Over the summer, public schools across Illinois received kits designed to help staff members respond in the event of life-threatening injuries. Each kit contains Nitrile gloves, a MicroShield mask, QuikClot bandages, and a tourniquet — just enough supplies to help save one person from bleeding to death. Schools can receive up to five more free kits if they train more staff on a curriculum called STOP the Bleed.
Mary Connelly, director of the state's medical emergency response team and a former emergency room nurse, says it’s the training that really helps.
She compares this training to the Heimlich maneuver — a lifesaving technique that almost anyone can easily learn.
"Even if you just pick up a little something here or there, it comes back to you. So when you have the very specific training, it comes back to you that much quicker,” she says. “But you know, a lot of this stuff is intuitive."
For example, putting pressure on a wound that’s bleeding is a natural instinct.
“Putting a hand on there, taking a kid’s shirt off and then putting it on (the wound) and then squeezing it down — that sort of thing. It’s the training,” Connelly says, “whether you have a kit or not, that gives you the fundamental principles of what you need to address and why.”
STOP the Bleed is a national campaign to empower concerned citizens so they can respond to life-threatening situations before professionals arrive. It dates back to the Sandy Hook massacre, when one man shot and killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. Connelly says the Obama administration requested a curriculum to train teachers how to respond to such incidents. The curriculum is based on combat medics training, but works for all sorts of injuries.
Connelly says such kits have been used to save students who have cut themselves accidentally running through glass doors. And she says they are especially needed in farming communities, where hospitals might be an hour's drive away.
“There’s plenty of evidence out there if you don’t intervene, within the first five or six minutes, for a life-threatening bleed, that it will be too late,” she says.
In addition to the wound dressings and tourniquet, the kits also contain an instruction card, special shears for cutting the bandages, and a permanent marker for noting what time the tourniquet was placed, the student’s name, parents’ phone number, or any other info that might be helpful to medical professionals.
Connelly says some people are reluctant to use a tourniquet, but she says modern medicine makes tourniquets a relatively safe option.
“Now, with microsurgery and grafting, you can’t do anything wrong with putting a tourniquet on,” she says. “We’ll fix it.”