Family saves lives in the wake of Saugus High shooting

The Maci and Cambria Lawrence hold up their Keep the Pressure kit during the Red Cross recognition ceremony. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.

Whether directly or indirectly, every member of the Valencia-based Lawrence family had a hand in saving victims’ lives in the wake of the Saugus High shooting last year — despite two Lawrence family members still being in high school. 

While Dr. Bud Lawrence headed into work that Thursday morning, to direct the operations of the Henry Mayo emergency room treating the most injured and wounded, Maci and Cambria Lawrence — his two daughters who both attend Valencia High School — watched the news and helicopter footage of the evacuated high school from home. 

Scattered on the ground, throughout the quad and concrete outdoor hallways of the Saugus High School campus, were the little red caps of the Lawrence girls’ “Keep the Pressure” kits.

Maci and Cambria Lawrence at a law enforcement training for their Keep the Pressure kits. Photo courtesy of Keep the Pressure.

The kits were designed by the two Valencia High students with one purpose in mind: to save lives by providing the tools needed to stop life-threatening bleeding 

And in the days that followed the shooting, their dad heading into work each day to work on and save the lives of their fellow students, the Lawrence girls learned that one of their kits had been specifically used by choir teacher Kaytie Holt to save the life of one student, hit multiple times during the hail of gunfire. 

They called the news humbling and hoped their invention would never need to be used again. 

An aerial shot used during a news story about the Lawrences show the red caps of the “Keep the Pressure” littered on the campus. Courtesy photo.

The father

Soon after the first-period students walked onto campus that Thursday morning, shots from a handgun held by a classmate rang out through the Centurion campus. 

Two students, Gracie Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Blackwell, 14, were killed by the gunman, Nathaniel Berhow, 16, who fatally turned the gun on himself. A number of students were also taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where three trauma surgeons awaited them. 

“Usually most trauma centers only have one trauma surgeon in house, but we just happened to have three trauma surgeons there (that day),” said Lawrence, remembering the morning the hospital got the call. “We had our full complement of emergency room physicians and we had extra nursing staff.” 

That morning, it just so happened, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital was having a charge nurse conference, and one trauma surgeon was going off shift, another was coming on shift and a third, by chance, was doing a presentation to the hospital foundation that morning. 

“It was very upsetting and disheartening,” said Lawrence, when asked about the mood the staff felt once they learned the shooting had occurred in their hometown. “Many of us live in this town, I live in this town, and it gets real very quickly.” 

“But then you have to understand that this … this is what we’re here for, for a lack of a better term,” Lawrence added. “This is what our training has prepared us for.” 

The ambulances began to pull up, and children covered in quickly soaking-up bandages were pulled into the emergency room for immediate triage. Lawrence said he could not speak to the particulars of the injuries, but said the trauma center at Henry Mayo would go on to handle the most severely injured patients and Providence Holy Cross would receive the less severe. 

Lawrence was not on call during the initial report, but, as medical director for the emergency department, would be called in soon after. 

“This is what we trained for, but as a father, with school-age girls, who are in the Hart District, it is crushing,” said Lawrence. “It’s one of those, you know, ‘It’ll-Never-Happen-Here’ moments, and it did happen. And it was just … it’s very saddening, very very saddening.” 

“Tragic for our whole community, and I definitely felt that as a father.”

Maci and Cambria interviewed for a news story concerning their “Keep the Pressure” kits. Photo courtesy of Keep the Pressure.

The daughters

On the other side of town from the shooting, Maci and Cambria heard from their friends and the news that the shooting had occurred. They also knew their “Keep the Pressure” kits would be available for use in the Centurion classrooms — a reality they hoped would never happen, they said. 

“I was honestly very humbled, because we obviously never expected anything like this to happen near us,” said Maci. “Our whole goal with the kits was for them to be there just in case (of) any sort of emergency. But really, our true goal, was for them to never be used.” 

“That day, it was terrifying, and we weren’t even in the thick of it, we were just in a school nearby,” said Cambria. “We’re just so grateful that the people there listened to the (Keep the Pressure Kit) videos, respected our bleed kits and knew how to use them in that situation.” 

The two sisters created the nonprofit organization Keep the Pressure in 2018, and since then have assembled and provided training for more than 1,200 bleed kits distributed to schools and other organizations throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. They also provided kits for each of the SCV first responders.

The kits include a litany of tools and bandages enclosed within a capsule, all designed with the sole purpose of stopping bleeding in the immediate aftermath of an incident. 

The Lawrence’s stand with Kaytie Holt at the Red Cross Hometown Hero recognition ceremony. Photo courtesy of Raymond Nutt.

According to local firefighters, choir teacher Kaytie Holt used one of the Keep the Pressure kits to perform life-saving treatment to one of the victims of the shooting. Photographs and stills of aerial video also show the red caps littered throughout the campus, poking out from underneath backpacks and sweaters scattered throughout the quad.  

Since Nov. 14, the Lawrence girls have had law enforcement officers approach them in public and thank them, they said. 

Fire Capt. Raymond Nutt of Fire Station 150, a station that assisted with the response that morning, in the months that followed, nominated the girls for the American Red Cross Hometown Hero award — a recognition they eventually won and were recognized for.

The Red Cross said that the kits and training videos made by the Lawrence sisters saved lives. 

Also honored was Holt, who barricaded her classroom door, used the kit, and “saved that student’s life,” read a press release the American Red Cross distributed after the COVID-19-friendly ceremony. 

“We were looking at the news and we could see that our kits were being used,” said Maci, who later added that they had only wanted, when they first started with the kits, to “educate people and make sure they were there.” 

“We just want these kits anywhere possible,” Cambria added.

The kits that were used at Saugus High School have now all been replaced by the nonprofit after their use. They are now present in classrooms throughout the William S. Hart Union High School District, and have, as recently as this week, begun to enter elementary school classrooms in the SCV.

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