December 14, 2012, a gunman opened fire at a Sandy Hook, Connecticut elementary school, killing 26 people. A Hartford trauma surgeon couldn't help but wonder how many victims at nearby Sandy Hook could have lived, if others at the scene knew how to stop severe bleeding. Far too many mass shootings have occurred since then.
Hartford Hospital's Dr. Lenworth M. Jacobs sees it all too often: victims of mass shootings die while waiting for emergency medical treatment to arrive. "Most of these shooting events are over in 15 minutes and people can bleed to death within five minutes from these severe injuries," he said, adding that in addition to the time it takes to get to the scene, sometimes emergency medical responders are delayed even further for their own safety, by law enforcement, until the area is secure.
That's why Dr. Jacobs launched a nationwide public service campaign informing average citizens how to save lives during that critical time between an injury and when professional help arrives.
It's called "Stop the Bleed." In the same way laypeople have been trained to perform CPR to resuscitate heart attack victims, they're now being taught simple steps to stop bleeding after accidents and emergencies. The Stop the Bleed website provides information about available classes as well as teaching videos and downloadable instructions.
The good news is most people can easily learn how to stop life-threatening bleeding, also known as "hemorrhaging," which happens to many more injured people, beyond those involved in mass shootings or bombings.
According to the National Trauma Institute, more than 180,000 people in the U.S. die annually from traumatic injuries, often from blood loss after motor vehicle crashes, falls, and industrial and farm accidents and before emergency help arrived.
The key to stopping a hemorrhage is compressing a bleeding blood vessel.
- Take any clean cloth (for example, a shirt) and cover the wound.
- If the wound is large and deep, try to "stuff" the cloth down into the wound.
- Apply continuous pressure with both hands directly on top of the bleeding wound.
- Push down as hard as you can.
- Hold pressure to stop bleeding.
- Continue pressure until relieved by medical responders.
For life-threatening bleeding from an arm or leg and a tourniquet, such as a belt, is available:
- Wrap the tourniquet around the bleeding arm or leg about two to three inches above the bleeding site, between it and the heart, making sure NOT to place the tourniquet onto a joint, going above the joint if necessary.
- Make the tourniquet as tight as possible and secure it until bleeding stops.
- The patient will likely say the tourniquet hurts, but that's normal, and letting them know that can calm them