Trauma Teams Teach the Public How to Stop Severe Bleeding and Save Lives

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Courtesy of University Health System

Physical education teachers from Northside ISD practice techniques for using a tourniquet during a "Stop the Bleed" training class taught by the University Health System trauma team.

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Two weeks after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, 60 Northside Independent School District physical education teachers in San Antonio gathered in a gymnasium.

As they prepared to welcome students back for the fall semester, they couldn’t help but think about the violence at the El Paso Walmart and the Ohio entertainment district. The injuries and deaths were reminders of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Santa Fe, and the many times gunmen had targeted schools.

Would the NISD teachers know what to do if a shooter stormed into one of their schools?

“I think I could help in that situation,” said Marcia Dreiss, who is confident in using her basic first aid training. But she came to the gym to take her skills to another level with techniques taught through the American College of Surgeons’ “Stop the Bleed” program.

Uncontrolled bleeding from injuries is the No. 1 cause of preventable death from trauma. A person can bleed to death in as little as five minutes, before first responders arrive. 

A national coalition of federal law enforcement, trauma surgeons, and emergency responders knew survival often depended on those nearest the victims taking immediate action, so they developed the “Stop the Bleed” training with strategies aimed at turning bystanders into emergency responders.

Through a collaboration with the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC), University Health System’s Level I Trauma Center joined the nationwide program in 2015. Since then, the Health System’s trauma team has equipped more than 8,000 South Texans with a simple ABC approach to controlling bleeding:

  1. Alert emergency crews by calling 9-1-1
  2. Find the source of the bleeding
  3. Use direct compression to stop bleeding until help arrives

Trauma Center instructors have offered free “Stop the Bleed” classes at schools, senior centers, places of worship, businesses, and community meetings.

In their hour-long class, NISD teachers practiced pushing bandage-like material into deep, wound-like pockets cut into rubber models of arms and legs. They cinched tourniquets around their colleagues’ limbs, getting a feel for how to fasten the bands tightly enough to limit the flow of blood.

“Remember, you can’t hurt these injured people more than they are already hurt,” one trauma surgeon told the teachers. “You can only save their lives.”

Tataka Perry-Johnson, the trauma educator for University Health System, said you don’t have to be a medical professional to master this class.

“Anyone would benefit from having these skills, which might enable them to save a life,” said Perry-Johnson.

While it was mass-casualty school shootings that launched the “Stop the Bleed” campaign, instructors tell students there is a greater likelihood they will use the techniques to respond to more common, everyday injuries. It might be a student injured at a sporting event, a dog attack in their neighborhood, a deep cut from a power tool, or a motor vehicle crash.

University Health System and its Foundation are working to expand their program and support a State of Texas legislative measure sponsored by State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins of San Antonio. The new law requires all public and charter schools to establish properly equipped bleeding control stations, and ensure staff and students grade seven or higher have access to “Stop the Bleed” education.

At its 2019 annual fundraising event, the University Health System Foundation raised more than $200,000 to place “Stop the Bleed” kits in schools throughout Bexar County. The Health System is matching that money with an additional $200,000, and Valero Energy is adding to the sum by making “Stop the Bleed” a recipient of its annual United Way campaign.

“We’re also planning to offer ‘Stop the Bleed’ classes in Spanish,” said Perry-Johnson.

At the gym, NISD instructional assistant Guadalupe Rosales said the class has better equipped him to respond to children he supervises in physical education classes.

“If something happens, the children need to have someone who will be able to calm them down and let them know they’ll be OK because we know what to do,” he said.

University Health System educators offering this free, life-saving training can be contacted at StoptheBleed@uhs-sa.com. You can support continued training at buildinglifelines.com.

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