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Published on December 05, 2016

Afraid to apply a tourniquet? You can do it!

Afraid to apply a tourniquet? You can do it!

U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel David P. Diamond was resting near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when the first bomb went off. Without hesitation, he ran toward the explosion to offer help, arriving just as the second device exploded only meters from him.

According to the U.S. Army News Service, Diamond, a special operations soldier with emergency medical technician training, triaged the injured and identified 18 individuals with amputations after the Boston Marathon bombing. On September 27, 2016, Diamond received the Soldiers Medal for his heroism.

Even though Diamond is trained in giving first aid in combat, he had to use whatever he could to stop the bleeding in victims on that day in April 2013.

“We didn’t have a robust supply of medical gear, so I went into the sporting goods store and grabbed some packing material like T-shirts and socks and belts for tourniquets,” Diamond said in the article. He applied a flex cuff as a tourniquet to his first victim’s leg. Diamond’s next victim required two tourniquets to help stop the bleeding because both of his legs were amputated near the knees by the blast.

You never know when you, too, may be faced with saving the life with a tourniquet, and Falmouth Hospital surgeon Peter S. Hopewood, MD, and his colleagues want to raise awareness for these and other bleeding control techniques. A tourniquet is anything that stops the flow of blood.

“Sadly, active shooter events have now taken place in at least 40 states,” said Dr. Hopewood. “I’m happy that the American College of Surgeons and other medical societies are now resolving to train more people in bleeding control techniques. We have to increase awareness for the national Stop the Bleed initiative and see that bleeding control kits become commonplace because people are dying due to unnecessary blood loss. If you stop the bleeding, you can save a life. It’s that simple.”

The Stop the Bleed initiative is a campaign launched by the White House to empower bystanders to act as immediate responders. The campaign is the culmination of a year-long collaboration with American College of Surgeons, American Heart Association, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, and others to raise awareness around this issue.

Dr. Hopewood urges people to act quickly if they come upon someone who has been injured.

“You don’t have to have a proper medical device,” he stressed.

You can improvise by using a belt, scarf, tie, rope, even a bungee cord, and should take these simple steps:

  • Tie something above the wound (between the torso and the wound), wrap it around the limb and tighten it up.
  • You can also use manual compression over the wound to help prevent blood loss. Use a cloth or your hand and push hard on the wound with firm, steady pressure to stop the bleeding.

Tourniquets can be used to help bleeding victims after car or playground accidents, knife wounds and many other injuries.

“Remember,” Dr. Hopewood said, “Don’t wait for actual tourniquets, which are now being included with many first aid kits. Use what you have without hesitation.”