August 24, 2017
Sandy Hook Elementary. The Boston Marathon. Pulse Nightclub. These names bring to mind horrible tragedies of mass violence erupting in an everyday environment. We continue to be shocked by these events and wish we could do something to prevent violence, or at the very least help save a life.
As an academic health center training the next generation of physicians, our students and residents learn how to save lives. Our faculty work on the front lines in our clinics and in our partner hospitals every day, making that happen.
But how do we as a medical school and as concerned citizens prepare for the unthinkable?
Dr. Sasha Adams, assistant professor of surgery, is leading the training of McGovern medical students in the use of tourniquets to stop extremity bleeding, which can save a patient from massive bleeding, shock, and death.
Tourniquets have been used to save patients from life-threatening bleeding since ancient Roman times and were even used by Alexander the Great’s armies in the fourth century BC. Joseph Lister is credited with developing the first tourniquet to create a bloodless surgical field in 1864. Tourniquets have been a part of our medical history and remain an important tool in emergency situations. They have been attributed to saving numerous lives on the battlefield in recent conflicts, and now with recent tragedies here at home, a national coalition has created the Stop the Bleed effort to teach everyone how to use a tourniquet to save a life.
Dr. Adams has teamed up with educators from Memorial Hermann Life Flight to train McGovern medical students in bleeding control techniques, including wound packing and the proper use of tourniquets. Students learn when a tourniquet is effective and how to use it in emergency situations, blocking the blood flow until the bleeding stops. The team has already trained more than 200 of our students.
In addition to learning how to place tourniquets on themselves and others, a new “bleeding arm” training device has been added to our Surgical and Clinical Skills Center, where students can learn “Stop the Bleed” in a model that mimics a bleeding patient. They learn to tighten the tourniquet as they watch the bleeding stop.
With the support of the Department of Surgery, each trained student receives their own emergency Stop the Bleed kit to carry in their car. The kit is outfitted with two pairs of gloves, shears, packing gauze for wounds, and an approved C-A-T tourniquet.
Dr. Adams is also working with UTHealth Environmental Health and Safety and Memorial Hermann Hospital to have Stop the Bleed kits installed near the automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which are located throughout our buildings. Tourniquet kits are routinely carried by police, our Environmental Health and Safety experts, and are being placed in airports and malls across the country. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, we need to be prepared for the worst of unexpected events, and this training does just that.
Dr. Adams is an amazing advocate for “Stop the Bleed.” I am grateful to her for bringing this training to our students and the broader community. Of note, she quizzes her students before training, asking if they would be willing to help a stranger in an emergency situation and if they feel prepared to do so. Of course our amazing students are overwhelmingly willing to help, but without training many felt unprepared. After going through the training with our team, their sense of preparedness dramatically improved.
None of us wants to be in an emergency situation, but all of us must be prepared for one. For more information about this national initiative, please see the website. And if you see Dr. Adams, please give her our THANKS.