Over the last two years, 2017 and 2018, 758 people have died as a result of road crashes, with 2018 having the worst total in a decade at 380. Some of these fatalities would have resulted from the loss of too much blood before emergency services arrived.
Stopping the Bleed New Zealand is drawing attention to the speed at which this can occur – as little as three minutes if a major artery is severed – and helping people understand how to help.
Pip Cotterell, Product and Clinical Standards Manager at Pharmaco Emergency Care, says road crashes and deaths are an ever present statistic for New Zealanders but there’s potential to save a life if the right training and tools are close to hand:
“It is highly likely you may come across a bad road crash at some point in your life so raising awareness about how to provide immediate first aid is incredibly important.
“It is about getting priorities right in a situation where there is obvious severe blood loss. Here we are talking about major bleeding when blood is spurting or pouring from a wound as the heart pumps.
“People dying from loss of blood is tragic, but what’s more heartbreaking is people not knowing how to save them. Kiwi lives are lost every year simply because people don’t know what to do to stop the bleeding for long enough so that person will live until emergency services can take over,” she says.
With an average of only 5 litres of blood in our bodies, bleeding like this can lead to unconsciousness and death rapidly. It’s a traumatic and highly stressful situation so being as calm as possible and knowing what to do is key.
The Stopping the Bleed NZ campaign was launched in April this year and follows in the footsteps of other successful initiatives in the US and Australia, where widespread training programmes exist, including how to use a high quality tourniquet, a band placed around a limb that is tightened to control bleeding by stopping blood flow to a wound.
Supporting the launch was Dr Tony Smith, Medical Director of St John, who welcomes a focus on how to provide first aid for major bleeding:
“If someone severs an artery the fastest ambulance or helicopter isn’t always going to get there in time to save their life – nine times out of ten it will be someone you know, a colleague, friend or loved one, or a bystander.
“We see accidents where someone could have been saved if the bleeding had been controlled, but people need the knowledge and ideally the right equipment nearby, such as in a vehicle or building.
“We don’t have New Zealand stats but international ones show that up to 20% of people who have died from injuries could have survived with quick bleeding control and unfortunately every year we see deaths that were preventable had people stopped the external bleeding – anyone can do this.
“In a nutshell, the key is putting full body-weight pressure on the wound to stem the blood flow and doing this for as long as possible – that’s why we say “Push Hard, Don’t Stop.”
“The two mistakes people make are not applying enough pressure, and not pressing for long enough. Use a bandage, item of clothing or a cloth to push hard on the wound and keep pushing.”
Pharmaco Emergency Care is recommending tourniquets be included in first aid kits and carried in cars, trucks and other vehicles, so they are available to use at more accidents scenes, if needed.
Currently, the use of tourniquets is not routinely included in first aid training in New Zealand but this is being reviewed: “this change has happened overseas and it is something we are discussing in New Zealand,” Dr Smith says.