MURRAY — A growing number of mass-casualty incidents in the United States has the limited number of medical personnel focused on educating the public to help save lives.
Oftentimes in emergency situations, the people who are professionally trained to help are busy with other priorities, and, chances are, no one else is allowed to enter the scene for quite a while.
"The people already there are all we've got," said Dr. Mark Stevens, a trauma surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center. "We need to be ready."
Intermountain is offering a free class to teach people how to treat someone who is bleeding. The course is created by the national Stop the Bleed campaign that began after the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings, where it is believed that victims died from bleeding wounds that could have been treated.
Increasing awareness of how to stop the bleeding could impact the number of lives saved in various instances, including accidents that happen at home or on highways, said Dr. Dave Morris, another trauma surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center who taught Wednesday's class.
"People forget that direct pressure is the only thing that is needed," he said, adding that the first steps to saving lives include alerting medical professionals by calling 9-1-1 and locating the source of the bleeding.
After that, the wound either needs pressure from holding it tightly, packing it with gauze or using a regulated tourniquet, wherever appropriate. While the process will undoubtedly be painful for the victim, Morris said pain can be treated with medications.
"It's better to risk damage to the limb than to risk your life," he said.
Uncontrolled bleeding, Morris said, is the No.1 cause of death after a mass shooting and similar mass-casualty events, as severe bleeding can lead to shock and/or death within five to 10 minutes, before medical help arrives.
"We shouldn't lose anybody who might have been saved because of bleeding," he said, adding that bystanders will become "immediate responders" to such incidents, if and when they may occur.
"The biggest mistake is to panic and do nothing," Stevens said. "We're not only teaching the techniques, but hope to empower people and help them feel comfortable with this role of potentially saving a life."
Kimberly Gibson works in a laboratory at the hospital and decided to take advantage of the class on her lunch break. She also serves as an emergency preparedness coordinator in her neighborhood and said the more information she can offer people, the better.
"These are really simple things that if somebody doesn't tell you, you wouldn't think of on your own," Gibson, of Sandy, said. "It's good knowledge for anyone."
And even Lauren Fredrickson, a medical laboratory scientist who deals with blood every day, found the information useful.
"I can see this becoming as common as the need to know CPR," she said. "I think it is going to save lives."
In addition to offering Wednesday's class again on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Intermountain Medical Center Doty Education Center (5121 S. Cottonwood St.), Intermountain is working with other health care organizations and officials throughout the state to make bleeding control supplies more accessible and certify as many people as possible.
The group would like to put tourniquet kits everywhere, but most importantly in places where large amounts of people may gather, such as the airport, sports arenas and schools, to name a few.
"Unfortunately, we are going to see more and more of these mass casualties," Morris said. The Stop the Bleed campaign, he said, is still new, and, "it's not yet public knowledge that this is a thing."
But as a trauma surgeon who provides help to victims of these circumstances after they arrive at the hospital, he wants that to change.
It might, however, take some time.
"There's kind of an ick factor here — most people don't want to put their hands into bloody wounds," Morris said. "But, when it really counts, it won't seem that gross."1 comment on this story
Having the knowledge, like Fredrickson said, makes all the difference. Success depends on people who are ready to help.
"There's a big difference between feeling like we are helpless victims … to thinking, 'If necessary, I could save a life,'" Stevens said. "If we become a country of people who are enabled to help and have that kind of attitude, it makes us a healthier, stronger nation, and I wonder if it also puts us on the lookout for terrorists and makes us a harder target."
For more information on the national campaign, visit www.bleedingcontrol.org.