Paramedics train, educate Pa. teachers on bleeding control

Teachers were taught how to apply a tourniquet and stop bleeding

By Megan Guza
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

SOUTH PARK TOWNSHIP, Pa. — South Park Middle School teacher Melissa Lonkert frantically stuffed medical gauze into the gunshot wound of the arm in front of her while colleague Amanda McElhaney worked to tighten the tourniquet.

Except it was a fake arm — or rather, a piece of fake arm. And the gunshot wound wasn't real.

As part of Tuesday morning's district in-service day, Lonkert, McElhaney and hundreds of other South Park teachers took part in UPMC-led training on how to stop traumatic wounds from bleeding.

“It was definitely interesting,” Lonkert said of the training. “I used to work in a nursing home, but I've never had the opportunity to see a tourniquet applied.”

The Stop the Bleed program is coordinated through the Copeland Regional Trauma Council, named for a late UPMC trauma surgeon. The aim is to teach non-medical professionals how to stop traumatic bleeding, thus increasing a victim's chances of making it to a hospital alive.

“It's really taken off,” said Dr. Raquel Forsythe, associate trauma medical director at UPMC Presbyterian. “There's a lot of momentum behind it.”

Forsythe, who gave the presentation at South Park, said UPMC has been leading the charge to take Stop the Bleed training out of hospitals and into communities with the help of local paramedics. She said the training has been presented in school districts such as West Mifflin and Baldwin-Whitehall and Bentworth in Washington County.

Staff at Pittsburgh Public schools have received the training. At Brashear High School, the senior class was taught how to apply a tourniquet and stop bleeding.

People who are bleeding, Forsythe said, can die within minutes.

If they are bleeding from an artery, they can die in as little as three minutes. The training includes how to apply a tourniquet and direct pressure to the wound and how to pack a wound to staunch blood flow.

She said controlling bleeding — whether from a fall, a sports injury, an assault or a shooting — while waiting for emergency responders can go a long way toward saving a life.

Although some teachers expressed squeamishness at the idea of packing gauze into an open wound, they agreed it was valuable information, particularly if it provides another tool to help students if necessary.

“It was pretty intense,” McElhaney, a middle school teacher, said. “But it's worth knowing, for sure.”

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