Violence & Trauma in South Africa
Unfortunately, the levels of crime and violence in South Africa are unacceptably high. The reasons for that can be discussed elsewhere, although ultimately our authorities must take responsibility for the sad state of affairs.
In addition to that, our road accident rates are very high as well.
In any event, ordinary people have to deal with that horrible reality as best we can.
Thus, if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in, or witness to, a shooting, stabbing, car accident, or other nasty traumatic injury, you may be faced with having to deal with massive life threatening blood loss.
This article discusses, from a lay person’s perspective, why it is probably a good idea to improve your ability to control heavy bleeding, if you ever need to.
Time is Critical when Treating Massive Blood Loss
The video below (from the YouTuber “Skinny Medic”) explains what happens to the human body when heavy bleeding is in progress.
In that video, note the following points:
- If you are trying to treat your own arterial bleeding, you better do it quickly, because you may lose consciousness after just nine seconds!
- You can lose all your blood from arterial bleeding after about three minutes.
- Most adults have about five litres of blood, if you lose half of that, you are not likely to survive.
It is thus clear that time is extremely critical when treating massive blood loss. You cannot wait for an ambulance to get there.
The American “Stop the Bleed” Initiative
After the Sandy Hook School mass shooting, a group of American trauma surgeons got together, to formulate expert advice and training courses aimed at improving the rate of survival of patients with severe bleeding. This was apparently also combined with experience from the military, as well as law enforcement agencies.
The Stop the Bleed initiative has recognised that training people how to respond quickly in traumatic incidents of severe bleeding, can make a big difference. The object is to teach ordinary people how to slow down, or stop, severe bleeding as soon as possible. This will potentially save lives, because by the time the professional paramedics get there, it may be too late.
There is no reason why the same should not be true here in South Africa, especially given our very high violent crime and road accident rates.
Direct Pressure, Tourniquets and Wound Packing
My untrained observations, gained from some preliminary research on the subject, is that some of the things which were suggested to control heavy bleeding include:
- Applying direct pressure to the wound.
- If the wound is on a leg or arm, and direct pressure is not working, one can apply a tourniquet (which apparently should be removed after about 2 hours, to prevent damage to the limb).
- If direct pressure is not working, and the wound is on a part of the body where a tourniquet cannot be applied, such as shoulders, neck, groin etc, then one needs to “pack the wound” with gauze (or any other available cloth), and then apply pressure.
- Chest wounds and abdominal area cannot be packed apparently.
Please note that the above list was only included to show the sorts of things that could be done, for basic interest only. Please do not use that as as any sort of guide, or informed opinion. Please consult a medical professional for proper instructions and advice.
Get Professional Training
Like everything else in life, getting proper training is always a good idea. In this case, it could literally save someone’s life!
Additional Medical Kit You Might Want
Most commonly available first aid kits do not seem to include things like tourniquets, pressure bandages and compressed gauze for packing wounds. So you might want to add those items to the medical kits you keep in your car and at home.
The video below (again from “Skinny Medic”), discusses the sort of medical supplies that are typically used in America, after one has attended a “Stop the Bleed” course.
Obviously the exact same brand of medical supplies mentioned in that video might not be available here in South Africa, but no doubt the equivalent types of kit can be ordered from a reputable paramedical supplier.