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One answer to gun violence: tourniquet training

Trauma experts say effort will save lives in shootings, accidents

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ECU Police Officer Christine Ipock, left, stuffs a wound during a training event on May 15, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The difference between life and death is sometimes only seconds, and a partnership between Vidant Health, the East Carolina Police Department and Pitt County Schools is aiming to make those precious seconds count. 

“Stop the Bleed,” a campaign that was pushed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, is finding its footing locally as medical professionals from Vidant Health are working to help spread knowledge about tourniquets and provide training that can help save lives. The campaign’s mission is to “cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.”

Concern over more recent violence including the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida — Friday’s killing of 10 high school students in Sante Fe, Texas, occurred after reporting for this story was completed — has spurred efforts by ECU Police and Pitt County Schools to provide employees the skills and tools that could have saved lives in Florida and elsewhere.

“The quicker that you can get training to our officers, the quicker we can deploy that training into the field so that if we do ever have (an active shooter situation) then they are trained and equipped to help stop bleeding situations,” ECU Police Department Lt. Chris Sutton said. 

The free training, which all 60 ECU Police Department officers, all Pitt County Schools nurses and some other school employees are receiving, is spearheaded by Vidant’s Dr. Eric Toschlog. He, along with the trained school nurses, have held classes where attendees learn what methods most effectively stop bleeding as well as when, why and how to apply a tourniquet. 

At a time when schools are looking for any remedy to address shootings — more school resource officers, armed teachers, hardening schools — Toschlog said the Stop the Bleed drive is the medical community’s way of chipping in. The idea started after trauma experts analyzed the autopsy reports in the Pulse Night Club shooting that killed 49 in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 as well as the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 last year.

“What the trauma community found, and this is particularly true of the shooting in Las Vegas, is that a significant number of people who died obviously bled to death,” Toschlog said. “But a significant percentage were from gun shots to the extremities, which if we trained the population how to apply tourniquets to stop the bleeding on extremity wounds, a significant number of lives could have been saved.” 

Toschlog worked with a group of ECU police last week to provide some hands-on instruction and slideshow on the need-to-know information for assessing an injury. They practiced applying tourniquets to replica thighs designed to imitate a real person’s leg. 

Limited Stop the Bleed training has been required in Pitt County Schools for about a year now, according to Patricia Hooton, school health manager for the district. She said every school nurse in the county is trained to administer the Stop the Bleed instruction, and every teacher in the county is expected to watch a Stop the Bleed video created through the Pitt County Sheriffs Office. 

“I think it’s important because if you have an injury that severs an artery, it just takes minutes to bleed out before death can happen,” Hooton said. “A lot of people don’t know what to do in that situation.”

Additionally, every school has a few “first responders,” who are given the hands-on training and who have access to a $30 Stop the Bleed kit, which features a tourniquet and other necessarily supplies like bandages, gauze and gloves.

Hooton said there are anywhere from two to eight first responders in each school, depending on the school’s size. They are individuals who have a background in the military, law enforcement, medical or any other high-stress field. 

Expanding the training and the number of kits is crucial, Toschlog said. “Remember, this is not to train medical personnel how to do this, this is train the public. So my focus is obviously in the schools.”

It is not just about being able to respond to an active-shooting situation. Hooton said other accidents can happen, such as a student getting cut on broken glass. In such situations, Hooton said it is important to have more than one person who is capable of administering the necessary help until medical professionals arrive. 

“The bigger picture is that it’s any bleeding injury,” Hooton said of the training. 

The kits are becoming standard equipment in schools across some states. Georgia, for example, has a grant putting the kit in schools across the state. Western Pennsylvania has a similar initiative. Most Pitt County Schools have several kits.

Toschlog said he has spoken to North Carolina Rep. Greg Murphy about introducing legislation that would supply the $30 Stop the Bleed kits in every school in the state and is optimistic of that possibility.

For Sutton, who has seen his fair share of injuries in the field, the training and kits are just another tool that he thinks can help save more lives.

“Seconds count in situations like this and we’re actively trying to extend those seconds,” Sutton said. 

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.as 

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