Last Saturday I fished a tournament on the Potomac river. There was an accident that caused a 13 year old boy to be severely injured. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to review some basic life saving skills.
After fishing we returned to the boat ramp to weigh the fish in, the fish have to be alive and have to swim away after being weighed or your disqualified. We got back about 15 minutes before the deadline of 4:00 PM. Someone ran up from the ramp yelling call 911, but had no other information.
The first point to remember is that 911 isn’t going to send the right resources if they have no idea what’s going on. So if you’re having an emergency and can’t call yourself, you need to make sure that whoever is going to call has at least some basic info. In this case, “call an ambulance, there’s an injured boy” would have gone a lot farther than simply yelling call 911. The more information the better, if possible, but at least the basics like, we need an ambulance, or there’s a fire, or send the police.
After a few minutes a boat arrived at the ramp with frantic yelling and waving. I wasn’t at the ramp at this point, but someone came and got me within a few minutes. The boy had someone been pinned between the rod rack in the back of the boat and a tree. The boy was lying in the boat on his side with an adult holding pressure on his arm, but it was still bleeding. We later found out that he had a punctured lung, broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, and a severely lacerated arm with arterial bleeding.
The next important point to take away is that extremity bleeding is a problem that anyone can mitigate with a variety of things laying around. If the bleeding doesn’t stop easily with pressure, or there are multiple injuries or the potential for multiple injuries, put a tourniquet on first. People are still scared to do this, but most of the fears of losing a limb are unfounded, Far more people have bled to death because they did not apply a tourniquet. The easiest way is to apply the tourniquet or random supplies that you turn into a one is on the single long bones of the arms and legs. Even if the bleeding is below the elbow or knee, the tourniquet is more likely to work as intended when placed on the humerus or femur. The distal arms and legs have 2 bones that can create problems when attempting to stop the blood.
Don’t be afraid if the injured person feels pain while your apply it, if they don’t you probably don’t have it tight enough. The idea isn’t to politely comfort them while they die, it’s to stop them from dying.
For the boy we made a tourniquet out of a piece of anchor rope, a stick as a windless, (the thing you use to crank it tighter) and electrical tape to hold it all together.
And the final point for today, don’t watch someone bleed to death because you’ve always been told not to move them. It seems pretty silly to not move someone for fear of a spinal injury as they bleed out, or are in a position that they can’t breath. We largely forgo spinal immobilization precautions unless there is obvious compromise to the cervical spine. Again the data has found, overwhelmingly, that the small percentage of injured people already have spinal damage done prior to any responder intervention, but a greater number of people have died while taking the time screwing around with a potential injury.
So go watch a video about applying tourniquets. This wasn’t meant to be a tutorial, but rather a reminder to use your head and stop bleeding when you see it.
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