Bleeding is the leading cause of preventable trauma-related death in the United States. The keyword here is PREVENTABLE. There are some simple steps that anyone can take to save a life.
Most people do not want to be put in the stressful position of caring for a badly injured trauma victim. But, you never know if, or when, you will need some simple skills that will allow you to stop life-threatening bleeding until medical personnel show up to assist.
Unfortunately, too many lives are needlessly lost in mass casualty situations because the skills needed were not known or utilized. Many people think of mass shootings as the time these skills would be needed. But, you could call on these skills in the event of home accidents, natural disasters, car accidents, accidental shootings and many other scenarios.
Knowing how to stop the bleed is as important as knowing CPR or how to help a choking victim. These are basic skills and knowledge that everyone in our communities should have.
In recent years, one change to CPR protocol was to remove the component of mouth-to-mouth respirations, instead just doing compressions should get the job done. People were hesitant to administer CPR out of fear they might contract a disease.
Along those same lines, one of the things that may be a barrier to helping a stranger who is bleeding is the fear of contracting a blood-borne disease. Like mouth-to-mouth respirations, that is completely understandable, but in this case unfounded.
The risk is so low that it is almost non-existent. Your skin is a waterproof barrier. Unless you have open wounds, infectious diseases from body fluids will not get into your bloodstream. And even where there are contaminated needles that stick people, the contraction rate is very, very low. So, leave that fear at the door and jump in if needed!
Schedule an Until Help Arrives training where you can learn directly from an emergency physician how to be the help until help arrives, or contact your local Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services agency, or community outreach department for training.
Arm yourself with simple skills that would save the life of a family member, friend, or stranger. What greater gift can you give than the gift of life?
By Jennifer L’Hommedieu Stankus MD, JD, FACEP