Heroes

Thanks to a new invention, sponges may soon help save shooting victims.

After getting FDA approval, this handy device will soon be making its way to first responders.

Thanks to a new invention, sponges may soon help save shooting victims.

While debate over how to reduce gun violence carries on, there's a new tool that might, at least, help victims of it.

It's called the XSTAT, and it's a wonderful, ridiculously simple invention that's sure to save lives in coming years.

Invented by John Steinbaugh, a former U.S. Army special forces medic, XSTAT was the result of a request from the Army for something to replace gauze, the go-to battlefield wound-packer for decades. Steinbaugh decided to see whether it'd be possible to replace gauze with sponges that can both absorb blood and apply pressure to gunshot or shrapnel wounds.


Here he is discussing his invention in a 2014 episode of "PBS NewsHour."


Simple! Effective! Life-saving! GIF from "PBS NewsHour."

Sponges are injected into the wound, clotting the blood.

The sponges are coated with blood-clotting chemicals and have been shown to stop bleeding after just 20 seconds (as opposed to three to five minutes with gauze).

Here's what it looks like in action. (Pretend that the opening in this Erlenmeyer flask is a bullet wound and the blue liquid is blood.)


Sponges are injected into the wound. GIF from "PBS NewsHour."


Within seconds, they clot the wound, expanding and applying pressure. GIF from "PBS NewsHour."

This helps buy precious time to get the victim to a surgeon.

As Dr. Martin Schreiber — chief of trauma at the Oregon Health and Science University and colonel in the Army Reserve — tells PBS, the difference between 20 seconds and three minutes can mean the difference between life and death.


GIF from "PBS NewsHour."

"According to the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research, 30 to 40 percent of civilian deaths by traumatic injury are the result of hemorrhaging," reads the FDA's notice of approval for the XSTAT 30 (the version made for first responders, paramedics, police officers, and the like). "Of those deaths, 33 to 56 percent percent occur before the patient reaches a hospital."

Of course, the XSTAT is not a cure-all. There are some catches involved.

For one, certain factors like the size and shape of the wound will determine whether the XSTAT 30 is the most effective option. And, of course, this is merely to help buy time for a victim to get to a hospital, at which point the sponges (marked with an "X" that will show up on X-rays) need to be removed.

But it's a quick, simple update to some old technology.

I could watch this GIF all day. GIF from "PBS NewsHour."

If there's one thing we can take away from this invention, it's that solutions don't always need to be sophisticated.

Sometimes the best inventions and innovations come from the simplest ideas. For example, take this gravity-powered light that's been popping up in countries where electricity is scarce.

Behold! The gravity light! GIF from Therefore.

So whether it's updating a battlefield staple like gauze or using forces of nature to stand in for electricity, look around! You never know where the next great invention will come from.

To learn more about this invention and its uses, check out this video from "PBS NewsHour."

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