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'It's life or death': Del Sol doctors advocate for bleeding control training

ABC7 at Four Dr Steven Flaherty Trauma Medical Director Del Sol Medical Center

EL PASO, Texas - While the argument wages on over how to stop gun violence and mass shootings, health professionals focus on what they can do: keep wounded people from dying.

Dr. Stephen Flaherty, the trauma director at Del Sol Medical Center, told ABC-7 that he is eager to teach anyone and everyone how to stop life-threatening bleeding, especially in light of the deadly shooting at the Cielo Vista-area Walmart on Aug. 3 where 22 people were killed and 26 others were injured.

"After an event happens in any city or town, it becomes much more in people's mind that they need to be prepared," Flaherty said. "How do you take care of the person next to you?"

Flaherty served 22 years in the military, and he says life-saving techniques once just needed on the battlefield are now also critical in civilian life.

"We are talking about life or death," Flaherty said. "These are the kind of injuries that can cause death in moments. Five to ten minutes can cause loss of enough blood to cause a person to die." 

The surgeon demonstrated one technique -- packing a wound -- on a foam roll designed to look like an injured appendage. 

"Anything that's fabric, you can use to put in the wound," he said as he stuffed long strips of gauze into a hole that resembled a gunshot wound. "Apply pressure and compress. Or, you can use your own t-shirt," he added.

WATCH BELOW: HOW TO STOP THE BLEED

The other method to stop bleeding is the application of a tourniquet. Doctors have found that using something other than an actual tourniquet, such as a belt, doesn't effectively stop bleeding. If a commercially made tourniquet isn't available, doctors urge people to pack the wound instead.

"Any bleeding that can be stopped by packing the wound and applying pressure can be treated with any flexible material," Flaherty said. "We are not worried about sterility in this situation. We're going to save somebody's life and get them to the hospital."

Flaherty was at Del Sol on Aug. 3, treating the victims who were wounded during the Walmart shooting. He told ABC-7 that he can't help but wonder how many people died inside the store simply because no one knew how to stop the bleeding.

"We would like school teachers, volunteers in the schools, school resource officers, police officers, anybody who works in a place where there is large collections of people -- maybe nightclubs and bars, sporting events -- and just the general public (to learn bleeding prevention)," he said.

A new bill approved by the Texas Legislature during the 2019 session requires school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to have a "bleeding control kit program" in place.

House Bill 496 also calls for district or school personnel to receive training on bleeding prevention.

Districts and schools must, by law, have a program in place by January of 2020.

Del Sol offers bleeding prevention training.

Get more information on how to attend a training by calling Janet Walker at (915) 263-6910 or emailing Janet.Walker1@HCAHealthCare.com.

CLICK HERE to read more about bleeding prevention training


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