Baptist trauma surgeon teaches Heritage students how to aid blood loss victims in emergencies

January 10, 2019 11:02:33 AM

Isabelle Altman - [email protected]


On Wednesday, the juniors and seniors in Heritage Academy's Anatomy and Physiology class learned their ABCs. 


That is, Alert, Bleeding and Compression, which Dr. Brad Beckham, director of trauma services at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, told them was the way doctors with trauma experience recommend remembering how to control bleeding in life-threatening situations. 


Beckham visited with the students for about an hour to present Stop the Bleed, a campaign launched by the American College of Surgeons and other organizations following a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The idea behind the campaign is to train civilians to help victims suffering life-threatening blood loss until emergency services respond. 


"It's kind of like CPR or anything else we teach the general public," Beckham said. "I think it's a basic skill that everybody should know. While we see all the crazy shootings and bombings that are on the TV nowadays, more often it's the car wreck or a family member falls at the house or has a work accident. Those are the traumas that we see more often and those are applicable to this too. That's where someone can really help."  


Beckham walked the students through the steps: calling 911 (alert), finding where the victim is injured (bleeding), then applying a compression or whatever other aid is necessary depending. 


"Here you're two minutes from the hospital," Beckham told the students. "But if you're out somewhere else, it may take 15, 20, 30 minutes for an ambulance to get there with help. This can really make a difference. We talk about trauma patients need to get to the hospital within an hour for serious trauma for us to have the best shot at saving their lives."  




'Practical skills' 


During his presentation, Beckham had the students try their hands at applying tourniquets and compressions to fake limbs Beckham brought with him, answering their questions and showing them how to apply pressure to wounds as they worked.  


"Both hands, all your weight," he told senior Moak Griffin as Griffin practiced applying pressure to a particularly deep wound on one of the dummies. "... When you're holding pressure on something like that, or CPR, you don't want to bend your elbows, because now you're using your muscles. ... You're going to get tired. You want to lock (your arms) and use your body weight to hold that pressure." 


He stressed to the students that applying both tourniquets and gauze hurts the patients, and just because the patients are screaming doesn't mean the aid has been applied incorrectly. 


"You're not trying to be gentle," he said. "You're trying to save a life."  


Teachers and even Heritage Headmaster Greg Carlyle took turns applying the aid, with Carlyle placing a tourniquet on the arm of senior Lex Rogers. Rogers said even without Carlyle tightening the tourniquet as much as he would have in an actual emergency, he felt like he was losing feeling in his arm below where the tourniquet was applied. 


"It was uncomfortable," he said. 


Carlyle said even though it's uncomfortable -- both for the patient and possibly for the person giving aid -- he thinks it's a valuable skill for his high school students to have. 


"Just having that practical understanding, the practical skills to be able to help someone," he added. "We have a hunting culture here in Mississippi and amongst a lot of our high school students, both guys and girls. We know every hunting season there's accidents. So the fact that they can be prepared for that, or if there's something on the sports field when practicing ... someone could get hurt somehow and they'd be able to buy some time for that student by controlling the bleeding." 


Multiple students said Beckham's presentation, apart from giving them those practical skills, corrected misconceptions they'd had over the years about how to stop uncontrolled bleeding. 


"I've always thought that a belt would be the best solution (to not having) a tourniquet but actually it's not," senior Gigi Fields said. "The best solution is to just stuff the wound instead." 


Each student left with a certificate from the American College of Surgeons indicating they'd been trained in bleeding control. 


It was the first of what Beckham hopes will be many trips to area schools, both public and private, to teach students or faculty about bleeding control, though hospital spokesperson Megan Pratt said that while the hospital has talked with other schools, they haven't scheduled anything yet. Carlyle, too, said he hopes Beckham can return to give the same training to faculty and to more high school students. 


"Our goal is that no one will ever die of uncontrolled bleeding in a situation like this before reaching the hospital where they have help," Beckham said.