I just went through something that affected me enough that I want to share it, especially since so many of us work and play in out of the way areas and off rural county roads.
My fiance, a volunteer firefighter and Public Health Analyst in Trinity County, asked me join her for Stop the Bleed training at Mercy Medical Center in Redding last Saturday, taught by Mark Belden, operations manager at American Medical Response and Dr. Eric Rudnick, an MD specializing in emergency medicine. Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign intended to teach everyday people how to be equipped and ready to provide life-saving assistance to someone who may only have minutes to live without it.
As a beat reporter since 1999, I’ve attended and covered fire and law enforcement trainings on everything from propane fires to helicopter rescue, to downed power lines, to vehicle extrication, and even to a multi-agency training to simulate a terrorist attack.
However, few of those were as valuable to me as a layperson than this one. The training exposed me to facts I didn’t know and showed me how to find and stop heavy bleeding, which can take someone’s life in just minutes.
I learned ways to pack wounds, pressure dress them and use other devices to stop major bleeding.
I also learned the most effective way to stop bleeding on extremities is with a tourniquet, which is applied “upstream” of the bleeding area and tightened to the point of cutting off the blood flow.
I know what some of you are imagining. Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers all remember the TV shows where a cowboy is bleeding (or has been bitten by a rattlesnake) and uses a rag and stick tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
The principle from those old shows is mostly accurate; wrap something strong around the bleeding limb and use a lever to twist it and cut off the circulation. While that’s acceptable if it’s all you have, new tech windlass and CAT tourniquets are safer, stay on longer and are designed to prevent tissue damage.
Once the bleeding has stopped and the distal pulse cannot be detected, bind the tightening lever so it doesn’t come undone. Then, note the time the tourniquet was applied.
Some of those same old TV programs show the tourniquet being loosened regularly to restore blood to limbs. Rudnick said that’s actually a bad idea, as doing so will cause further blood loss and possibly force out any healing clots that have started to form.
Rudnick said tourniquets can be left in place for several hours and are the first defense when it comes to arterial bleeding. In fact, CHP and many other officers carry them to use on themselves, due to the risks of injuries by shooting and vehicle accidents.
According to the Hospital Disaster Resource Center, surgeons regularly use them for up to two hours at a time during surgeries. According to the Journal of Trauma, a seven-year study looked at over 2,000 major trauma patients who were brought in to hospitals. Of those, 428 limbs had been treated with 309 tourniquets, indicating that some limbs needed more than one to control bleeding. In patients where shock was not a factor, there was a 90 percent survival rate, with no amputations.
“...prehospital" class="auto" target="_blank">dir="ltr">“...prehospital use was also strongly associated with lifesaving,” the report reads. “No limbs were lost due to tourniquet use. Education and fielding of prehospital tourniquets in the military environment should continue.” Belden noted most complications caused by tourniquet use can be remedied later in the hospital, but only if patients make it there alive.
“There are no risks when you save a life,” he said.
Keep in mind that we teach Boy and Girl Scouts to build and use tourniquets, but the odds are pretty slim that either will show up at a car crash, shop accident or shark attack.
Stop the Bleed classes not only help first responders, but can help the general public to perform basic life-saving procedures while first responders make their way to the scene.
As a reporter, I can’t arrange these classes, but I can request local government, health and public officials to make them available for residents and first responders alike.
For more information on where to find or how to arrange classes, check out https://www.dhs.gov/stopthebleed