Stop the Bleed teaches bystanders how to save lives

Two to five minutes.

Half a can of soda.

What do these two seemingly unrelated things have in common?

They are approximate measurements of how long it takes an average adult to bleed to death after experiencing a catastrophic injury, such as a work or farming mishap, hunting or car accident, or a gunshot wound.

It only takes two to five minutes to lose enough blood to cause death. The amount of blood lost in that time is about what’s in half a can of soda. This decrease in blood volume causes the heart to lose enough pressure in the body to prevent proper circulation to all its organs,

The average emergency medical response time nationwide is seven to 11 minutes.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 60,000 people bleed to death annually in the United States. It is considered a national health crisis. During May, which has been declared National Trauma Awareness Month, the focus is on preventing those injuries and deaths.

Throughout the year, the Stop the Bleed Program aims to decrease those numbers significantly through training and education in municipalities, schools, businesses, public and private organizations, and more.

Stop the Bleed is a national, lay-person first response education and training program that aims to give people who experience life-threatening blood loss a fighting chance – and it is right here in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Patricia Irwin, the Trauma Program Manager at McLaren Bay Region, says more than 5,000 people locally have been trained to Stop the Bleed.

Irwin, a Registered Nurse, has been working with the program for over six years, and explained that the training recipients receive goes beyond the usual first aid and CPR training many schools and businesses participate in. It is specific to catastrophic blood loss.

“Training participants learn the three important steps to stop bleeding,” she said. “First pressure, then how to properly apply a tourniquet, and finally how to pack a wound.”

Ally M. Zeilinger, a childcare assistant at a local parochial school, has participated in Stop the Bleed two times in as many years. She says her workplace requires all teachers and other employees working with their children to complete the training annually.

“I’ll be honest, it made me a little nervous,” Zeilinger says. “I am one of those people who gets very squeamish at the sight of blood. I wasn’t sure I could help if one of our kids got hurt that badly.”

However, part of the training was talking together as a team to assess each staff member’s strengths and formulate a plan of action for a bleeding incident.

“I have been assigned to be the person who calls 911,” Zeilinger says. “We learned it is important to have only one person make that call and relay important information to first responders, and I am comfortable that I would be able to do that.”

Irwin says an important part of the training is encouraging participants to have these conversations with their team before something happens. Being prepared mentally is one key to responding to a potential bleeding incident.

Much like AED machines, Stop the Bleed (or bleeding control) kits are wall-mounted and placed strategically in buildings after staff have been trained to handle bleeding emergencies.

Each kit consists of supplies such as gloves, emergency bandages, trauma shears, a tourniquet, rolls of primed pressure gauze bandages, and H-VENT chest seals. They may also contain Quick Clot Combat gauze – a product used by the U.S. Department of Defense. This gauze is treated with kaolin which speeds up and strengthens the blood clotting factor.

“Kits are currently in our high and middle schools and we are working on getting them into our elementary schools as well," Irwin says.

But that takes money.

Fundraising efforts include holding events, applying for grants and speaking with businesses to encourage them to donate to the initiative.

“Both the Bay Area Community and Bay Medical Foundations have partnered with Stop the Bleed,” Irwin adds.

The program also participates in fundraising efforts with Saginaw Spirit Hockey, Meijer and Associates, Frankenmuth and Wildfire Credit Unions, and many more.  

In Bay County, the Stop the Bleed Program collaborates with the Bay City Public Safety Active Assailant Task Force. This task force is specially trained to coordinate medical and law enforcement first responders to protect people involved in a potentially hostile, armed situation.

Working with Bay City Public Safety, Irwin also assists in collaborative training with the CRASE Program: Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events.

The Stop the Bleed program was birthed in 2012 out of great tragedy: the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Conn., where one assailant killed six adults and 20 children, ages 6 and 7.

Previously, the nation was rocked by reports of school shootings, starting with the tragedy that occurred at Columbine High School in 1999. By 2012, it was clear the public needed to know how to respond immediately after a shooting.

Led by ACS COT (American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma), military, emergency, law enforcement, and medical personnel collaborated to develop Stop the Bleed. After creating the curriculum, they released the program to the public in 2014.

Stop the Bleed isn’t just about potential school shootings.

“Think about the area in which we live,” Irwin says. “Bay County is essentially rural. Think about what happens if there is a farming or hunting accident. The potential for someone to get hurt and be in real danger of death can happen in a matter of mere minutes.”

In Iowa, a high school student who had been trained in Stop the Bleed protocols saved the life of his neighbor who had sustained serious injuries when she fell off her four-wheeler on her farm and was trapped beneath it.

Irwin also spoke about the dangers of potential bleeding incidents in the workplace – especially in businesses such as machine shops, manufacturing, and construction. She has trained staff in several types of businesses, organizations, and churches.

“Wherever we are, there is the potential for devastating injury,” Irwin says. “We can’t predict when an accident or incident will happen.”
'Bay County is essentially rural. Think about what happens if there is a farming or hunting accident. The potential for someone to get hurt and be in real danger of death can happen in a matter of mere minutes.'
– Patricia Irwin, RN and Trauma Program Manager for McLaren Bay Region
That is why it is so important for a wide variety of people in our communities to be trained.

In Bay County, trainers are not only medical professionals. Law enforcement, fire, and other public safety employees are trained to help teach the program. And, fortunately, the training is in demand.

Zeilinger spoke about a child who was injured at school when he fell and hit his head on a piece of furniture.

“It was a head injury so there was really a lot of blood,” she says. “But because of our training, the team in our room knew exactly what to do.”

The lead teacher immediately applied pressure while others called 911 and the child’s parents. By the time everyone got there, his bleeding had all but stopped and he only required a few stitches.

“It was not life-threatening,” Zeilinger says. “But it was kind of like a trial run for me. I did deal pretty well with seeing the blood, and I got to experience our team in action.”

If you want to help raise funding to get this life-saving program into all our schools, please direct private donations through the Bay Area Community Foundation, the Bay Medical Foundation.

More information about Stop the Bleed is available on the organization's website.

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Read more articles by Robin Devereaux.

Robin Devereaux is a Mid-Michigan writer, artist and filmmaker. She is the 2012 winner of the Fabri Prize for Fiction, Renker Writing Award and the 2010 National League for Innovation Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. She works as a grant writer for the City of Auburn.