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Military medics revolutionizing trauma medicine at home

(WSYX/WTTE)

They serve and sacrifice for their country, but the men and women in the military are also driving new medical breakthroughs. The treatments learned by medics in Iraq and Afghanistan are now saving lives in Ohio.

Toby Smith of Marion is one person whose life was saved by one of the changes in medicine inspired by the military.

"Three more minutes and I wouldn't have made it," Smith said about the day he was injured at the train tanker company where he worked. "Somehow (the train car) came loose and somehow I came off and I did this."

Smith lost both of his legs, but he didn't lose his life because of the quick actions of one of his coworkers.

"First thing I did was take my belt off," said Jason Pegg, a five-year Army veteran and former medic. "When I saw the extent of (Smith's injury), I wasn't like, 'oh, let's try this'. It was 'this needs to go now. Hey, give me your belt.'"

Pegg used his belt as a tourniquet around Smith's legs before paramedics got there. He was eventually airlifted to Grant Medical Center.

It turns out Pegg had practice using a tourniquet -- on himself. He nearly lost his arm in an explosion while he was deployed. He saved himself by putting on a tourniquet.

Doctors at Grant Medical Center's Emergency Room said the military is changing the way they treat patients who come through their doors.

"The military is actually able to experiment a little bit more," said Dr. Brad Raetzke, a physician at Grant. "They have healthier patients because they're 18 to 22 years old typically. So, we get to see what is really working and bring it into our arena."

Doctors now put an IV straight into the bone instead of the vein. That allows for more fluids to flow into the body faster.

"Your target is a little bit bigger than a small IV on a moving patient," Raetzke said.

Doctors also now try to keep people's blood pressure low, not get it back to normal. They said the lower blood pressure helps prevent greater blood loss when a patient has a severe injury.

Emergency crews also have reverted back to using tourniquet. It's an old treatment that's making a comeback.

"Using those tourniquets saves lives," said Dr. Shay O'Mara at Grant. "Occasionally you lose limbs."

That's exactly what happened to Smith.

"You got to learn ways to do things and get by," Smith said about his life after the accident.

Smith isn't down in the dumps about what happened to him. He knows he's lucky to be alive -- thanks to a veteran.

"He just took control and he saved my life," he said.

"I wasn't trying to do any superhero stuff," Pegg said. "(I was) trying to keep him from going into shock and control the bleeding as well as we could and we did that and he's here today."

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