Brittany Bankhead, MD
If you’ve ever spent an evening at a concert, taken a quick trip to the mall, gone out for a nice sunset drive or spent a day at work, you would be among a group of people who woke up one morning to do the same, normal routine, but instead they ended the day with a life-threatening bleeding situation that happens right in front of them.
When a traumatic event occurs, bystanders often are the first to step up as they wait for emergency medical services (EMS). According to the National Trauma Institute, excessive bleeding is responsible for nearly 35% of pre-hospital deaths and 40% of deaths during the first 24 hours of a traumatic event.
As a trauma surgeon, I see this life-threatening bleeding happen every day. And while your local trauma center has the equipment and equipment necessary to best control this bleeding, there is one thing that we cannot control – time. The ability of a bystander like yourself, to know what to do in the event of a bleeding emergency can give EMS enough time to arrive and bring the patient to us.
Uncontrolled bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death from trauma. This includes unexpected penetrating injuries such as gunshot and stab wounds, but it also includes blunt injuries such as motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents and falls.
May is National Stop the Bleed Month. This is an opportunity for you to learn the basic skills necessary to control bleeding from accidents and injuries. Stop the Bleed is a campaign aimed at helping everyday people learn how to stop bleeding in order to save a life. Currently, 1.9 million people have been trained, and you and your family, loved ones, friends and work groups can be among the next group to develop this set of important skills. Having this knowledge and set of skills is just as important as knowing CPR for the general public.
The key steps of Stop the Bleed include:
1. Ensure your own safety. It’s impossible to help others unless you have removed yourself from harm’s way. In an active shooter situation, this means being away from any possible further danger; in a roadside car accident, this could mean a safe distance from ongoing traffic.
2. Look for life-threatening bleeding. A slow ooze can wait, but recognizing what may kill someone in minutes (especially when multiple people are hurt) is essential.
3. Use what’s available to you (tourniquet, clean gauze, or maybe just a clean cloth nearby) to apply pressure or tighten by the wound, depending on where the wound is located.
Once you are Stop-the-Bleed certified, keeping a tourniquet in your home and vehicle, or in your purse or backpack, is the best way to stay prepared. Keeping a supply of QuikClot Clotting Gauze is a great addition to any home first aid kit. While well-meaning attempts at “tying off a wound” without any experience are not bad, per se, sometimes this can worsen bleeding or the long-term effects and damage later. Knowing how to properly stop bleeding and apply and tie a tourniquet does not only save a life, but also save the functional outcome of that arm or leg long-term.
If you are interested in attending a Stop the Bleed course or learning more, please visit https://www.stopthebleed.org. The American College of Surgeons now offers an online interactive course at https://www.stopthebleed.org/training/online-course/. Or contact the University Medical Center EMS at (806)775-8725 for any local Stop the Bleed training opportunities.
Brittany Bankhead, MD, is an assistant professor of surgery for the Division of Trauma, Burns, and Critical Care at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.