The first time Clevelander Robert Woodard saw someone who had been shot, it was overwhelming.
“So me running to the scene and me getting there and them bleeding and I'm just as hysterical as them,” Woodard remembered. “It's like, ‘Wow, what do I do?’ I have no tools. I have no anything.”
So last summer Woodard, a violence prevention worker with a group called the Wolfpack, completed a first aid training on how to stop bleeding.
The next time he came across a person in need of medical attention, this time a man who’d been hit over the head with a bottle, things played out differently.
“It was kind of wild. I was like, ‘Wow, I know what to do,’” Woodard said. “And he was like, ‘Man you ain't no medic. Wait, hold on, you know what you doing?’ And I'm like, ‘Just give me a chance. I guarantee you that you’re going to be ok.’”
Bringing Military Training To Civilians
Woodard’s training was part of a nationwide campaign called Stop the Bleed.
Stop The Bleed started in Connecticut in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Lenworth Jacobs was director of Hartford Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center 40 miles away.
“We were asked to go on standby,” Jacobs said, “and unfortunately, it turned out that there were no survivors. And 20 of them were under 6 years old. That had a very profound effect on me.”
In 2013, Jacobs and colleagues from the American College of Surgeons, law enforcement and the military came together to develop what is now known as the Hartford Consensus.
The idea adopts a principle that has existed for years in the military. Every soldier is sent out with a kit that can be used to stop bleeding, and is trained to apply pressure and a tourniquet to a wound, then get the victim to a safe place for treatment.
Now, the goal is to teach those same skills to all civilians in the United States.
“It is discomforting. But our focus is: It happened,” Jacobs said. “What can we do right now to save lives and limbs?”
A 2017 study found it takes first responders 8 minutes on average to arrive. That time goes up to 14 minutes in rural areas. It can take as little as 5 minutes to die from loss of blood.
‘It’s Not Your Blood’
Joseph Rubelowsky is a surgeon at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Cleveland. He is also a Special Forces medic who’s served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to Rubelowsky, a little training goes a long way. But it starts with overcoming some common concerns.
“The first thing to keep in the back of your mind is it's not your blood,” Rubelowsky said. “Now, I know that sounds kind of callous, but you have to realize that that patient has to know that you got this.”
It’s impossible to know when you’ll need to control a bleeding patient, he added. It could happen at any time.
“I know that you feel that you have this deer in the headlights,” Rubelowsky said. “But you’ve got to stem the tide of the bleeding and get the patient to where definitive bleeding control can occur.”
Paramedic Kevin Barnard does Stop The Bleed training in schools and churches around Columbia Township, a rural community about 40 minutes outside Cleveland. The fire department also place kits in public places.
“If we were going into an active shooter [situation], we've got body armor and it's got pockets ...on it and it's stuffed with these same tools,” said Barnard. “The same tools that they’re providing in these kits.
Barnard is what’s known as a first responder. Now, he is training a new category of emergency workers. Researchers are calling them immediate responders — people at the scene of an accident or shooting when it happens or just after.
And the lessons from the training are pretty simple:
- Call first responders
- Direct pressure to the wound
- Apply a tourniquet
- Get the injured person to medical attention
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.