If they are ever involved in an emergency in which someone is severely injured and suffering heavy blood loss, Br. Rice High School sophomores will be ready.
About 140 students in the class participated in a Stop the Bleed training session hosted by Advocate Christ Medical Center (ACMC) trauma surgeons and nurses at the school on Feb. 7.
Students learned to apply tourniquets, pack wounds and use their hands to apply pressure, and school nurse Sue Salmon, who invited ACMC to host the program, said the benefits apply to many emergency situations.
“I think it empowers them. They are bright, and they are capable,” Salmon said. “They’re just going to start driving, so there could be an accident; there could be anything, [such as] sports. I want them to know that they are very capable, and they can save a life. I keep telling them that we are investing in them.”
The Stop the Bleed campaign was started by the American College of Surgeons after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 in which 27 people were killed.
According to its website, the Stop the Bleed campaign has trained over 1 million people, including students, teachers and members of community groups.
Salmon learned about the program through a church bulletin, then completed the course at the Oak Lawn Public Library before requesting ACMC officials visit Br. Rice.
Dr. James Doherty, a trauma surgeon at ACMC, hosted a presentation for students before they visited four stations where nurses guided them as they performed life-saving measures on prosthetic limbs and applied tourniquets to each other’s arms and legs.
Doherty believes that more lives may have been saved at Sandy Hook if bystanders were able to use those measures before first responders arrived, and he pointed to first responders already being on the scene at the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 as proof that if victims receive treatment right away, more lives can be saved.
However, he said knowing the techniques can be important for more common incidents.
“Really, the training isn’t just about terrorism or mass casualty. It’s really about in your home,” Doherty said. “If you have someone who puts their hand through a plate-glass window and has a deep laceration with an injury to a major blood vessel, they could bleed to death. People do come to our hospital bleeding to death all the time from such injuries.”
Doherty said the techniques are “very basic,” but he wants to help people be psychologically prepared to help in an emergency situation.
“I think part of what we do is tell people, ‘It’s OK to help,’ to get over that concern about hurting someone, causing harm or just sticking your fingers in a wound, which most of us I think are afraid to do unless we’re a healthcare professional,” Doherty said. “We’re saying it’s OK to do that. You have training; you have the skills to do that.”
Br. Rice student Gavin Flood, of Beverly, said he hasn’t experienced a situation where he needed to use any of the procedures he learned, “but next time, I will know what to do.”
He said he learned the importance of using two hands when applying pressure and to get in a position in which he is comfortable, as he could have to tend to a victim for an extended amount of time before first responders arrive.
He said he feels prepared mentally.
“I wasn’t really familiar with how to deal with events in stressful situations like major bleeding,” Flood said. “I learned how to calm down and how to react in the situation.”
Br. Rice sophomores also complete a quarter-long health class in which they learn CPR, so school officials thought they were an appropriate grade level in which to introduce to the program.
Doherty said he hopes to install bleeding-control kits at schools and public places that include wound-packing materials, gloves and tourniquets. The village of Oak Lawn has such kits available, thanks to the support of its police department, he said, “and I think they should be applauded for that.”
ACMC officials hope to visit more schools to teach Stop the Bleed.
The program continues to be offered through the hospital and Oak Lawn Library.
“We’ll try to teach as many people as possible,” Doherty said. “That’s our goal.”
For more information, visit the website at stopthebleed.org.