HARTFORD - Not more than 10 days ago, a gunman fired into a Las Vegas concert crowd killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others.
Mass casualty incidents also happened at an elementary school in Connecticut, a crowded nightclub in Florida, an office building in San Bernardino, Calif., and the Boston Marathon.
The grim reality is that mass shootings and mass casualty events have become a part of American life.
But a group dedicated to increasing survivability after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012 is hoping that the public will embrace a few simple techniques that can stop bleeding quickly, increasing the chances for victims to survive. The simple instructions can also be used for car accidents, gunshot wounds, stabbings or disasters such as a roof collapse or a machinery accident.
“Any citizen can be involved and any citizen can be part of the solution,” said Dr. Len Jacobs, vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer at Hartford Hospital, who was instrumental in creating a protocol for national policy on increasing survivability for victims of mass casualty events. “The goal is to keep blood inside the body. If the victims can get to the hospital, their chances for survival are increased.”
The Hospital for Special Care itself was the scene of a workplace shooting in 2012 when an employee shot two supervisors, both of whom survived.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined Jacobs and Brian Wallace, a military and law enforcement instructor with Hartford Hospital’s Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation, Tuesday morning in a training session for reporters who can convey the techniques and interest in the protocol to the general public. “Stopping bleeding should be a life skill like swimming,” said Wallace, who is a full-time West Hartford police officer.
Using realistic mannequins that spurt blood, Jacobs deftly showed the senator how to pull back the skin on the leg of an amputee injury victim to immediately look for damage to determine where to apply pressure. Use your hands and press hard above the wound to see if the bleeding stops. “You can’t stop it, if you can’t see it,” Jacobs said. “Use your hands to feel around.”
Call 911 as quickly as possible and then jump into stemming the flow of blood, Jacobs and Wallace said.
Don’t forget, however, that the victim is a human being, Jacobs instructed. Keep talking to them, tell them it’s going to hurt, that you are saving their life, and help is coming. If available, use gauze that is specially designed to clot blood quickly. The gauze is available as part of bleeding control kits that are being placed next to AED portable external defibrillators throughout the state. Otherwise, use a clean cloth, or a piece of clothing. “A T-shirt can save someone’s life,” Jacobs said.
Press hard and pack the gauze as tightly as possible. For serious arm and leg wounds or amputations, use a tourniquet, which are also available in the kits. If a military-endorsed tourniquet, like the ones that come in the kit, isn’t available, use a belt or a strip of fabric or anything else available. The tourniquet should be placed two or three inches above the wound. It needs to be as tight as possible. Make sure that the tourniquet isn’t impeded by the person’s wallet or an article of jewelry.
If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply a second tourniquet above the first one. Write the time on the tourniquet, so medical personnel including triage doctors at the hospital know when it was placed. A tourniquet can be in place for one hour - giving doctors time to deal with the wound and save a life, Jacobs said. “It takes four minutes for a person to bleed out from a serious femoral artery wound,” Wallace said. “Time is not on our side with those.”
After placing a tourniquet on the victim’s leg, Blumenthal observed that “one of the messages is that these kits need to be more widely available.” He and Jacobs will be advocating to have all U.S. car manufacturers place the kits in their new vehicles within the next few years. What Jacobs is hoping for is to have a U.S. citizenry who instead of calling 911 and watching will be “civilians who call 911 and jump in.”
The same basic techniques should be used for gunshot wounds in the groin, shoulder, abdomen, neck or head. Press as firmly as possible to stop the flow of blood. Keep talking to the person, let them know you are trying to save them. Use gloves if available, but if not, use your hands. Pack gauze designed to clot blood tightly into the wound. If no gauze is available, use a piece of cloth or a shirt. Wrap the packed wound tightly with a bandage to keep up the pressure, or use your hands.
The techniques can be used by anyone, Jacobs said. Employees of Westfarms Mall are trained in the “Stop The Bleed” technique developed by a committee headed by Jacobs, as were the 30,000 Boy Scouts who attended the national annual Jamboree this year. “You can come up on this in a car accident,” Wallace said. “It’s an all hazards approach to treating patients.”
For more information on the “Stop The Bleed Save A Life” protocol, visit Bleedingcontrol.org.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.