Tourniquet saves corpsman’s life

23 Sep 2004 | Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.

A corpsman knows the value of a tourniquet. To him it is more than a piece of cloth; it can mean the difference between life and death.

Shrapnel from an improvised explosive device hit Seaman Joseph D. Worley, a corpsman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, as he was giving aid to Marines wounded during a rocket propelled grenade attack Sept. 17 near Fallujah.

"I was running to the first vehicle that got hit by an RPG to provide medical care and to put out the small fires that were all over the injured Marines and their gear," said Worley, 23, a native of Dallas, Ga.

Even as chaos erupted around Worley, he wasted no time getting to the Marines who were in need of a corpsman. When Worley reached them he was hit with shrapnel from an IED. He sustained injuries to both legs and other areas of his body. Remaining levelheaded, Worley applied a tourniquet to his left leg while also caring for the wounded Marines.

When it comes to dealing with the destruction that an IED can deliver on unsuspecting troops, Worley is not a rookie.

"I have assisted Marines in about eight other IED attacks, including the Labor Day vehicle-borne IED, which killed seven Marines, " said Worley.

With his knowledge of IED injuries Worley knew his wounds were too severe to save his leg. He did what was necessary to save his life while also continuing to help save the lives of the injured Marines.

Despite the severity of Worley's injuries his spirits remained high, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael T. Meaney, a corpsman with 2/1. The whole way back to the surgical company, Worley had a smile on his face. He came into Bravo Surgical Company yelling out, "Hoorah!"

Meaney, 23, a native of Houston, focused on keeping Worley conscious by asking him questions.

"Meaney was asking me about my family, telling me not to worry about it, that I was heading home to my family," Worley said, referring to his wife, Angel, and his newborn baby daughter.

Worley is alive because of his own quick actions. Although he received surgery to amputate his leg, he could have lost more if he hadn't used a tourniquet, according to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael T. Mazurek, an orthopedic surgeon with Bravo Surgical Company, Combat Service Support Battalion 15, 1st Force Service Support Group.

Mazurek was the head surgeon who conducted the operation. The procedure took about two and half hours with very little complications, according to Mazurek.

From the time of the explosion until the completion of the surgery, Worley had lost close to one and a half liters of blood. This was a problem that had to be dealt with immediately.

"Once we knew his blood type was A negative, finding the donor to match his blood type became the next step in the process," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime G. India, a lab technician with Bravo Surgical Company, CSSB -15.

The lab technicians had a list of Marines and Sailors based in Camp Fallujah that listed their blood type and location.

"We were able to find two blood donors who matched and were a part of the Bravo Surgical Company, but we still needed one more match," said India, 26, a native of Los Angeles.

The rare blood type made it difficult to find the third necessary match to save Worley's life. Eventually a match was found, but due to the length of time it takes to draw blood, the surgical company decided to get him on the first available flight to Baghdad.

He left Camp Fallujah in stable condition. From Baghdad, Worley was relocated to Landstul, Germany, where he received further medical treatment.

Looking back on the chain of events and how they unfolded, Worley realized the importance of having the knowledge and confidence to use the equipment he carried to the battlefield.

"If I had not applied the tourniquet, I would have died. I think that every Marine and Sailor out there should have a tourniquet as part of their gear requirement, and keep it somewhere accessible," said Worley.