Josh Corday, our instructor for “Stop the Bleed” classes, opened today’s class with a great point of view: “If you’re going how to learn to shoot holes in people, you’d better learn how to plug holes in yourself.” Josh is an experienced and very qualified Army Medic, with a tour in Afghanistan and more medical, trauma, and first aid certifications than I can list here. He knows his stuff, and he teaches it from his experience, not from a textbook or powerpoint.
Stop the Bleed, and Prevent the Death
I did not know coming into this class that bleeding is the #1 cause of death after an injury. I also did not know that the US Armed Forces did not start carrying tourniquets until 2001. The example that brought up that little known fact is the scene in “Blackhawk Down” in which the medic is trying to clamp a soldier’s femoral artery, but cannot do so and the soldier dies. The soldier bled out.
If that medic had a tourniquet, chances are good that soldier would be alive today. But that happened in 1993, nearly a decade before the military started requiring soldiers – not just medics – to carry tourniquets as part of their kit.
Myths and Hoaxes
Ask 100 people and more than 90 of them will tell you that if you have to use a tourniquet, the victim is going to lose that limb. FALSE. It’s not even close to such certainty. In fact, here are the medically accepted time frames for nerve damage and loss of limb from the proper use of a tourniquet.
- Less than 2 hours – no damage to the limb
- 2 – 8 hours – minimal chance of nerve damage
- 8 – 16 hours – nerve damage is likely
- Less than 16 hours – loss of limb is likely
Also, all that fun stuff you see on TV like powder or liquid that instantly stops massive bleeding? False. A hoax. Hollywood fantasy. Doesn’t work. Your body will flush out foreign substances from a wound. It’ll do the same thing to a bunch of fancy powder or liquid that you pour over a wound that’s spewing blood.
How to Stop the Bleed
The two goals in a trauma situation are (1) find the bleed, and (2) stop the bleed. You go about achieving those goals by following the “ABCs” of Stop the Bleed, which are as follows:
- A – Alert 911
- B – Bleeding – FIND IT!
- C – Compression
So it’s not always about using a tourniquet. Instead, it’s about compressing the wound to force the wound to heal by the natural coagulation powers of the human body. In order to properly compress a bleeding wound, you must first find the source of the bleed. However, before you do that, you call for help, so that professional help is already on the way while you’re finding that bleed.
Once you find it, compress it. Obviously, you’d want a great trauma kit to use in order to compress and stop the bleed. That means 15 feet of cotton gauze, a tourniquet, and several chest sealing bandages. A kit like that will cost just under $100, but it’s worth it. Don’t cheap out when you have to use the merchandise to literally save a life.
Something is better than nothing to stop the bleed
If you don’t have a pro kit handy, you have to use something. Improvised tourniquets fail 90% of the time; however, in an emergency, you must do what you must do. That may mean using a belt and slowing the bleed until someone else can stop the bleed. It may mean using a shirt or pair of pants to stuff and compress the wound until coagulation can take effect.
The lesson here is to be prepared, and have proper medical kits with you at all times. Josh ended the class with a similar point of view as the one he opened the class with: “if you do get in a fire fight, bullets are going both ways. Don’t assume you won’t get shot.”
The whole goal of tactical training is to be prepared for if and when your training is needed. If you’re willing to learn, train, and carry a firearm, then you are obligated to learn how to save someone who has been on the receiving end of a gun.