With the walls around them bearing posters on topics like the muscular system, human relationships, emotions and social skills, students in the high school freshman health class had their minds on other things. Applying pressure to a spurting wound. Packing gauze into a gaping gash or deep dog bite. Tightening a tourniquet.
Most of it was done on dummy limbs, but the kids turned to one another to try their hands at tourniquets, and the grimaces of discomfort were real.
When Stop the Bleed training — teaching students simple ways to stanch uncontrolled bleeding — was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Johansen High School, there was no way to know it would come just one day after yet another mass shooting.
And while presenters hope students never have to put the training to use to survive gunmen or bombers, "we do touch on it, we're not bypassing that it could happen," said Rena Lepard, a registered nurse who is Doctors Medical Center's injury-prevention coordinator.
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The training, offered by Lepard (also coordinator of the Safe Kids Stanislaus program) and other DMC nurses, has broad applications that include vehicle crashes and injuries at school, work and home. Should students find themselves in any situation where there's uncontrolled bleeding, "I think it helps bring a little sense of confidence and control, that they have something they can do about it," Lepard said.
After going through the training in teacher Omar Musleh's class, student Talaya Prescott said she can picture herself keeping her head and helping someone in a scary situation. "If it was, like, my mom, I'd be freaking out," she said. But she'd get over being shaking and scared because when someone is bleeding out, "if you can stop that, you can prevent a death."
Classmate Shawnique Payne-Wilson said she realizes that whether because of a traffic collision or a shooting at a park, "at any given time, someone could be hurt or at risk and ... it really opened my eyes to, like, be able to know how to help them. Because being in a situation where you're helpless makes you feel worse."
The Stop the Bleed national awareness campaign was launched in October 2015 by the Obama administration. "I think it's catching fire now because of all the incidents around the country," Lepard said, referring to recent mass shootings.
On Oct. 1, sniper Stephen Paddock fired on a music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500. On Nov. 5 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Devin Patrick Kelley shot and killed 26 people, including an unborn child, and wounded about 20 others. And just Tuesday in Northern California's Tehama County, Kevin Neal shot 14 people, killing five of them.
Stop the Bleed is an initiative of the American College of Surgeons and the Hartford Consensus that arose from the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementar School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
The point of training people, says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, is that "no matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene."
A person can bleed out in as few as three minutes, Lepard said, when emergency medical services personnel generally are able to reach a scene in eight to 10 minutes. Those at Sandy Hook School were trapped, and if this kind of training had been commonplace then, lives may have been saved. she said.
"This training, it's super basic," Lepard said. There are just three steps: apply pressure to the wound, pack and dress the wound, and use a tourniquet.
Doctors Medical Center kicked off its Stop the Bleed training with Johansen and plans to offer the program to all high schools within Stanislaus County. It also will train the general public through large-group sessions for churches, Boy and Girl Scout troops, businesses, service organizations and other groups — at no charge, Lepard said. "We definitely see its importance, and being a Level 2 trauma hospital, we're dedicated to preventing injuries."
To learn more, go to bleedingcontrol.org. To inquire with Lepard about Stop the Bleed education, call 209-342-3459.