Accidents happen… just watch any episode of Chopped. We might not be able to prevent them 100% of the time, but we can prepare, and sometimes that preparation is all that stands between life and death. Such was the case for a 4th grader in Georgia this past week, when a tumble on the playground almost became a fatality.
Jennifer Leon Lopez, a student in Forsythe County, Georgia, was playing with her friends during recess when she fell. The fall alone might not have been so bad had another girl immediately landed on top of her. Her arm broke, and in the process, severed her artery.
Enter school nurse Kathy Gregory, who less than 24 hours previously had unpacked the school’s brand-new supply of a vital new tool—Stop the Bleed kits.
“I heard another teacher yelling for help, so that’s when I grabbed the Stop the Bleed Kit and rushed to Jennifer’s side,” she told Fox 5 Atlanta. “I am so thankful we had them. They were still in the box and I just grabbed the one on top and ran.”
The Stop the Bleed kits (which include gloves, tourniquets, and bandages) are designed to help first responders treat traumatic hemorrhaging (particularly after a major emergency such as a school shooting), which is exactly what Nurse Gregory needed at that moment. She applied the tourniquet and stopped the bleeding long enough to get Jennifer to the hospital. Once there, two surgeries successfully saved both her arm and her life.
“We got a note from the trauma doctors and they said the tourniquet made the difference in Lopez keeping her arm and her life,” Gregory said. “Because of that training, because of that kit, we saved a little girl’s life.”
Stop the Bleed kits have been around for years, but recent school shootings (such as the one in Florida) have renewed a call to equip all schools with the kits—to be used by both school nurses and by bystanders.
“When the American College of Surgeons looked back at the Sandy Hook school shooting, they found that some deaths could have been prevented if people on site were trained in basic bleeding control techniques,” explained Dr. Jeff Kerby, a professor of surgery at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham.
In many emergency situations involving a shooter, locations quickly go on lockdown—which may be effective in preventing more violence or the attacker from escaping, but is bad news for victims who need immediate care. Often a timely tourniquet makes all the difference between a serious injury and a fatality, and making sure that those tourniquets are available (with clear instructions and possibly even prior training) is certain to save lives.
Stop the Bleed training is also spreading across the country, with the goal of using doctors and nurses to train police officers and school nurses, who in turn train the teachers themselves.
For one little girl, that training and kit (plus one skilled school nurse) saved her life. And as the training and movement continue to spread, we hope to hear of many more needless deaths prevented.