Va. First Responders Attend Stop the Bleed Class
Jan. 19—Jessica King was all too familiar with the scenario the instructor presented, about a patient who was bleeding uncontrollably while people around him didn't know what to do.
That very thing happened 10 years ago, when her brother accidentally shot himself in the legs. Their parents and another sister were there, but they were equally shell-shocked. After someone finally called 911, his mother put a towel over his wounds, not wanting to touch him for fear she'd hurt him.
Her brother survived, but King—an emergency room nurse who later became the trauma educator at Mary Washington Health Care—never forgot her mother's feeling of helplessness and its lasting impact. That's why King embraced the chance to train others in similar situations, to "prevent that from happening to somebody else," she said.
King, along with Amy Gulick, trauma program manager, and Dr. Corey Wright, trauma surgeon, on Tuesday sponsored the first class in the region on "Stop the Bleed." The nationwide initiative is led by the American College of Surgeons and stresses that first responders and police officers, government workers and citizens alike, should be trained on how to handle massive bleeding—whether it's from a shooting, act of terrorism, farming accident or household injury.
"Bleeding is the No. 1 cause of traumatic deaths," Gulick said. "If we can get the bleeding stopped, we can stop the deaths."
She and other trauma team members view stop-bleeding techniques in the same light as knowing CPR or how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Timing is vital as a person can bleed out in a matter of minutes.
"If the patient has no blood, CPR doesn't do them any good," Gulick said.
From 1999 through June 2017, shootings in public places such as schools and churches, a nightclub and theater, killed 4,052 people in America, according to data compiled by QuikClot, a company whose products help stop bleeding. Almost 9,000 more were injured.
"Gunshots and mass shootings are becoming more and more of an issue," said Georgie Athenry, a paramedic and fire marshal with the Fredericksburg Fire Department.
Medical professionals evaluate the incidents and learn from them, she said, and the Stop the Bleed initiative focuses on ways to share that knowledge with the public.
Tuesday's session focused on training the trainers. About 20 first responders and law enforcement officials from Fredericksburg, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania, as well as hospital security workers, attended the class, held at Mary Washington Hospital.
Rob Brown, retired Navy sailor and a manager with a medical company from Connecticut, led the session.
While first responders carry gauze and intravenous fluids that help blood clot, as well as tourniquets, people in the community can use the tools at their disposal, he said.
King, Gulick and Wright illustrated that point with bright red tees with bold white writing that read: "This shirt could save a life."
Brown said people could use shirts, scarves or any piece of clothing available to pack wounds to control bleeding.
And don't be timid about it, he said.
"Shove it in there," he said. "The longer it takes you to pack the wound, the more blood is lost."
A pamphlet about Stop the Bleed from the American College of Surgeons presents the ABCs of response:
A: Alert medical help and call 911.
B: Bleeding. Open or remove clothing and find the life-threatening bleeding.
C: Compress. Cover the wound with a clean cloth and apply pressure with both hands. If the wound is large and deep, stuff the cloth into the wound, and continue to apply pressure, pushing down as hard as you can, until relieved by medical responders.
Sandy Parker, security operations manager at Mary Washington Hospital, applied pressure in a simulation that used a prosthetic leg. No blood was spurting, but there was a device that measured how much pressure she applied.
The standard is 10 pounds of pressure, but she applied twice that much for 3 minutes. Fellow classmates applauded, and one rescue worker said: "If I get shot today, I want that girl."
Parker flexed her sore wrists afterward, saying she never would have thought so much pressure was needed.
"You learn, 'Just cover it,' " she said. "It's definitely not like the movies."
Brown also discussed using a tourniquet--or a belt if one isn't available--for life-threatening bleeding on arms and legs. Wrap them 2 to 3 inches above the bleeding and do not place on a joint. Make them as tight as possible and twist them until the bleeding stops.
Athenry remembers her earlier training, when tourniquets were used only as a last resort. But experiences in war-torn countries, where Americans have suffered debilitating injuries from explosives, have taught rescuers to save life over limb.
The same is true for people trying to help friends and family members hurt in an accident or strangers injured in a shooting rampage. Stop the bleeding first, even if what covers the wound isn't perfectly sterile.
"They can fix that later," King said. "Let's make sure they live."