write about his use of the Individual First-Aid Kit (IFAK) that he carries with him everywhere he goes. A college student and overall regular guy, Ben has made emergency response training a priority in his life, and it has paid off in spades. From here forward, we'll let him tell you his story.


Ben's Everyday Carry (EDC) bag, which contains his modified IFAK.

Ever since I have taken the IFAK Life Saver course with Independence Training, I have been put to the test multiple times as a simple citizen with no military or law enforcement background. Everyone invests so heavily in firearms training, but often the medical portion is ignored. Training to deal with serious and traumatic injuries is something that everyone should pursue, simply because the chances of using these skills in day-to-day life is highly probable. If you can effectively deal with someone who has a life-threatening injury, then you can quickly manage a minor injury. 

Ben using his IFAK and emergency response skills on 
a shattered ankle while in a remote location.

Over the last two years since I initially took the IFAK Life Saver course through Independence Training, I have used my IFAK more times than I can count on a single hand. The first injury I dealt with was an ankle injury at a very remote location in Arizona called Fossil Creek. This location requires a 45 minute drive on a dirt road plus a mile trek through some rough terrain to a cliff jumping area, meaning an ambulance will not be able to reach you if you get injured. I was the only one in our group, and the only one present on scene with a medical kit when a member of our group jumped off one of the cliff jumping areas and shattered their ankle on a rock. The individual fell 30+ feet and bashed their ankle against a rock that was just below the surface of the water. I was on shore at the time when I noticed everyone crowding around this individual who had been injured with the panicked expressions that you would expect from a movie. No one had any idea what to do, and simply kept restating the common phrase "are you okay?" which is of little help when you are obviously injured. I calmly grabbed my IFAK, not knowing what to expect and broke the circle of awestruck bystanders to find an individual who had not sustained any injuries that were life-threatening. Having trained to first evaluate a casualty for life-threatening injuries it made my job that much easier when none were present. As I went through the list that had been engrained in my head during training, I got to work with the materials that I had. While my kit was outfitted for catastrophic injuries, I could use the materials provided to mend the shattered ankle. I immediately improvised with the compression bandages that were provided in my IFAK that Independence Training had supplied and moved through Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). Following this, I used the training I had received to make an improvised stretcher, or Casualty Evacuation device (CASEVAC) to help move the individual through the treacherous one mile hike without further injuring their ankle. Without this IFAK and training I would have been another bystander that was only able to ask questions instead of act, leaving them to wait for over an hour while EMS attempted to reach them. 

A view of the hand injury that was sustained while hiking - 
notice muscle/tendon is visible in bottom picture.

During new student orientation at my university I have carried my IFAK for the last two years, always with people asking the repetitive question of "why do you carry that?" In a span of one week I had to use my IFAK three times for injuries that I considered minor. Anything that is not life-threatening is a minor injury - because I have been trained to deal with catastrophic injuries, anything else seems minor. You're not going to die? Good, now lets see what I can do to make you comfortable. The first injury was during a daytime hike. A member of our group was jumping across an obstacle and tried to brace their fall on a log. This log had a five inch stub from a broken off branch sticking out of it, which the individual happened to use as their brace. This caused the stub to impale itself into their hand. Again, I was ahead of the group when I heard my name called out because "someone had been hurt." I had told the people in my group that I was carry an IFAK and it was easily accessible at the top of my ruck if anything should happen. I calmly approached the individual, checking the scene and identifying the mechanism of injury. The individual had a hole in his hand that was free of any major foreign objects. I decided to flush the wound with the extra water I had brought and then proceeded to plug the hole with gauze and antibiotic. Following this, I bandaged the hand and used tape to create a seal around the wound to prevent any foreign contaminants to enter it before we could get the wound stitched. Again, everyone was sitting around watching and wondering while I calmly went about my business, after all, this was not going to kill him if not treated immediately.

The second injury was a simple fix because, again the mechanism of injury was immediately known. Another person in my orientation group had their stitches break causing a wound to open that had been closed during surgery. I had modified my kit after asking Glen, my instructor from Independence Training, what I should add to it. I had put a suture kit in, separate from my IFAK portion, just in case I ever needed to close a wound. If I did not have this, I could have easily used a HALO seal from the trauma portion to seal the wound. I sutured the wound and kept the individual from having to incur any further medical bills from another doctor's visit. 

Properly bandaging a knee injury is simple when you 
have the appropriate tools and training.

Finally, the most recent injury was from an individual that was running during an orientation event at night, and happened to run into a ditch at full sprint causing damage to their MCL on the inside part of their knee. I happened to be walking by when I noticed the oh so familiar circle of confused bystanders. I nudged my way in and noticed that while their were plenty of people their, none of them could help her. I assessed the scene and immediately started asking the standard questions to determine the mechanism of injury as trained in class. After establishing what aid was needed I applied a SAM splint and compression bandages to keep the leg in a position that did not cause shocking pain to the individual using R.I.C.E. from training. After I had finished applying the bandages, the supervisor came to me and said "I had no idea what to do, I could only stand here. Thank goodness you were here, I may have to take that IFAK course." I have heard this many times as well as "If I ever get hurt I hope you're around to help me." Every time I hear this, I can only say that in the end, you are ultimately responsible for your safety. Even when crowded by people, you may be the only person who has the training necessary to fix the problem. The IFAK training I received allowed me to treat individuals with minor injuries calmly and effectively since I had been trained to deal with catastrophic injuries that required precise and immediate treatment. I have also been called upon to treat individuals who have had injuries that did not require IFAK materials, but could be mended with a simple use of tape and gauze. These have included minor cuts resulting in capillary and veinous bleeding, pulled muscles, and an individual who managed to spike a nail through their hand. IFAK training is something that everyone should consider since you may be the only one who is able to help in situation where you or someone you care about is in need of medical attention when seconds count and help is minutes away. If you're prepared for the worst, everything else is easy to deal with.

(click the photo above for more information on the course)
Sept 22 - Kearny, AZ
Oct 26 - Prescott Valley, AZ

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

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