“The only thing more tragic than a death is a death that could have been prevented,” said Dr. Matthew Neal, a trauma surgeon at UPMC, to the room full of trainees.
Neal is one of several UPMC physicians involved in Stop the Bleed, an initiative designed to provide the general public with the knowledge and tools to become first responders.
Regional efforts to impart this education follow a national Stop the Bleed campaign promoted by the Obama administration beginning in 2015.
In Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Stop the Bleed is being supported by a $100,000 grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. The decision to bolster the movement follows an increased number of high casualty events, said Karen Wolk Feinstein, JHF president and CEO, in a prepared statement.
“No one wants to think about mass casualty incidents, but many cities across the U.S. — including Aurora [Colo.], Sandy Hook [Newtown, Conn.], Boston, Orlando, and Dallas — have been touched by such tragedies,” said Feinstein.
“It is critically important that our region is as prepared as possible for an emergency situation. That starts with all of us knowing how to stop life-threatening bleeding, similar to how many in the general public can provide CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] to someone in distress.”
So for two hours last week, local Jewish professionals and lay leaders learned life-saving basics, such as the ABCs of bleeding.
When encountering active bleeding, the first thing to do is to alert someone of the situation (A), said Dr. Keith Murray, an emergency medicine physician at UPMC. “Get help; call 911.”
Then, stop the bleeding (B). Use compression (C) in the wounded area. If gauze is not available, “use whatever you have to apply direct pressure,” he said.
If hemostatic gauze is being used then the responder should apply pressure for three minutes. Otherwise, the responder should apply pressure for 10 minutes, explained Neal.
In several recent mass casualty events, safety concerns prevented local law enforcement from accessing the site quickly enough, noted Brad Orsini, director of Jewish community security at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
As demonstrated in those scenarios, victims can bleed to death in three to five minutes, said several of the participating physicians at the recent training.
By imparting the lessons of Stop the Bleed, we can all become first responders, added Orsini.
Participants were also offered other basic instructions, such as how to apply a tourniquet and how to pack a wound.
“Tourniquets and wound packing are two things that save lives,” said Murray before trainees broke off into groups to work with provided supplies.
While grappling with a makeshift limb complete with false gunshot and stab wounds, program-goers tightened tourniquets and stuffed gauze.
The activity was “very informative,” said Shalom Kohanbash of Squirrel Hill. “It’s not often that you get hands-on experience doing this.”
Along with members of the Jewish community, nearly 200 local law enforcement officers participated in last week’s Stop the Bleed training.
Bringing police officers and members of the general public together was “tremendous,” said Orsini.
Apart from singling out the efforts of local law enforcement, FBI members, UPMC physicians and the support of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Orsini added, “This is something I’ve talked about for years.”
Along with the education provided, each participant of the training received a certificate of completion. Additionally, a tourniquet was provided courtesy of UPMC.
Said Neal to the attendees, “Our goal is to make sure that everybody could be an immediate responder.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.