Tim O'Neil

Emergency trauma kits, prepared by Tim O’Neill and Dan Mares, include lightweight medical devices that address bleeding. The materials all fit in a small orange pouch that can be worn on a belt.

ROSWELL, Ga. — Two North Fulton men are donating portable medical kits to first responders in an effort to help them save more lives.

It has already paid off big.

At least two lives have been saved, a child who suffered a thigh injury after dropping a glass pitcher and a police K-9 shot in the line of duty. 

After spending decades in public service, Roswell residents Tim O’Neill and Dan Mares are devoting time and resources to help people who save others everyday. The two share connections through law enforcement and computer forensic careers. 

Both stress the importance of proper handling of trauma victims, especially those with open wounds.

A 2018 study by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that prehospital tourniquet application reduced the chance of death six-fold in patients with arm and leg injuries. 

The current model kit is a small handheld zipper pouch, packed with a tourniquet, scissors, Vaseline-coated gauze, compression bandage, mylar blanket, and a blood-clotting agent. A chemical light is included to designate a person in critical condition. The kits have undergone seven to eight iterations and cost $25 to produce. The pouch is set in bright orange, meant to increase visibility in low-light situations. 

O’Neill’s interest in preserving life began at age 14 when he helped deliver a baby at a small hospital in Texas. At that age, he wanted to be doctor, but he opted for a career as a biomedical engineer and medical examiner. 

“When you save a life, it changes your life forever,” he said.

O’Neill was wounded in Vietnam during a combat tour. In 2002, he was shot in the left leg while helping a police officer subdue two suspects. In 2010, he became a traumatic amputee after developing a bacterial infection. 

His goal is to donate 1,000 units to ensure every firefighter in Alpharetta, Roswell and Cherokee County has a kit.

Mares assists O’Neill with the assembly, delivery and storage of the kits. Mares’ garage houses about 250 completed units.

“These are small enough [that first responders] can sometimes put them on their belt,” Mares said, noting that some kits are so bulky, they are often left in vehicles. 

Plans to expand outreach and kit donations are in the works. Charitable donations have carried the effort this far, and non-profit designation is being pursued. Talks are underway with an Atlanta church to distribute the kits and provide direction in their use. 

When kits are donated, first responders are trained to find their way through the pouch in the dark, by memory. Working from the outside in, a trainee can identify the contents and render swift aid during the critical moments following injury. O’Neill challenges trainees to stage the tourniquets in 12-inch loops and test their integrity. 

On Oct. 26, the Roswell City Council voted unanimously to accept the donated kits from O’Neill and Mares. 

To date, kits have been donated to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, Cherokee SWAT, Alpharetta Police and the Roswell Fire Department. Kits have also been supplied to a number of first responders in rural parts of Georgia.

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