Losing blood was the most common preventable way Americans died from traumatic injuries this past year.
“Preventable being the key word,” said Trauma Program Manager Gina Solomon, RN CCRN. “How do we prevent it?”
On Wednesday, Gwinnett Medical Center did its part to prevent deadly hemorrhaging by teaching the public how to apply a basic tourniquet and dress wounds during a free clinic it held in conjunction with Gwinnett County public safety officers in the hospital’s main building.
“We’ve already trained well over 100 people today,” Solomon said at about 1 p.m., an hour before the event was scheduled to end.
The event was part of the hospital’s commitment to the Stop the Bleed initiative, a movement by the United States Department of Homeland Security to teach bystanders how to stop victims from bleeding out before emergency responders arrive.
“Stop the Bleed is a nationwide campaign to empower individuals to act quickly and save lives,” according to the website.
Solomon said she felt Gwinnett Medical’s role in that initiative was important, since the hospital’s level 2 trauma center is the only one in Gwinnett County.
“We have to partner with our community and we want them to be prepared,” Solomon said.
Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Safety Battalion Chief Mark Peters stood in the hospital’s training room letting bystanders practice putting on a Combat Application Tourniquet onto his upper arm.
“My arm will turn blue by the end of the day,” he said.
Peters was joking — mostly. Solomon described the tourniquet as a “Velcro loop.” It’s made of tough material that’s secured on an arm or a leg above the site of the bleeding.
“And then it has this stick that you twist until its tight,” Solomon said. “So you can see, it’s not real hard to do. So it’s real easy to train people lay people to do it.”
When a wound isn’t on an arm or a leg, tourniquets aren’t useful. But Solomon said it’s relatively easy to stop the bleeding in those cases, too. It all starts with pressure.
“We talk about applying pressure even if you get a paper cut,” Solomon said. “And you can do that with larger wounds.”
She said she teaches residents to use gauze if they have it, but they can also tightly fold a towel or clean t-shirt to stifle the blood. Then, put the pad over the wound and press down with the heels of the hand.
“Don’t peek,” Solomon said. “That’s what we find. People want to peek to see if it’s working. Don’t peek until help arrives.”
If the heavy bleeding continues despite pressure — and if its in an area of the body that can’t be helped by a tourniquet — Solomon said the next step is to “pack the wound.” Solomon said that means stuffing as much of the gauze or towel as possible into the wound before applying pressure again.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “You want to control the bleeding as much as you can.”
Gwinnett Medical Center’s clinic wrapped up on Wednesday at 2 p.m., but Solomon said members of the trauma team at the hospital are happy to go into the community to teach groups the potentially life-saving skills.
“We feel that putting these skills in the hands of bystanders until free hospital providers can get there can make a big difference,” Solomon said.
Residents or groups interested in the training should visit http://www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/services/trauma-services/trauma-services.