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High school students learn practical trauma medicine skills

Stanford Health Care’s “Stop the Bleed” program instructs students on how to pack wounds, use tourniquets and save lives until first responders arrive

By Sarah Ravani
San Francisco Chronicle

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — The suicide bombing that killed nearly two dozen people at an Ariana Grande concert in England this week weighed heavily on the minds of students at Sequoia High School in Redwood City on Thursday as they were taught how to save lives if ever caught in a similar mass-casualty scenario.

For two hours, the students learned the lessons of tying tourniquets and applying pressure to stop the bleeding of a gushing wound -- emergency techniques made all the more relevant by the slaughter at the Manchester Arena more than 5,000 miles away.

“The same thing keeps happening over and over again,” said Roger Soriano, a 17-year-old junior at the school. “Not only teenagers, but also adults, they should have an idea of what some of the things are they can do to alleviate some of the stress in a catastrophic event.”

Though the classroom emergency drill was planned long in advance, this week’s deadly bombing upped the gravity of the curriculum.

As tables in the classroom were lined with artificial limbs that had lacerations and puncture and gunshot wounds, teacher Greg Schmid began the medical-clinic class by asking the 16 students to ponder the grim current events.

“At your tables, talk about something that’s happened recently that’s brought our attention to natural disasters or man-made disasters,” Schmid said.

In unison, the students replied, “The Ariana Grande concert.”

As part of a nationwide effort to train people, including students and teachers, to respond in mass casualties, Stanford Health Care’s “Stop the Bleed” program brought a team of trauma surgeons and nurses to the school to instruct the students on how to pack wounds, use tourniquets and save lives until first responders arrive.

The training came three days after the Manchester mayhem left 22 people dead, including an 8-year-old girl, and injured 59 others. The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility in the attack.

“Any training that we would do to prepare young people to be able to assist first responders during an emergency is important,” said Schmid, who has been teaching at Sequoia High for two years. “Empowering students to feel like they can contribute really impacts their self-esteem and self-confidence.”

The medical-clinic class is part of Health Careers Academy, at Sequoia High, which prepares students interested in careers in the medical field and teaches them practical skills.

In class, Graeme Rosenberg, a third-year resident in general surgery, ran through a power-point presentation on how to take action until paramedics arrive.

“I don’t mean to scare you guys. At the end of this course, what I want is you to feel less scared. You can really make a difference,” Rosenberg said, referencing instances where these skills could be applied, including the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut where 20 children and six staffers were fatally shot.

As Rosenberg showed the students videos on the different types of bleeding -- from blood spurting out to blood pooling on the ground -- and how to pack wounds, Roger tapped his foot lightly, taking notes. Seated near several mannequins that displayed the human digestive system and brain, he raised his hand.

“If you don’t have gauze, what would be a good alternative?” he asked.

Responding, Rosenberg said, “Use what you have to pack the wounds. You can deal with dirt and debris later. You can’t deal with six liters of blood on the ground.”

Roger said he first became interested in medicine when his mother suffered a spinal-cord injury from falling when he was 8-years-old.

“It was kind of traumatic for me seeing her like that. During those times, it was really hard. Seeing her pain has inspired me to help people,” the 17-year-old said.

He joined five of his classmates gathering around David Spain, the trauma medical director at Stanford Health Care, and practiced stuffing a long piece of gauze into a wound on a fake thigh.

“Tuck it all inside,” Spain instructed Roger as he quickly shoved as much gauze into the wound as he could, concentrating and balling the remaining gauze while using both his hands to apply pressure.

“Who’s next?” Spain asked as the other students put on the blue, latex gloves provided to them. “Get way in there.”

Dez Frazier, a 17-year-old junior, said the training made him feel like he was prepared to handle stressful situations because the doctors grilled him with questions as he attempted to apply a tourniquet.

“I was amazed. These are skills you only learn at hospitals and in college, beyond high school,” he said. The instructors were “challenging my thinking.”

The students weren’t the only participants in the training.

Sean Priest, the school principal, got on his hands and knees as he applied a tourniquet to the leg of a dummy body, focusing as he strapped the Velcro.

“When you’re prepared to save someone’s life, it sets you up with a lot of confidence for anything that comes your way,” Priest said.

At the end of the instruction, the students received a certificate for completing the demonstration training for bleeding control. They high-fived the doctors and some received congratulatory slaps on the back as the doctors jokingly welcomed them as members of the trauma unit.
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