(CN) — One day in March 2018, Kathy Gregory, a nurse at a northern Georgia elementary school, was speaking with the principal outside her clinic.
“I just remember seeing a teacher running towards me, and the look on her face just was sheer terror,” Gregory said. “And all I could hear her saying was, ‘There’s blood everywhere.’”
A student had taken a short fall from playground equipment onto another student. The fall broke a bone in her arm, tearing an artery.
What happened next was the culmination of an effort that had begun years before. Military doctors embraced tourniquets, once a tool viewed with suspicion, as a way to keep wounded soldiers alive during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an Obama-era White House initiative — the Stop the Bleed program — sought to get them into the hands of civilians.
In an interview, Gregory, a nurse of nine years at the time of the incident, said nursing school addressed tourniquets theoretically. If you need one, Gregory remembered her instructors saying, improvise with a belt or an electrical cord.
But Cumming Elementary School, where she worked, had taken part of a state program to place bleeding control kits in Georgia schools. Weeks earlier, a group of nurses had taken a two-hour course at a local fire department and Gregory had spent the following weeks showing teachers how to use a trainer tourniquet; she practiced dozens of times.
On that day, the 13 bleeding control kits and their orange-colored tourniquets — which the school planned to hang in the halls, near the playground, by the front offices — sat in an unopened cardboard box on top of Gregory’s medicine cabinet.
Leaving her medical bag, Gregory grabbed one of the kits and sprinted in flip-flops to the playground.
Twenty minutes later, an ambulance was carrying the student to the hospital. Without the tourniquet, it would have been 20 minutes too late. The paramedic who shook Gregory’s hand said as much, as did a trauma surgeon in an email.
Proponents who say Stop the Bleed tenets should be taught right up there with techniques such as the Heimlich maneuver cite statistics such as from the Coalition for National Trauma Research that say physical injury is the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 46.
Elizabeth Atkins, executive director of Georgia Trauma Commission, compared the efforts to teach bleeding control as the “modern-day version of CPR.”
In 2017 the commission ran the program to place bleeding control kits in Georgia schools. About two years later, the commission began to place bleeding-control kits in the state’s school buses.
It’s not just Georgia. Indiana has a law on its books mandating schools stock bleeding kits, although an Indiana Department of Education spokesperson said schools are not required to report on their status with the program to the state. A Texas law also directs schools to stock units for bleeding control.
In Cape Cod, the Atlantic White Shark Conservatory hosts Stop the Bleed classes. In a 2018 press release, the group said while shark bites are rare, the highest number of Great White Sharks lurk off the coast of the cape in September and October, when no lifeguards scan the waters from the shore.
More recently, the American College of Surgeons produced a bleeding control training video in Ukrainian.
These days, Gregory keeps a bleeding control kit in her car, in case she comes across a car collision.
The Stop the Bleed campaign began as an initiative launched by the Obama White House in October 2015. It said widespread knowledge of bleeding control was needed because an individual with severe bleeding could bleed out within five minutes — long before the sirens of emergency personnel could be heard coming in the distance.