Chris Lawton sits on the floor of a classroom and encourages his 8-year-old daughter Lorelai as she applies a tourniquet to his leg. The Providence Alaska Medical Center respiratory therapist is pretending to be a victim, and Lorelai is “stopping the bleed.”
“Put it up here,” he says, indicating a spot above his knee, where the flesh can be compressed against his pant leg. “That’s right, a little tighter.” She twists the windlass rod on the tourniquet.
Lawton was one of 25 participants in the recent Stop the Bleed class, which teaches bleeding-control basics for traumatic injuries. Last year, Providence Health & Services Alaska helped fund the program, which is part of a nationwide effort to help equip everyday citizens with life-saving skills.
The education stems from the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when afterward the White House, the American College of Surgeons and several other leaders in trauma, convened the Hartford Consensus. Their goal was to improve survivability not only from manmade casualty events such as Sandy Hook, but also natural mass casualty events such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
In class, Krista Ralls, RN, Stop the Bleed instructor, reminds participants that it can take as few as three minutes for the human body to bleed out, and the average emergency medical responder time varies by region from minutes to hours. So every second is a precious life-saving opportunity.
She shares with them how gauze can be used to pack a wound, and demonstrates the amount of direct pressure needed to actually stop bleeding. She explains how a tourniquet is used and when and where to place it.
“You are our ‘immediate responders,’ you are there before we can be,” Ralls says. “These skills are simple, and knowing when and how to use them makes a difference between life and death. You are the ones that will save lives.”
After her presentation, Ralls invites participants to practice their newfound skills at stations spread around the classroom.
Thom Eley and Cherie Northon take turns packing a puncture wound on a log-shaped mold meant to represent a leg. They stuffed gauze packing into the hole and applied pressure on the rigid form. Eley, with Anchorage Search and Rescue, and Northon, a member of the Anchorage Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy, agreed that it’s never too late to learn life-saving skills because you never know when you will need them.
“I cut my leg with a box cutter a few years ago and it was surprising how bad it was,” Eley says. “These accidents can happen so fast.”
Lawton, who brought his two other children to the class as well, said the lessons are straightforward and valuable skills to possess – even for kids.
“We live in Alaska, so we go out in the middle of nowhere all the time,” he says. “You never know when you might need to help, and this class is pretty easy for anyone.”
“This particular campaign is twofold,” Ralls says, “to educate the public and play a role in supplying them the equipment. Luckily, we have had financial support to make the program thrive and grow here in Alaska.”
The Stop the Bleed movement is growing nationwide, with National Stop the Bleed Day recognized in May. Thanks to the combined support of $40,000 from Providence Alaska Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network, and Providence Alaska Medical Center, her group has taught more than 750 individuals Stop the Bleed skills and outfitted every Anchorage School District school with bleeding control kits. This community benefit support was in response to a 2018 Anchorage community health needs assessment (CHNA), which identified access to care as one of the greatest unmet needs in the region.
Stop the Bleed is offered the second Saturday of every month at Providence Alaska Medical Center from 10 a.m.-noon. More information can be found at bleedingcontrol.org.