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Saving lives with Stop the Bleed know-how

December 19, 2017 | UCI Health
man having tourniquet tied on his arm

Would you know what to do if someone near you was bleeding and needed help?

Unfortunately, too few people do. But UCI Health trauma specialists are working hard to remedy that through monthly “Stop the Bleed” courses and outreach efforts.

The Oct. 1, 2017, shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured 546 was the impetus for Jennifer Coleman and Wendy Meyer to sign up for the course held three weeks later.

'No one thinks it's going to be them'

“No one thinks it’s going to be them,” says Coleman, who works in marketing and often attends large events. “I would like to think it’s not going to be me, but I’d like to be prepared to take care of myself, my loved ones and those around me, and not be someone’s victim.”

“In 1998 we had a workplace shooting that resulted in the death of one of the employees,” Meyer says. “I went to work and found all the reporters and police there and will forever be aware that violence is a reality.”

But knowing how to save someone’s life by stopping bleeding is invaluable not just in the event of an “active shooter” event or mass casualty situation.

Uncontrolled bleeding a leading cause of death

“Bleeding control is for everyday life — for the much more likely trauma of industrial accidents, traffic collisions and home accidents such as falls,” says Christy Carroll, RN, BSN, trauma services injury prevention coordinator at UC Irvine Medical Center. “Someone with a severe arterial wound could bleed out in three minutes.”

Trauma is the No. 1 cause of death among people 45 and younger, and uncontrolled bleeding is the leading cause of preventable death in trauma,” says Jeffry Nahmias, MD, a UCI Health trauma surgeon who has taught the majority of the Stop the Bleed classes since they began earlier this year.

“In the two- to three-hour class, we teach participants how to identify where the hemorrhage is coming from and what they can do to help,” he says.

“Torso wounds need immediate surgical attention in a hospital setting. For wounds in other parts of the body, we teach the basics of how to control bleeding by applying proper pressure, wound packing and tourniquets.

Tourniquets are effective

“Things have changed over the years. For example, it was previously thought that tourniquets were not helpful,” Nahmias says. “But recent studies in the military have found that they’re useful.”

That lesson made an impact on Coleman during her class. “That’s one of the things I learned that flies in the face of traditional wound management,” Coleman says. “I bought a tourniquet immediately. I keep it in my purse.”

To protect against the chance of blood-borne infections, Carroll suggests people make it a habit to keep a pair of gloves along with a tourniquet in their cars, purses, backpacks or at home.

UCI Health’s Stop the Bleed courses have a nominal charge of $30 to cover the cost of tourniquets, which will now be handed out to participants.

Open to medical professionals and the community

UCI Health has trained its medical staff and students, as well as firefighters, security guards and other first responders. Boy Scouts and community members have also taken the course, which is open to anyone age 13 and above. There’s an emphasis on training the trainers, so that people with medical backgrounds can qualify to teach Stop the Bleed classes.

“Along with the courses here at the medical center, we’re more than happy to go out to community groups to do the training,” Carroll says. “Ultimately, we want to see the training and tourniquet kits at all public venues — theme parks, malls, hotels, sports parks — right next to defibrillators.”

Stop the Bleed classes at UC Irvine Medical Center fill up fast. If courses at the medical center are full, you can find a course near you at Bleeding Control.

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