In St. Louis, health care workers are volunteering their time — and in some cases, their own money — to train bystanders how to control life-threatening bleeding.
The goal is simple: keep trauma victims alive long enough for them to reach a hospital.
Stop the Bleed STL offers free classes at locations throughout the greater St. Louis region, including schools, community centers and churches. The program, which is affiliated with the national Stop the Bleed campaign, focuses on areas with high rates of gun violence.
The program has reached about 1,500 people since its launch in March 2018.
Several other trauma centers in the St. Louis area offer similar programs on hospital grounds, including Mercy and DePaul Hospital.
Stop the Bleed STL co-founder Laurie Punch said they wanted to create a mobile program more accessible to residents “at high risk for gun violence.”
“There are entire parts of our medical campus dedicated to the process of treating cancer,” said Punch, a trauma surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and professor of surgery at Washington University. “But there’s no cancer that takes the lives of young black men the way bullets do.”
To connect with residents in neighborhoods with the highest rates of gun violence, Punch and her co-founders have worked to build relationships with community leaders and organizations, including Better Family Life.
“A lot of people at high risk for gun violence have some trepidation interacting with the medical system,” said Erin Andrade, a surgeon at Washington University School of Medicine and program co-founder. “We’re able to overcome that by making relationships with people who are already ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in these communities.”
Approximately 50 doctors, nurses and paramedics work as volunteer instructors, teaching residents how to control severe bleeding. Lessons include how to properly secure a tourniquet and pack a wound with gauze.
“During the class we’re answering questions and talking to people about their experiences,” said Wash U medical student Jane Hayes. “Gun violence seems to be the thing people want to tell us about the most in St. Louis.”
After teaching the class, the instructors leave each group with a trauma response kit, containing hemostatic dressing, compression bandages and a tourniquet.
Each trauma kit costs about $30 to produce.
Stop the Bleed STL has donated more than 750 kits to groups who have participated in the program since March.
Initially, Punch said, they hoped to provide a free trauma kit for every participant, but difficulties securing funding have put that goal on hold.
The program has received some external funding from Washington University and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health ReCAST project within the past several months.
Punch pays for most of the costs out-of-pocket, estimating about 80 percent of the program is self-funded. This year's total cost, which includes training material and trauma kits, has climbed into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Still, she said it’s worth it.
“I think the public should know how to do this so less people die,” Punch said. “But we also want people to discover that they’re not just victims, that they can actually save a life.”
Upcoming Stop the Bleed STL classes:
October 29: University City Public Library (6701 Delmar Blvd, University City)
November 5: Ferguson Community Center (1050 Smith Avenue, Ferguson)
November 8: THE HEIGHTS Community Center (8001 Dale Avenue, Richmond Heights)
November 17: Pilgrim Congregational Church (826 Union Blvd, St. Louis)
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