CHEYENNE – Here’s a scenario: You come across a car accident on an isolated highway. You see that one of the passengers in one of the cars is bleeding badly and could die before medical help arrives. After calling 911, what do you do next?
About 40 people attended an hour-long class at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center on Tuesday to learn the answer to that question.
A public health campaign called “Stop the Bleed” builds on lifesaving lessons learned on the battlefield. The goal is to train people of all ages how to respond to bleeding emergencies in traumas from accidents and intentional violence.
The program, taught by CRMC and Cheyenne Fire Rescue personnel, turns bystanders into first responders.
The campaign is an initiative of the American College of Surgeons, the Committee on Trauma and the Hartford Consensus. In April 2013, just a few months after the active shooter incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the Joint Committee to Create a National Policy to Enhance Survivability from Intentional Mass Casualty and Active Shooter Events was convened by the American College of Surgeons, in collaboration with the medical community and representatives from the federal government, the National Security Council, the U.S. military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and governmental and nongovernmental emergency medical response organizations.
“What they discovered is that many of those kids bled to death,” said registered nurse Kori Bechtle. “When something like that happens – a mass shooting, bombing – it’s what they call a ‘hot zone.’ They don’t let people into that zone until it’s safe. You don’t want to have additional victims going in.”
Sometimes, she said, the people who end up as first responders are going to be bystanders.
“They discovered that a lot of people know what to do when they see someone on the ground who doesn’t have a pulse,” she said. “Someone uses the universal choking sign, and you do the Heimlich maneuver. They discovered that when they see someone bleeding, a lot of times we panic and we don’t know how to stop it.”
What people don’t realize, she said, is someone can bleed out and die within two to five minutes, depending on what artery is cut or if the victim is on blood thinner medication. There are a lot of factors, she said.
But mass shootings aren’t the only way people suffer life-threatening injuries. Traffic accidents and even wounds suffered in accidents at home can cause major bleeding that needs to be stopped as quickly as possible.
Compression and tourniquets are the main ways a bystander can stop bleeding. As a general rule, tourniquets are used on arms and legs, and compression is used on the neck, armpits and groin.
After receiving instruction on the ABCs of controlling bleeding – alert 911, find bleeding, compress with pressure or packing, compress with a tourniquet – participants practiced applying tourniquets to each other, as well as to themselves.
Participants also practiced applying pressure and packing to bleeding limbs. Fake blood was used, of course.
“It’s easy in this environment, but when the fight-or-flight response kicks in, in a real situation, I hope that I’ll just rely on this training and make the right decisions to save someone’s life, if they need it,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Acosta, who is stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base. “I would recommend this course to anyone. I’ll let my leadership know and try to get them to come hold a class on base.”
Ione Pedersen of Cheyenne said she would also recommend others take the course.
“I found it interesting and useful,” Pedersen said. “We learned how to stop the bleed.”
Steve Hopkins of Cheyenne said he took the course because he missed the training when the Boy Scout troop he leads participated in a recent class, and he was making up for that absence.
“The major first aid training people ignore the stop of the bleed – that immediate first aid stuff that you’re going to run into more frequently,” Hopkins said. “They concentrate so heavily on other aspects of the serious issues – heart attack, stroke, shock – but they don’t do much with stopping the bleeding unless somebody starts asking a lot of questions.”
Bechtle said Tuesday represented the second time the class had taken place at CRMC. The class is given annually, but Bechtle said the hospital would conduct more frequent classes if demand warranted.
“We hold classes for anyone who contacts us,” she said. “We’ve done these for safety days at construction companies. We’ve done these for education days for the Cheyenne Police Department. We’re willing to work with anybody – we just want to get the information out.”
For more information about CRMC staff conducting a class for your business or group, contact Bechtle at 307-633-7167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.