Try 1 month for 99¢

Residents in the Madison area soon will be able to learn how to stop life-threatening bleeding in people injured by accidents or events like last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Stop the Bleed, a CPR-like campaign, was launched by the White House in 2015 in response to the massacre three years earlier at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The program is now coming to Madison. A UW Health trauma surgeon taught the hour-long course, which focuses on tourniquets and wound packing, last week to medical providers and first responders. Within a month or two, those people are expected to make the training available for the public at schools, the UW-Madison campus and other places; details have not been announced.

Uncontrolled bleeding — blood that spurts out of a wound, soaks clothing or pools on the ground — can kill within five minutes, said Dr. Hee Soo Jung, who led the class Wednesday at the UW Medical Foundation in Middleton.

“First responders can’t get to you quickly, so if you’re around an injured person you’re really the only hope,” Jung said. “This is a simple, effective tool for the public to learn to really make a difference.”

Mass casualty events like the Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 people, and the Newtown massacre, which killed 26, are the main reason for Stop the Bleed. But bystanders can use the approach in any situation where people are bleeding significantly, including motor vehicle crashes and injuries at work, home or places such as shopping malls.

“There are so many situations where this could happen, and where having extra knowledge could save lives,” said Dr. Victoria Rendell, a surgery resident at UW Health who participated in the class.

Stop the Bleed’s main steps can be remembered with ABCs, Jung said:

  • A, for alert
  • , means bystanders should first call 911.
  • B, for bleeding
  • , indicates they should find the source of bleeding, removing clothing if necessary, and see if the bleeding seems life-threatening.
  • C stands for compression
  • . That involves applying direct pressure to the wound — or using a tourniquet to suppress bleeding or gauze to pack the wound, if those items are available.

For abdominal or chest injuries, bystanders should not try those steps, Jung said. They should alert medical responders and get the people to the hospital as quickly as possible.

For injuries in areas such as the groin, arm pit or neck, tourniquets can’t be used. But bystanders can apply pressure and pack wounds, Jung said.

Kits with gloves, scissors, gauze and tourniquets are becoming available in public places, similar to the placement of AEDs for cardiac arrest. It’s not clear if or when the kits might be used in Madison, Jung said.

Tourniquets hurt when used properly, so bystanders shouldn’t loosen them or take them off if people complain, said Dr. Ann O’Rourke, medical director of UW Health’s Level 1 trauma center.

Improvised tourniquets often don’t work well and can harm, as happened with some victims of the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, O’Rourke said. If proper tourniquets aren’t available, it’s better to pack wounds and apply pressure, she said.

O’Rourke, reflecting on the Las Vegas shooting, said, “It makes me sad that I live a in place where we need to teach this.”

But, she said, “It would be great if more people walking by knew what to do.”


David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.