NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- The growing use of police trauma kits is saving the lives of gunshot victims.
Officer Brendon Walzak said the Newport News Police Department is leading the way in training its rank-and-file in tactical trauma lifesaving to treat people before paramedics arrive.
"Before the kits, we would say, 'Hey Buddy, hang on. Medics are coming," Walzak told 13News Now.
In the past three years, out of 371 people shot in Newport News, 291 survived, although police could not say how many of those victims were treated with the kits.
Walzak said he worked on 13 victims with life-threatening injuries in the last five years, and only five of those people died.
"I can say that there are a lot of people walking around that may not have been 10 or 11 years ago," Walzak stated.
The kits, which cost about 80 dollars a piece, are stocked with tourniquets, a thermal blanket, bandages, and a halo seal. The seals are used to close off wounds.
"Anytime you have a penetrable or perforating trauma to the torso, what happens is your lungs start to collapse," explained Walzak. "I've seen some borderline miraculously save with this. People with 13 to 14 gunshot wounds."
One miraculous save came on January 25 on Madison Avenue. Someone shot a Domino's delivery driver in the back and chest just minutes after he dropped off a pizza to a customer.
A detective closed off the driver's wounds with a seal and bandaged him before medics got to the scene. The driver is expected to live, and police continue to look for the person who shot him.
In a statement, Domino's spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre told 13News Now: "We are grateful to the police who responded to help our franchisee’s driver and appreciate the extra efforts they took using the trauma kit on his injuries. Thank you officers!"
Walzak, who served in Iraq in the Army National Guard, said the kits are similar to what's used on the battlefield to save our troops. He first got his kit from his team leader who is now a master police detective in Newport News.
The Newport News Police Foundation is taking donations to help fund the kits so that more officers will have them.
In Norfolk, the police department has 280 Critical Response Kits, and every officer carries an Individual First Aid Kit.
It's one of those kits that has Nika thanking officers for her survival.
In 2014, her boyfriend shot her in the chest and back before he turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
"Once I seen all the blood running, I just laid down and put my face to the floor. I thought it was over," recalled Nika.
But officers who first arrived on the scene applied a tourniquet to her leg.
"He tied up my leg to stop the bleeding, and my family was told later that's what saved my life," said Nika.