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Stop The Bleed: How Bystanders Can Help Before Paramedics Arrive


Paramedics can respond to emergencies in minutes. But, an injured person could possibly bleed to death in less time. A government program called Stop the Bleed aims to train bystanders to help in the interim.

Parkland Hospital’s trauma center is teaching local “Stop the Bleed” classes.

The center’s medical director, Dr. Alexander Eastman, says the idea is to put trauma center level of care right at the side of the person who’s injured.

Eastman, who is also an assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, explained how the classes came about.

Interview Highlights:

Reason for Stop The Bleed: If you take a look at some of the injuries that were sustained in the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook school shooting and some of the other tragedies we’ve seen throughout our country, we realized that we had to do something to try to help improve survival from actual shooter and intentional mass casualty events.

And so a group of us gathered to try to figure out if there was something we could do to help the public help themselves. And some of the skills and techniques are very easily applicable by someone who has very little training. And the one thing that each of these incidents has in common is that there are always people, formerly known as bystanders, now that we call immediate responders, who are standing right there next to the people that are injured.

"So the idea is that if we could teach them to help themselves or help their fellow man or woman who’s hurt right to next to them, then we would go a long way to making this country more safe."

How soon you need help: "Let’s just say that I’m driving around in my Dallas Police Tahoe, and you call me, and I get to your side five minutes after you make the phone call. From a law enforcement or an EMS response, that would be considered outstanding. But wearing my trauma surgeon hat, that’s awfully slow. Five minutes of unchecked bleeding potentially is life-threatening for you."

What kind of bleeding situations? Lacerations to major arteries, big injuries. Five minutes of that can be life-threatening for you.  These classes are designed to take someone who has zero medical training, give us about an hour, and we’ll teach you how to save your own life in the event of a life-threatening emergency that’s related to bleeding.

If you haven’t taken a class: The thing we would like to do is keep as much of that person’s blood inside the body as we can. And so, the first thing you would want to do is just put some pressure on that wound with your hands, or whatever you have. If the pressure doesn’t work – and in some cases, it won’t – then you’ll need to put a tourniquet on that extremity. Or pack that wound full of gauze, shirts, something to try to get the bleeding controlled.


On help around Dallas: There are commercially purposed tourniquets that were made for our special forces now being deployed all over the world, not in the hands of paramedics and police officers, but in the hands of regular folks out there. The other thing is specialized gauze that’s called “combat” gauze that’s made with a precoagulant that makes your blood clot.

You’ll see this now around the city of Dallas in large occupancy buildings like the Meyerson [Symphony Center], City Hall, the police substations, some of the rec centers, Love Field, the convention center. The city has gone out and pre-positioned some of this equipment in some of those large occupancy buildings. These kits are co-located with automated defibrillators that are out there, and you’ll see a hemorrhage control kit on the wall right next to that defibrillator.

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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.