Dale Mitchell, an EMT with UPMC, works with participants at a Stop the Bleed training seminar at Noah's Ark Community Center in McKeesport. (Photo by Richard Finch Jr., special to Tube City Almanac)
“Sometimes it’s hard to get people to step up and be interested in something until it hits home, thinking it’s never going to touch them,” said Rev. Earlene Coleman, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in McKeesport.
Even before last year’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, an increasing number of law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and school district employees had signed up for Stop the Bleed, a training initiative to prepare people to assist victims in life-threatening situations until emergency medical personnel arrive at the scene.
UPMC, in partnership with Copeland Regional Trauma Council, is leading the nation's largest "Stop the Bleed" initiative. Developed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, the program's goal is to train bystanders and first responders to stop bleeding using dressings, compression and tourniquets.
On Saturday, Bethlehem hosted a 90-minute "Stop the Bleed" class at Noah’s Ark Community Center in McKeesport.
Coleman helped organize the event and UPMC McKeesport helped to spread the word to about 25 other local churches.
“We announced it in our churches,” she said. “When they initially started, I reached out to other pastors (as a way) to improve the health of the community.”
Although Coleman wished more churches had attended, she said, “I think the turnout is good.”
Seminar presenter Dale Mitchell, an EMT in the Prehospital Care Program at UPMC East, said the western Pennsylvania region is very fortunate to have access to multiple medical facilities.
“By ground, in the back of a vehicle, you can be at a trauma center in seven to 10 minutes,” he said. “There are places in this country that are hours from a trauma center.”
Although Western Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a great network of first responders, Mitchell said, “it takes them time to get to a scene. What we want to create with Stop the Bleed is an immediate responder, if an event happens in this room, right now, we all become immediate responders, because you can bleed to death in five minutes or less in some cases.”
Mitchell showed participants how to correctly apply a tourniquet and use hard, direct pressure to close wounds. “If the wound is large, try to pack the wound, push down as hard as you can and make the tourniquet as tight as you can,” he told them. “I’m not going to lie to you ... it’s going to hurt.”
The event was presented by UPMC McKeesport in cooperation with its Call to Action Committee, a faith-based group, according to Dawndra Jones, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services for UPMC McKeesport.
“Churches are very important in the (McKeesport) community and people look up to their pastors,” she said.
Jones said additional programs are in the planning process to help drive health care and health promotion in the community so that their members and parishioners are prepared and know how to respond in the event of an emergency.
“Call to Action is working with hospital leaders as well as with pastors in the community to improve the health and well-being of the community here in the McKeesport area,” Jones said.
In the Pittsburgh area, more than 40,000 people have been trained in "Stop the Bleed" techniques since 2016, including law enforcement and emergency medical personnel. Training and medical kits also have been provided to school districts, according to Dave Bertoty, a Stop the Bleed coordinator.
“The money we had initially was focused on traditional brick and mortar public schools, and we want to expand that to provide kits to parochial, charter schools, elementary and day care programs,” said Bertoty, who is also clinical director of emergency and trauma services at UPMC Presbyterian. “We really want to get the kits everywhere --- make them as common as AED’s,” the automatic heart defibrillators.
Stop the Bleed training is not just for treating victims of violent offenses, he said.
“We’ve had somebody who severed an artery in their elbow by putting their arm through a plate glass window and was saved by a local police officer who applied a tourniquet before EMS arrived,” Bertoty said. “So it’s really about stopping bleeding in general.”
Dawndra Jones, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer of UPMC McKeesport (center) with UPMC EMTs and trainers Dale Mitchell and Dave Bertoty and Call to Action members at the Stop the Bleed training Jan. 5 in McKeesport. (Photo by Richard Finch Jr., special to Tube City Almanac)
With the tragic shooting of 17 people --- 11 fatally --- at Tree of Life in Squirrel Hill on Oct. 27, the training has taken on new significance.
“We hope nothing like this is ever going to happen, but we always want to be prepared,” Jones said. “We talked with the pastors, and they wanted to have an event for this community.”
The number one preventable cause of death in trauma is uncontrolled bleeding, Bertoty said. In the event of an accident or emergency where someone is bleeding, bystanders often want to help, he said.
“Hopefully with us having this training (people) will be able to react appropriately and save lives,” Bertoty said.
Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who covers news from McKeesport Area School District and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published January 10, 2019.