Newswise – A few minutes might have sufficed to decide the fate of a child in Cumberland County, Pa. one day in early spring 2021, but Sgt. Matt Roberts knew exactly what to do.
Moments earlier, the East Pennsboro Township police officer was changing in the locker room when the call came in: pedestrian hit. Paramedics were on their way to South Enola Drive, a few blocks from Roberts Barracks. There he found a young boy lying on the side of the road under a blanket. When he pulled it out, he saw blood pouring from a deep laceration on the child’s arm.
“I was pretty confident he would have bled,” Roberts said.
He thought back to his training. Not the lessons on weapons or crowd or traffic control he might turn to during a typical shift as a police officer. Instead, Roberts recalled a trip he had taken a few years earlier with others from his department to Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center.
Paramedics later told him that was what saved the boy’s life.
Roberts is among millions of people from all walks of life — from high school students to lawyers — who have received special emergency training called Stop the Bleed. It lasts 90 minutes and consists of a presentation and practical work. And those who take it can make all the difference in the crucial minutes between when someone is hurt and when it’s too late.
Any moment can become disastrous, said Kim Patil, injury prevention and awareness coordinator at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
“These are daily occurrences,” said Patil, who has been teaching Stop the Bleed classes for years. “It’s not just about huge events with many casualties. It could be someone working with a lawn mower or in a workshop. When you think about how this can happen anywhere, it makes sense that everyone gets this training.
That’s why healthcare organizations like Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Holy Spirit Medical Center seek to train as many people as possible. Sunny Goodyear, Injury Prevention and Awareness Coordinator at Holy Spirit, visits local high schools and other area locations to show people how to deal with what most hope they will never encounter. She has taught Stop the Bleed to 8,000 people since 2018.
Learn more about the program here.
How to act
First, make sure you’re not in danger, Patil and Goodyear said. Have someone call 9-1-1 and then determine if it is a life-threatening bleed. It will be obvious. “It will be something you won’t forget,” Patil said. “We’re talking about a lot of blood.”
Next, look for a trauma first aid kit. If you can’t find one, find a clean cloth and apply direct, steady pressure to the wound. Delicate? If you know this about yourself, stick with something you can do well, suggests Patil. “Be the person who dials 9-1-1,” she said.
If you have a Stop the Bleed kit, more options become available. These trauma kits are becoming easier to find. Holy Spirit has distributed 922 Bleeding Control Kits, which contain essential items to stem blood loss in an accident, to schools, factories, shopping malls and other sites in five counties in central La Pennsylvania. Look for them in the same places where you find an automated external defibrillator. Other Stop the Bleed aficionados keep kits in their cars.
Last year, 46 patients who had been saved by Stop the Bleed tourniquets arrived in the emergency department at Holy Spirt Medical Center. In April, this year’s tally was 22.
Arm or leg injury? Do you have a Stop the Bleed kit? Use a tourniquet.
When a sore appears on one extremity, tourniquets are usually the most effective tool, Patil said. If the person is bleeding from elsewhere – say from the groin, neck or shoulder – wrap it with hemostatic gauze from the kit and apply pressure.
When helping the child, Roberts opted to use the tourniquet he kept in his car as the injury was in his arm. It was Roberts’ first outside of his training at Holy Spirit. Using the Stop the Bleed-approved strap over the wound, Roberts tightened the pressure with a windlass to stop the bleeding. By then his partner, Constable Brian Ebersole, had arrived. Ebersole had served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and knew tourniquets from experience. He tightened the windlass even tighter than Roberts had. The bleeding has stopped.
Thirty years ago, tourniquets were used as a last resort, Goodyear said, because the method worked so well that it cut off blood flow to the limb. Held in place too long, the old version of the tourniquet caused amputations.
Since then, military personnel on the battlefields have perfected the practice, which allows sufficient blood flow to continue while stopping the bleeding wound. A Stop the Bleed tourniquet should be in every kit.
These days, Roberts and other members of the East Pennsboro Township Police Force keep tourniquets on their duty belts.
“We use them more often than the general public realizes,” he said.
the medical minute is a weekly health report produced by Penn State Health. Articles feature the expertise of faculty, physicians, and staff, and are designed to offer relevant and timely health information of interest to a broad audience.