You’re out with friends and something terrible has happened. One friend is badly injured and bleeding profusely from a deep wound to his arm. One of your other friends calls for an ambulance as blood continues to gush from your injured friend’s arm. You need to act quickly.
It’s not an easy subject to talk about and hopefully you never find yourself in a scenario like this. But with mass shootings in the news more regularly in recent years, thoughts of being prepared for such a situation are on the minds of many people.
That’s why the American College of Surgeons developed the Hartford Consensus, which recommends that all citizens learn how to stop bleeding. “It was developed to teach civilians how to save lives by empowering the general public to make a difference in a life-threatening emergency by teaching them the basic techniques of stopping bleeding,” explained Dr. Laurel Omert, a trauma surgeon and fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
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In accordance with this initiative, Omert, who is also Medical Director for Specialty Care in the U.S. for CSL Behring, recently led a program for 22 high school students at the company’s King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, campus. The students were on-site as part of CSL Behring’s ongoing relationship with Young Men and Women in Charge (YMWIC), an organization dedicated to increasing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leadership skills among young people.
Omert’s hands-on presentation, “The ABCs of Bleeding,” covered how to control bleeding during an emergency situation and focused on compression, packing a wound and applying tourniquets. The program was based on materials produced by the American College of Surgeons in collaboration with the Hartford Consensus.
“Stopping bleeding can mean the difference between a person living and dying. When someone is injured and there is a lot of bleeding, you need to do everything you can to stop that bleeding,” Omert told the students.
She explained each step of “The ABCs of Bleeding” during the presentation. These are:
- A – Alert: Call 9-1-1 or the emergency response number in your area
- B – Bleeding: Find the bleeding injury
- C – Compress: Apply pressure to stop the bleeding by –
- Covering the wound with a clean cloth and applying pressure by pushing directly on it with both hands OR
- Using a tourniquet OR
- Packing (stuffing) the wound with gauze or a clean cloth and then applying pressure with both hands.
Before attempting to do anything in an emergency situation, however, be aware of your surroundings, Omert said. “It’s important to make sure you are safe before you attempt to help someone else. You can’t be of much help to someone if you get injured yourself,” she said.
After ensuring your own safety and calling for help, the next step is to find the injury. While it may seem obvious to look for the area where blood is coming from, sometimes clothing can be in the way of determining the exact location of the wound, Omert said. She added that life-threatening bleeding can be identified as blood that is pooling on the ground, blood spurting from a wound or blood that won’t stop coming out of a wound. Be especially concerned if the person bleeding is confused or unconscious, Omert said.
Omert led the students in some hands-on learning with the assistance of Dr. Pamela Thorpe, Director and Clinical Safety Physician with CSL Behring, and Jim Cheezum, paramedic with Lafayette Ambulance and Rescue Squad of King of Prussia. Using moulage kits, instructors showed the students how to apply pressure to a wound, stuff a wound with gauze, and let the students apply tourniquets to them.
“A tourniquet will hurt if it’s applied correctly,” Omert said. “You need to make sure it is applied tight enough to stop the bleeding. One of the biggest mistakes people make when applying a tourniquet is not applying it tightly enough.”
Tourniquets are only to be used in an emergency when bleeding cannot be stopped any other way, Omert said. They should be left on until emergency responders arrive or the person gets to the hospital, she added. Though some people may be afraid to apply tourniquets, Omert has personally seen how effective they can be in stopping bleeding. “They are very effective, and they have been shown to not result in any problems if the time they are left on is less than two hours,” she explained.
Another way to stop bleeding is to stuff a wound with gauze or otherwise clean cloth, if gauze is not available. A T-shirt can work great to stop bleeding, Omert said. While people might be afraid to stuff cloth that is not medically sterile into an open wound, if it is effective at stopping a bleed, it can save a life. As Omert put it, “We can treat an infection at the hospital. We can’t treat the person if they die from losing too much blood.”
That’s important to keep in mind, she said, as uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma. For more information on how to save a life during an emergency situation, visit www.bleedingcontrol.org.