Sponges Save a Soldier

Aug. 22, 2014

By Medical Discovery News

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began in 2001 and 2004 respectively, over 1 million people have died in the combat. By the end of 2013, 5,829 of those were American soldiers. In 76 percent of potentially survivable battlefield wounds, the leading cause of death was hemorrhage. But more soldiers may make it home thanks to a new invention called XStat. It uses a light, pocket-sized injector to send 92 sponges into a wound, stopping arterial bleeding in 15 seconds.

Currently, caring for a wounded soldier on the battlefield is limited to what combat medics carry with them. Controlling hemorrhage is the first priority when treating a wounded soldier and can involve tourniquets or field dressings, Hemcon, Quickclot, and Fibrin bandages. Hemcon dressings are treated with chitosan, a naturally occurring biocompatible compound from shrimp shells that strongly adheres to blood and reduces blood clotting times. Quickclot gauze and pads are coated with a naturally occurring mineral, kaolin, which initiates the body’s natural coagulation to reduce clotting times. Fibrin bandages contain fibrin and thrombin, two key factors in the normal clotting process that cause rapid blood clotting once in contact with the wound. 

However, these products are not ideal for deep-penetrating wounds, which require packing gauze into the wound and applying pressure. If that does not work the first time, the process is repeated. This is an agonizing ordeal for the wounded person and bleeding can begin again once the pressure is taken off. This keeps the medic from being able to treat anyone else because he or she has to keep applying pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. 

Medics have long been packing open wounds with combat gauze with mixed results and even the new treated gauzes, though much better, still are not ideal. The XStat system uses disk-shaped injectable sponges made of special sterile cellulose and coated with chitosan in a syringe-like injector. The sponges expand from three millimeters thick to 50 when they come in contact with blood, which not only speeds up clotting but also puts pressure on the blood vessels to slow bleeding. The sponges expand into tube shapes that clump together once they are saturated with blood and can be easily removed later. The sponges are also labeled with an X symbol that can be seen by X-Ray to ensure that they are all removed.

One injection of XStat is the equivalent of five rolls of combat gauze. It is smaller, faster, and less painful. All the medic has to do is inject the sponges close to the wound and bleeding is stopped within seconds. This invention is likely to help save many soldiers’ lives. RevMedx, the makers of XStat, are developing a smaller version of the device to inject sponges into narrower wounds like those from shrapnel, handguns, or knives. They are also creating a bandage with embedded sponges and a dressing with an inflatable bladder that would maintain pressure on wounds. Such devices would not just save lives on the battlefield but in everyday emergencies to stop hemorrhages and would be a welcome addition for emergency medical technicians to use.

For a link to this story, click here.

‘Rest Well, Johnny’


Waco native who was killed in Iraq given Marine’s burial

By Pamela Bond

Waco Tribune-Herald

June 21, 2007

Minerva Williams laid a single red rose on the coffin and lovingly patted her hand twice on the gleaming wood.

“Goodbye, my little boy,” she said to her grandson, Marine Lance Cpl. Johnny Ray Strong, a Waco native who died in Iraq on June 12.

Strong’s funeral was held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Connally- Compton Funeral Directors, and he was buried at Oakwood Cemetery. Strong, 21, died “while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq,” according to the U.S. Defense Department.

“Johnny’s been deprived of years of life, and we will miss his love, laughter and affection,” said Fernando Arroya, Strong’s youth pastor. “Rest well, Johnny, you’ve touched the lives of many.”

During the service, about 150 people filled every seat and packed in to stand along the sides and back of the room. The funeral began with the national anthem, played by a quintet from Highland Baptist Church. Henry Harris, a pastor and Strong’s uncle, officiated at the ceremony.

“I remember the day Johnny told me he wanted to be a Marine,” Harris said. “I was so happy, I was walking around the house, and crying a little, because I remembered the day I told my father I wanted to be a Marine. He told me to be a good soldier. I spent some time thinking, what does it take to be a good soldier?”

Strong was based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and was in his second tour in Iraq when he died. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the flags at the state capitol in Sacramento to be flown at half-mast in Strong’s honor.

Ruth Cassidy of Mission Waco, an organization that Strong was involved with, read Strong’s obituary and his favorite prayer, the prayer of St. Francis. In her closing remarks, she read the Marine’s Prayer.

“Praise God for the model that Johnny was,” Cassidy said. “He was this prayer. He completed this prayer.”

Strong graduated from A.J. Moore Academy in 2004. He was a member of the Junior ROTC and enlisted in the Marines his senior year. Maj. Mike Connor, a Junior ROTC instructor at A.J. Moore, spoke at Strong’s funeral.

“I can’t help but feel a little bit responsible,” Connor said. “But my wife looked at me and said: ‘Johnny did something with his life. He made something of himself.’ ”

State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, presented Strong’s family with a state flag that flew over the state capitol this week.

‘The ultimate sacrifice’

“I did not have the privilege of knowing Lance Cpl. Johnny Ray Strong,” Anderson said. “But I would have liked to. We are here today to honor a hero from right here in Waco who gave the ultimate sacrifice. He did this with the hope that the Iraqi people might one day live in freedom and so we can sleep in our beds at night in peace.”

George Simpson of the Heart of Texas Marine Corps League read a letter from Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy, declaring a memorial scholarship in Strong’s name at A.J. Moore to honor a young man who DuPuy said was “admirable . . . he never lost his nerve.”

During the funeral, Harris opened the floor for any attendees to give remarks on Strong’s life. A.J. Moore Principal Deborah Bishop spoke about her former student.

“We loved him, and we are with you today,” Bishop said to Strong’s family.

Gracie McGlauflin, a close friend of Strong’s whom he considered a part of his “second family,” read the lyrics to the song “Heaven Was Needing a Hero” by Jo Dee Messina through tears.

“Johnny knew how much we loved him,” McGlauflin said. “So I want to tell you how much we loved Johnny.One of the funniest things I’ll remember is the food fight at Steve’s [Strong’s father], and he burnt the spaghetti. I don’t remember if the water fight was before or after that.”

Pallbearers were Roy Werthen, Angelo Cavazos, Jacob Romero, Poppy Serrano, Thomas McGlauflin and Nicholas Blanchard. Honorary pallbearers were the A.J. Moore class of 2004 and Strong’s cousin, Kristopher Harris. The Patriot Guard Riders, a national group of motorcyclists who honor fallen soldiers, held U.S. flags during the funeral and burial.

At the graveyard site in Oakwood Cemetery, pipers Roger McCabe and Danny Kohl, of Waco, played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, and Henry Harris read Scripture, reciting the familiar phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Strong’s burial included full military honors by the Marine Corps, including a three-rifle salute and taps. The U.S. flag draping over Strong’s coffin was folded and presented to his mother, Jacqueline Williams, and his father, Steve Strong.

‘They’re all here’

“I just want to say thanks to everybody, from me and from the family,” Steve Strong said. “Thanks to the whole town — I think they’re all here. We’ve gotten calls from people who didn’t even know Johnny. One woman, who wouldn’t tell me her name, heard about him and dropped off some food, but she accidentally left her keys, too.”

Harris encouraged friends and family to remember Strong by giving to his memorial scholarship fund.

“If you want to see this young man again, you’ll have to see him in heaven,” Harris said. “And you’ll need to make your reservations now. You never know what tomorrow brings.”

To Be A Marine


Waco corporal who died in Iraq found calling in service, his parents say

By Pamela Bond

Waco Tribune-Herald

June 14, 2007

Friends and family say Waco native Johnny Ray Strong had wanted to be a Marine since he was a boy. When he was 11, along with playing baseball and soccer, Strong joined the Little Marines. Later at A.J. Moore Academy, he joined the Junior ROTC and signed up for the Marines his senior year.

After graduating from A.J. Moore in 2004, Strong went to boot camp in San Diego, then spent six months in extensive training, during which he received an award for marksmanship.

“Johnny’s an only child, so his mom always tried to stop him from going to Iraq because she didn’t want to lose her only son,” said Strong’s grandmother, Minerva Williams. “But he just told her, ‘Mom, you should just adopt another kid.’ ”

On Tuesday morning, Lance Cpl. Johnny Ray Strong was killed when his platoon was ambushed during a routine patrol in Iraq.

At 21, Strong was Waco’s first Marine killed in Iraq. Strong’s parents were told about his death Tuesday, though the U.S. Defense Department has not commented publicly on his death.

“All we know is that the day Johnny died, three other Marines from his platoon died too in a roadside bomb,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Blanchard, who attended A.J. Moore with Strong. “He was a lance corporal, same as me. He was in the same class as me, in Junior ROTC with me, and a fellow Marine.”

On Wednesday, friends and family talked about their memories of Strong, even as they tried to come to terms with his death. His mother, Jacqueline Williams, described him as a quiet boy until he blossomed in his late teens.

“Until about high school, he stayed home,” Williams said. “I finally said, ‘Go make some friends,’ and that’s when he really flourished.”

Strong, born in Temple, grew up in Waco, where his family still resides. He attended Dean Highland Elementary and G.L. Wiley Middle School before going to A.J. Moore.

Strong enjoyed listening to music, especially the symphony, and played the organ, his parents said. He also enjoyed mission trips with the Church Under the Bridge. Bowling was another hobby, and he eventually won the citywide championship in hisleague.

“He liked camping and going on long adventures,” his mother said. “We went as a family to Nebraska, California, Arizonia, but his favorite was Reno, Nev. He always wanted to go back there.”

Strong described himself as “just a regular person trying to make friends” on his MySpace profile, which he last updated Friday.

At A.J. Moore, he was in the first graduating class of the school’s Academy of Information Technology, principal Debra Bishop said. But friends said Strong’s focus never wavered from his goal.

“The most important thing to Johnny in high school was becoming a Marine,” said Claudia Compian, who attended A.J. Moore with Strong. “He told me if he ever did anything with his life, he wanted to be a Marine.”

Strong’s first tour to Iraq began on July 4, 2005.

Never negative

“During that first tour, he emailed about every week and wrote letters,” said his father, Steve Strong. “He never said anything negative in them.”

In one letter, Strong referred to some artwork sent to him by his cousins, three younger girls: “It was a great morale booster. It reminds me of what I’m fighting for and makes me want to fight harder.”

In another letter, Strong wrote that he had “holes in his souls,” referring to his shoes.

“Bless his heart, I shot out and bought him some nice hiking boots,” his grandmother, Minerva Williams, said. “But he couldn’t wear them — they were black, he could only wear brown.”

Strong was in his second tour in Iraq when he died. He would have completed the tour in August and might have moved up to a position as corporal by the end of the year.

“He kept to himself about Iraq, but he said it wasn’t too bad,” said Amanda Cummings, who attended A.J. Moore with Strong. “He always wanted to be a Marine. I mean, when you thought Johnny, you thought the Marines.”

When his first tour ended last fall, Strong returned to Waco for Christmas and left for Iraq at the end of January.

“He always came back to visit,” Bishop said. “He was a role model for students. He told them some of the things he did in high school that he shouldn’t have. He enjoyed the Marines and came back to recruit students.”

Besides being a friend, classmate Ashlie Devaney said, Strong was her “partner in crime.” “There was a street sign that said ‘Sturgis’ I wanted to give to my mom for Christmas, but I didn’t know how to get it off, so Johnny volunteered to help me,” Devaney said. “We snuck to where the sign was and spent about an hour trying to get it down without being loud and getting caught. We would run every time a car came up, then wait and run back to the sign.”

‘There for a friend’

She added: “We laughed the whole time. It was one of those childish, teenage things, but it meant something to me that he would risk getting caught just to help me get the sign for my mom. He was always there for a friend.”

Strong’s family said he did not talk about being in Iraq once he was home.

“He never discussed it, except that they were keeping him busy, and that made the time pass quickly,” his father said.

Orginally, Strong planned to make a career out of the military, but after his first tour he decided he wanted to become an engineer. Strong also planned to start a new car club in California, where he was based in the city of Twentynine Palms, when he returned.

“That’s what he said in the last e-mail he sent me, on June 6,” Steve Strong said. “He couldn’t work on cars, but he loved to drive them — he got a lot of speeding tickets.”

Previously, three other soldiers who have lived in the Waco area have died in Iraq. Army Spc. Javier Villanueva was killed Nov. 24, 2005, in Hit, Iraq. Official military records list Villanueva’s residence as Temple because his wife and daughter lived there at the time of his death. But Villanueva attended Waco and then La Vega schools, where he graduated. Pfc. Jeffrey Paul Shaffer of the Army died in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept. 13, 2006. Shaffer attended West High School before leaving the state and signing up in the Army. And Lorena native Gunnery Sgt. John D. Fry of the Marines died in the Anbar province of Iraq on March 8, 2006.

Despite the danger, Strong’s friends said, he enjoyed being a Marine.

‘He died a hero’

“He went to Iraq to fight for the rights of people, and he died a hero,” A.J. Moore classmate Citlali Najera said.

Strong’s funeral will be at Connally-Compton Funeral Directors, although the time and date have not yet been announced.

He will be buried at Oakwood Cemetery. A scholarship fund in Strong’s memory has been established at A.J. Moore Academy, and donations can be made through the school.

“He was always a good soldier,” Strong’s mother said.

Added his father, “He was my pride and joy.”