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Shark bite night in Margs

Hopefully, this date marked the start of a new era of collaboration between West Wetsuits, the Surfing Doctors and Calm As…First Aid.

It was the first time that Calm As founder Dr Jon Cohen, and his long-time friend and colleague Dr Phil Chapman (founder of the Surfing Doctors) had the chance to bring their knowledge of haemorrhage control and shark bite management to non-medically trained members of the local surfing community.

The event was kindly hosted by John Dutts and Nathan Rose at the Factory in Margaret River, with food, drink and publicity provided by Mitch Thorson and the rest of the team at West Wetsuits.

Despite being thrown together at the last minute to coincide with an impromptu trip to the southwest, Mitch, Dutts and Rosey managed to get the word out their to their core local crew and about 30 people showed up to have a go at stopping the blood gush from the model amputated leg Jon brought over from Sydney.

The mood was kept pretty light considering the heavy topics under discussion. Pretty much everyone in attendance had at least one “story”, or near encounter. For the most part, people who wanted to talk could share their stories, and people who didn’t really feel like speaking up could just take it all in.

Some of the principles in the lecture given by Drs Cohen and Chapman had been shared at Surfing Doctors, BWRAG and Stop the Bleed hospital lectures given previously, but others were really specific for the situation down in Margs. This is where the public forum of these events really shines – a lot of people love to learn and experience through screens, but being at a small event, sharing stories with your local crew transcends simple knowledge sharing. It creates communities of people with knowledge, tools and mindset to act when things go wrong.

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Calm As… The Revamped Kit Launch

Manly, Australia – Due to popular demand, the Calm As… First Aid Kits For Surfers have been revamped, and the new-look kits are already available for sale here

The Calm As… First Aid Kits For Surfers came about as a collaboration between a number of Doctors with one thing in common – they all surfed. In fact they were all members of the Surfing Doctors – a close-knit group of like-minded individuals who have filtered out of various specialties and areas of medicine to combine the love of two totally different passions; the surfing sport and lifestyle, and a lifelong career in medicine.

Every year the Surfing Doctors gather in Grajagan to discuss various medical and surfing topics in their Annual Conference. Conference topics vary, but the conversations remain around medical procedures, emergency surgery, eye injuries and fin chops, as well as the latest surfboard technology and the best equipment needed to take on the fabled waves of Grajagan

It was while in the jungle that Dr Jon Cohen from Australia, along with the help of Dr Phil Chapman from South Africa, came up with the concept of Calm As… surfers medical kits that are specific for surfers when traveling into remote areas, and who might experience surfing or travel injuries.

The first edition of the Calm As.. First Aid Kits For Surfers were an immediate success, and as more information and knowledge came through from end-users, so Dr Cohen tweaked and updated the kit into this current iteration.

“We knew what most surfers would need in a medical emergency while in the jungle or off the beaten track, but we needed some more information as to the quantities of the gear they would get through when using the kit,” said Dr Cohen. “As a result we have increased the quantities of certain gear, including the basics like bandaids and alcohol wipes, as well as including some heavy duty gloves and reorganizing the layout of the kit for more intuitive use.”

“It’s been fun just slightly modifying the contents so that the kits fit a wider variety of needs than originally intended,” continued Dr Cohen. “We found that a lot of surfers were keen to have a kit sitting in their cars or utes after getting back from overseas for those unexpected accidents when kicking around home, or on mini road trips.”

Dr Jon Cohen on a bomb at G-Land.


“The ongoing support of Calm As… has been encouraging, and surfers have been quick on the uptake,” said Dr Cohen. “Those surfers who have dealt with medical emergencies before will feel comfortable with the contents of the kits, and those ones who find themselves in an emergency situation for the first time should be comfortable with the contents and the straight-forward instructions that come with it.”

The crew at Calm As… will be giving away a few of the kits online via their social media channels some time in the future, so check them out on Facebook and find them on Instagram on @bettersurfoz

The Calm As… first aid kits for surfers are available on http://www.localhost:10028

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and receive a free download of the Calm As…Instructional booklet.

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Surfer’s first aid lecture at BWRAG Summit 2019

During the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group’s (BWRAG) inaugural visit to Australia, Calm As…First Aid founder Dr Jon Cohen was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to not only attend the course, but share his medical expertise in the field of surfer’s first aid.

While Jon has done stints as the medic on duty at some reasonably heavy waves, teaching specifically Big Wave chargers posed a great opportunity to broaden the scope of his thinking.

People surf everyday. People don’t get to surf huge waves everyday. As an emergency doctor in Australian coastal towns, Jon gets to see minor surf injuries most days. With the number of cars and ladders out there, it’s most days he gets to see pretty significant trauma as well. But the number of serious surf injuries that come in? Probably not much more common than them running the Eddie.

The forces involved in Big Wave surfing are enormous. This opens up the possibility not just of drowning, spinal injuries, and head injuries, but also the incredible task of performing water rescue in extremely challenging environments. Emergent management like performing chest compressions can’t be performed on a ski sled. It’s pretty hard getting yourself onto a ski-sled with a dislocated shoulder. How do you immobilise someone’s C-spine when there are waves with 30 foot faces racing towards you?

The value of the BWRAG summits, it seems, is not just in the course, the content, the common language and practical skills stations that we run through. While all of those aspects were put together incredibly well, it was a lot of the stuff that happened between the lines that really made the experience next-level. The stories, the tips, the experience and the possibility for collaborating on new ways of thinking made the weekend really glow for me.

I focused my lecture time on a few things very real to Australian surfers – shark bite management and snake bite management. Pretty much everyone at the course left with a tourniquet to keep in their skis or cars, but more importantly the skills and mindset to use them should the need ever arise.

The lecture quickly shifted to my approach to the trauma patient. This was adapted from a general top to toe approach that we employ in the emergency department, but presented in a way that we can apply it on the shore, on a boat in the channel, or in dire straits, the back of a sled. Taking general skills that I almost take for granted after 10 years working in the Emergency Department as a doctor and applying it to a heavy situation with minimal resources was a great mental trip for me. It felt like a blessing to be able to put it together in a room full of Big Wave experts.

There was enormous interest when we shifted over to my preferred technique for popping a shoulder back in – scapular manipulation. Tom Carroll in particular was front and centre, clearly having been on more than a trip or two where someone in the lineup or in his camp was met with this common surfing injury. The surprise for me, was an amazing technique shared by Greg Long on how to pop your own shoulder back in, by yourself, in the water, in life or death, sink or swim situations. Hats off to you Mr Long, I’ve been spreading that technique around at nearly every lecture I do, of course citing it as the technique you taught me during my lecture on that amazing weekend down in Austinmer.

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Dr Cohen / Calm As… To Represent at BWRAG Summit in Austinmer.

Kai Lenny © WSL/Morriss_MM



Austinmer, New South Wales – Dr Jon Cohen, representing Calm As… and Surfing Doctors has been invited to the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) for their Level 1 and 2 Summit at Austinmer on 27-28 April 2019. The summit is hosted by Australian surfers Dan Ross and Zeb Walsh,and will be led by BWRAG instructor former Big Wave World Champion Greg Long.

Greg Long, Dungeons © Red Bull.

Dr Cohen is a long-term member of Surfing Doctors and is the founder of Calm As… first aid kits for surfers, which has started rolling out across Australia, and that came to the attention of the people at BWRAG, along with the Surfing Doctors presence.

Dr Cohen’s talk will consist of:

1) Top to toe – the first 5 minutes of any surf emergency (20 mins). Introduction to a trauma survey with introduction to:
– Minor head injury and concussion basics
– Spinal injury basics
– Chest and abdominal injuries
– Pelvic Fractures
– Long bone fractures and sprains – initial management
– Minor cuts to the face and limbs

2) Worst case scenario – how to save a life in a shark attack situation (15 mins)

3) Snake bite – basic principals of first aid (5 mins)

4) Shoulder relocation – how to identify and fix it in the jungle or bush (10 mins)

5) Q & A (10 mins)

Dr Cohen

“The guys from the Big Wave Risk Assessment group are definitely at the forefront of water safety, and it’s really cool that I got invited down to the Austinmer Summit to share some of my experiences in the surf medicine and emergency medicine fields with their participants,” said Dr Cohen. “Apart from being excited with the chance to share some of my experiences, I’m super excited to be able to learn from those guys about what they do in the water rescue, water safety and big wave fields.”


BWRAG Summit Location

Austinmer Surf Life Saving Club, Austinmer New South Wales


High Surf Risk Management, CPR/AED and medical intervention, floatation vest tutorials, spot analysis.

Level 2 participants will also undergo breath-hold/apnea training and in-water jetski rescue training.


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Calm As…First Aid Kit featured on Swellnet


Having the Calm As First Aid Kit for Surfers reviewed by Swellnet, a major Australian surfing website, was an amazing step for Calm As. It marked the first significant press it’s received. Apart from their kind review, we received some great product feedback from the guys when they ended up putting it to use on an overseas trip.

On the back of the swellnet review, we were approached by the team at BWRAG (Big Wave Risk Assessment Group) about potentially collaborating during their tour down under. We’ll discuss in a separate post just what an amazing experience it was to be invited to teach first aid to a group of legends that included not only the BWRAG faculty (Greg Long, Liam Wilmott, Zeb Walsh) but the other attendees (Tom Carroll, Russell Bierke amongst other local chargers) and fellow guest lecturers (Shannon Worrell and Joe Knight).

The real benefit of the swellnet review was it’s creation of a high visibility forum about Surfer’s First Aid, and the Calm As First Aid Kit for Surfers in particular. We had a lot of opinions from a wide variety of people. Some experienced medics, some hardened Indo travellers. A lot of advice passed on echoed our own thoughts, while other comments and questions allowed us to dig deep and reflect on our own experience, available medical literature, and of course opinions from our network of other Surfing Doctors.

While we continue to grow the stockpile of educational resources we want to release to the surfing public, it’s been amazing to have a growing repository of surf-medic banter being perpetuated on the swellnet chat forum.

Hopefully we’ll have some exciting new product releases for Stu and company to review again in the not too distant future, and the whole review / share / discuss process can get a hard re-boot with an even bigger audience of both viewers and participants.

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How To Travel The World And Surf The Best Waves

Phillip Chapman 4

Phillip Chapman grew up in Cape Town, and was schooled at Pinelands High. He had a successful competitive surfing career, and dominated events held in solid surf. His standout performances always came when the waves were serious. Favourite spots included Kalk Bay, Outer Kom, big Dunes and Sea Point’s infamous [Off The Wall].
His studies saw him become Dr Chapman, currently Staff Specialist in Emergency Medicine at the Bunbury Regional Hospital in Western Australia, and the man behind Surfing Doctors.

Surfing Doctors

The Surfing Doctors describe themselves as:
“… a close-knit group of like-minded individuals who have filtered out of various specialties and areas of medicine to combine the love of two totally different passions; the surfing sport and lifestyle, and a lifelong career in medicine.”
Their ethos reads “To head out to remote areas and act as caregivers to a host of different people including the setting up of long-term projects with the local population, and looking after the guests and staff where we are based.”

In short, they get to travel to amazing surf locations round the world, snag a few set waves and look after surfers who smash themselves up on the reef. Not a bad way to pass the time.
“At this stage we operate from G-Land mostly, “ explains Dr Chapman, “but we get gigs at Tavarua, Maccas, and a few other low-key spots like the Solomons. We have set up the main infirmary at G-Land, so that’s really our base.”
Dr Chapman has spent his time on the road however, more than most of the doctors on the Surfing Doctors roster. “I’ve done this gig in Java, Sumatra, Fiji, Australia and South Africa.”

Phillip Chapman catching a wave
It’s not all roses though, as their job is dealing with radical situations, and at times severe trauma. His worst situation was a full blown near death pelvic split at G-land. An inexperienced surfer panicked, turned his back to a set wave, and got smashed, with the wave splitting him in half, pretty much. Dr Chapman was on duty, and the surfer survived, barely. ”We had some near drowning situations recently as well,” said Dr Chapman. “One made it and one didn’t.”

Medicine and surfing.

There are good times as well for the Surfing Doctors. “The best part of the job is that we can combine two passions, of medicine and surfing, as well as meeting cool crew,” reckons Dr Chapman. “Then we get to share waves with them and even a few drinks afterwards.”
Still, most surf destinations do not have a resident Surfing Doctor on call. Surfers need to take control of their health and safety while traveling. This is especially important when heading for the more remote surf destinations that are becoming more and more popular. Surfers these days tend to shy further and further away from the crowds. “It is essential that you have adequate medical insurance,” reckon Dr Chapman.

This needs to include medevac cover, so that you can get a helicopter out to pick you up where possible. Better than bouncing through the jungle for days with possible broken bones. “It is also essential that you have a decent medical kit. I also reckon that traveling surfers should take a BLS course – Basic Life Support. This gives you skills you can use when you least expect it.”

It’s great to have a Surfing Doctor on call when you’re surfing and charging some thick Indonesian barrels. It’s just as important to be able to look after yourself as well.
Phillip Chapman finds a best wave

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Interview with Better Surf Marketplace Founder Dr Jon Cohen

Better Surf Marketplace was launched in 2018 to help get innovative products into the hands of the surfers and ocean users that need them most. Far from a typical surf store, the featured products are all geared towards making the ocean a more enjoyable and safer place for surfers and ocean lovers.

Dr. Jon Cohen founded Better Surf Marketplace, with the assistance and advice from Dr Phillip Chapman.

The early years.

I was born in a super-flat industrial area of Canada on the border with Detroit City. Lots of rivers and lakes, but thousands of km from the ocean. Surfing was always my favourite part of “California Games”. I loved those carving 360s.

Introduction to surfing.

I did a month long elective course in Hawaii on Medical Ethnobotany in 2003 – the course was all about how native people have used plants as medicines over the millennia. Went straight to Waikiki from the airport, threw my backpack in a locker and hired what looked like a standard surfboard to me. Looking back, it was probably a 9’6, wooden log. I went paddling for the horizon where I thought I saw some people getting waves (it was dead flat near shore). With absolutely no concept of ocean distances, when I was maybe 200m from the beach I’d started out from, this deep sea turtle popped its head up a few meters from me. It stared straight at me, looked one way, then the other, and then disappeared, seemingly oblivious to the impact he’d had on me. As I made my way back to shore, checking out the lush green Hawaiian backdrop, bloody and half shaved off nipples and all, I was hooked before I even got a wave.

Jon Cohen-Gillas left


I did a combo of Biology, Anthropology and Pharmacology at McGill University in Montreal with the hopes of developing medical treatments from traditional medicines in conjunction with native populations in the Amazon.  I was totally shit at botany, and realised I’d probably be more useful getting a medical degree and joining a team to do the research / projects somewhere down the track. After a year surfing in Europe (SW France and Canaries), I started studying medicine at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

The surfing world.

I’ve been surfing for about 15 years now. I feel that surfing does so much for me that I try and just love whichever wave I’ve got access to. The more different waves I surf, the more I miss ones I’ve loved in the past, but it still really comes down to just feeling lucky to get what I can get, when I can get it.

I love pitchy beachies the most – 3-5 foot, lefts and rights, shifting peaks up and down the beach. Always thins the crowd, everyone’s getting waves, flirting with barrels, getting smashed, and smiling like hell. Places like South Straddie, Anglet (France), Oaxaca (Mexico) and a lesser known 4wd access only spot up the coast in WA are probably the best beachies I’ve ever been lucky enough to paddle into.

I love the thrill of heavier waves, but not too heavy for mortals like myself. We get these waves up and down the coast in WA, and the long peelers we get on the East Coast. Everywhere from Noosa down to Crescent Head gets insane on its day.

I’m usually riding a 5’5 Vampirate quad funboard, a 5’9 swallow tail performance shorty, or a 6’1 Ghost as my step up. Needed my 7’0 Luke Studer in G-Land this year, and wished that 7’0 was an 8’6 or so in Jan when I had a free week to just hang and surf in Margs.

Jon Cohen-GLand

The traveling world.

I’m pretty much always on the go – my work as an emergency doctor keeps me on the move. I usually just take half time gigs as my main job, lump all the shifts together and then fill in at other hospitals in coastal towns around the traps. That plus getting back to Canada to visit my family, plus pretty frequent surf trips means I’m at “home” way less than I’m on the road.

While I love getting away and just parking at an amazing wave like G-Land, Nias or Puerto, I’m a huge fan of road trips, whether starting from home or starting from an overseas airport. North coast NSW, and south of Lima, Peru are probably my 2 favourite places to load up the car and go adventuring.

What is Better Surf Marketplace (BSM)?

I was living in the Southwest of WA for a couple of years. There are amazing waves all around there, really isolated spots where so frequently you get to live that dream of pulling up, having a look and seeing perfect, hollow waves in that head high to double overhead range – with next to no-one out. At first I was stoked, but then when I realised just how many of the spots I was surfing had seen fatal attacks in the past 10 years, or even just big shark sightings in the past few weeks or whatever, it started to play on my mind a bit.

There was this one day I remember clearly, running up to Inji point – a left-hand point that can wall up and offer fun rides for a couple of hundred meters on its day. It’s about a 15-min jog up the beach to get there from the car-park, and on the path there was this fit, middle aged surfer still dripping wet, standing there in the stiff offshore, looking super frustrated as he watched a perfect 5 foot set roll through unridden. I asked him “haya gon”, and he almost sheepishly admitted that he’d gotten a bit spooked by something he’d seen in the water. It’s a pretty sharky feeling spot, and generally breaks on pretty sharky feeling days. I was absolutely frothing that day so took my chances, hoping that someone fatter and tastier looking would paddle out and reduce my chances of becoming dinner, but it was far from a relaxing surf.

I was chilling in the Jacuzzi after the surf; full belly, unwinding and having a beer and the idea of a tourniquet you could use in the water came into my head. I had a basic design concept come to me pretty much straight away, and then sharks, hemorrhagic shock and tourniquets became a bit of an obsession for me over the next few months. Knowing fuck all about business, but having some savings to burn through, I cut down my doctoring hours, started researching existing products, business and design basics, and decided to have a go at getting my design patented and manufactured for people like me, WA crew that I know and care about, and old mate on the path that day.

By chatting with people about the project over the coming months, it became clear that there was a bit of a niche open for providing medical education to surfers / travellers. I’ve been with the Surfing Doctors for a couple of years now, but we’ve kinda been focused on up skilling medical professionals that surf, more than teaching your average punter about tips and tricks they can use to enjoy their surf trip more safely.

Jon Cohen-Mamas right

The BSM product line

The idea that started me on this path was “The SET” – The Surfer’s Emergency Tourniquet. I wanted to have a model that was in the $50 range so basically everyone could have the power to save their own life, or the life of someone they’re surfing with. I’ve also come up with a second design that’ll cost a bit more but might suit some people better. Now that we’ve got the patents filed, we’re focused on getting some working prototypes built, and doing small runs that me, some mates from Surfing Doctors and other surfing buds are going to try out and refine a couple of times. The three main things they each need to do to be better than anything else on the market is be unobtrusive, easy and quick to deploy, and be 100% reliable.

Because this has taken longer than I was hoping (who knew – inventing stuff and getting it manufactured takes longer than a couple months!), I wanted to make the best existing products available to surfers who want to be able to save a life in the case of shark attack.

These are the“>SWAT – a CE marked American military tourniquet that you can tuck into the chest zip of your wettie or a pocket of your boardies without pissing you off. It’s super easy to use and really cheap.

The other is a clever product by Omna. A surfing ex-military guy from the US invented it. It is an industry standard quality“>leg-rope that incorporates a fully functional tourniquet into the cuff part. As a surfer who travels around getting waves a fair bit, he’s got a great story about the day he came up with the invention, as I’m sure you’d imagine.

I’m currently working on getting a line of ultra high quality“>First Aid Kits designed for surfers, adventure sport travellers and people who go super remote in 4-wheel drives. We’ve got about 5 models that we’re really excited about. The main thing about these kits is that they’re stocked with products that are tried, tested and heavily curated by myself and a couple of other experienced emergency doctors. The second thing is that they’re coming in primo quality, custom designed bags that suit each of our intended users needs in terms of portability and extra storage sections.

We’re also selling“>Shark Eyes – a cheap visual deterrent that could potentially decrease your chance of getting nipped by a shark. Deterrents are quite controversial, as it’s basically impossible to prove, or disprove, that they work. I chose Shark Eyes because they’re cheaper than other visual deterrents; way cheaper and simpler to install than electromagnetic deterrents, and rely on the highest level of scientific evidence that you can really hope for in a product like this – expert consensus. Shannon Worrell, a big wave charger, abalone diver and all around Waterman who’s grown up in the shark-rich waters of southwest WA invented them.

Better Surf Marketplace is really an evolving concept. It started as a place from which I could get these potentially life-saving products out to people as quickly and cheaply as possible. 

I really wanted to make education a big component of the project, and so when it came time to talk to someone with an Instagram and Facebook account and see what happens in the world of social media, we went through a couple of the old names I’d brainstormed and passed on when Better Surf Marketplace was born!

I really just want this to be a way of getting reliable medical information that’s pertinent to surfers and adventure sport enthusiasts in an easily digestible, approachable and maybe even entertaining way. I want to help non-medical professionals access the types of things that myself, my nurse, paramedic and doctor buds bring with us when we go on overseas surf trips or 4WD strike missions up the beach, far from cell service let alone medical backup.

Down the track, I’d love to collaborate a bit more closely with Dr Phil Chapman, a good friend, awesome Emergency Doctor and founder of Surfing Doctors, on trying to formalise an education program for medics at surf camps, and maybe even start some sort of an accreditation system for surf camps to increase the level of medical competence surf travellers can expect when they fork out big bucks on their week in paradise.

When it comes to your average surfer’s travel mistakes, I think it’s just really hard to contain the froth. Whether it’s in the water, in the bush, or in town after the lights go down and the bass gets turned up – if you’ve only got a few weeks or months living the dream, and you want to just leave it all on the field. I mean, in some ways these are the moments that make the rest of life worth living. I guess just knowing your limits, whether it be in the water, hiking, on the piss, in ‘da club – just knowing that missing out on the next week of waves (or worse!) for that reo in the shallows, unmakeable barrel, waterfall jump or last line of festivities might not be worth it.

I think the main thing when it comes to surf trip advice comes down to planning and controlling the froth. Medical problems on a surf trip can be broken down into these main categories:

  1. Pre-existing conditions – if you’re a diabetic, on blood thinners, have a dodgy knee – anything that could pose a problem to you while away from access to medicine and medical advice, just make sure you’ve got enough of your meds, supplies, etc., and importantly insurance and a medical summary for your treating docs in hospital in case things go really pear-shaped.
  2. Local diseases you’ll be exposed to – Vaccines for Hep A / Typhoid, Yellow Fever, preventive meds and supplies for things like Malaria, Dengue, HIV (yes, condoms). Hopefully we will be able to provide some general advice in upcoming vids / posts, but really this is where seeing a GP in a good travel clinic before you go is really worthwhile. Know before you go.

  3. Surf Carnage – a basic kit to sort out all of the common things like reef rash, urchin spines, fin chops, tweaked ankles and shoulders. If you’ve got a medical background it can be comforting to have a more comprehensive kit to deal with shit that properly hits the fan. Things like a tourniquet, knowing how to improvise a pelvic binder, or having some basic airway tools can be the difference between a mate’s life and death.

  4. Para-surf carnage – sunburn, dehydration, next level alcohol or polysubstance intoxication, jock rot, gastro, or even a common flu – all of these can seriously fuck up you and your mates time in a remote setting.

If you can think about what you might need in those 4 broad categories, you should have most bases covered.

Sometimes shit goes down.

When there’s a medical emergency, distance is a very relative concept. We’re lucky in the Southwest of WA to have a couple of really good hospitals at Margs and in Busselton. The thing is, despite being pretty close to medical backup, neither hospital is capable of dealing with a lot of the really heavy stuff that you’re going to experience in the surf. At the end of the day, when we’re in remote areas doing potentially dangerous things, we need to be able to provide the first aid that’s going to give us enough time to make it to a big hospital where most of the life-saving operations and procedures like massive transfusion can take place.

I’ve been in the ED a few times waiting for the ambulance to bring in really sick people they’ve called ahead for, only to have them die en route. These deaths aren’t always preventable, but in those situations every link in the “chain of survival” is more important than the one that follows.
Jon Cohen-Gillas right