PHILADELPHIA — It doesn't take a health professional to save the life of someone bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound or other traumatic injury. Any bystander can undertake a series of crucial first steps until an expert reaches the scene.
These can include using a low-tech tool that's been around since the early days of medicine: a tourniquet.
Experts recommend an in-person training session before using one of the straplike devices, which must be wound so tightly around an arm or leg that it cuts off the flow of blood. But for those who have not had a hands-on lesson, the American College of Surgeons offers an online version of its "Stop the Bleed" curriculum at stopthebleed.org.
Here are the highlights, with an assist from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital nurse Nora Kramer, who has trained hundreds of adults and teens in the Philadelphia area:
Ensure your own safety
Make sure you are not at risk from whatever injured the person you are trying to help, whether it's gunfire, vehicle traffic, or some other source of blood loss.
Upon determining that it is safe to begin first aid, wear a pair of gloves, if available, to reduce the risk of contracting any bloodborne disease.
Above all, call 911. If two rescuers are on the scene, one can call for help while the other works to stop the bleeding.
Identify life-threatening bleeding
Some wounds do not require immediate treatment.