Frances Hohl: UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center hosts ‘Stop the Bleed’ class | SteamboatToday.com

Frances Hohl: UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center hosts ‘Stop the Bleed’ class

Wes Barken, a U12 Alpine coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, works to stop the “bleeding” in a prosthetic limb as nurse Melissa Uchitelle-Rogers simulates blood flow. Barken was one of 15 Winter Sports Club coaches attending the training Thursday at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When my editor asked me to cover a Stop the Bleed class to give readers a first-person account, I have to admit, I thought, "Oh my, I'm too fat to be getting down on the floor with Resuscitation Annie and my bad knees."

I'm glad I didn't say “no” for several reasons: One, Resuscitation Annie was a no-show; two, because of this very simple, short class, I think I can help save a life in certain emergencies; and three, I couldn't let a 9-year-old classmate make me look bad.

The class is held on the first Tuesday of every month at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. I came expecting to sit on the floor with a fake body. Instead, the training nurse had tables set up with stations that each had bandages, a tourniquet, a silicon mold with a "wound" and an IV bag filled with fake blood.

If you go

What: Stop the Bleed class
When: 5 p.m. first Tuesday of each month
Where: UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center
Cost: Free
For more: Contact Melissa Uchitelle-Rogers at 970-871-2414 or email melissa.uchitelle-rogers@uchealth.org.

Nurse Melissa Uchitelle-Rogers got down to business right away. She told us the Stop the Bleed classes were started because of Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, when 20 children and six adults were killed.

"People are dying in these mass shootings, and they could live, but they're bleeding out,” Uchitelle-Rogers said. “They're dying from wounds that should not kill them."

While Uchitelle-Rogers said the free Stop the Bleed classes were prompted by such a tragedy, the class has become popular nationwide because of its simplicity and usefulness for everything from work accidents to home injuries.

The no-nonsense nurse took us through photos of bloody, nasty injuries, asking students, especially the 9-year-old, if it would be too much to see. Everybody was game.

"We want you to look at these awful pictures so you can handle it — a torn muscle and a calf with a jagged bone," she said, going through photos.

She coached us efficiently through the ABC’s: A, alert 9-1-1; B, find the bleeding injury; and C, compress or apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

We learned to see where the blood was coming from and how to apply a tourniquet. Even Uchitelle-Rogers, a long-time nurse, learned new things when getting trained for the Stop the Bleed class.

She said studies from the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath showed that homemade tourniquets — like belts or cloths — led to victims more likely to die or lose a limb, while approved medical tourniquets saved lives and limbs.

We practiced on a partner with the tourniquets, learning to tighten them about 2 inches above the spurting blood. We learned to warn our patients that it's going to be extremely painful and that pain often means we're doing it right. If the tourniquet is put on correctly, the bleeding will stop.

But, the most useful part of the class was actually seeing the blood spurt from our silicone "body part." With no tourniquet, the nurse made it clear that putting anything into the wound — gauze, a shirt or socks — would be useful, and the hospital would take care of infections with antibiotics.

Our nurse held up the bag of “blood” while each student tried to stop the bleeding. I couldn't stop it until I pushed really hard. The lady next to me told me that I should have stuffed the rags into the wound, not just press it on the wound. She was right.

I tried it again, stuffing my rags up to my second knuckle like the nurse had suggested during class. The bleeding stopped immediately.

I can't say enough about all the things I learned in this short, one-hour training, and I recommend everyone take the time to attend. Yampa Valley Medical Center will even set up special classes for groups.

The trainer's stories sprinkled throughout the class were rather haunting, especially a mention of the Columbine High School teacher who bled out hiding in the closet with his students.

But these victims' stories, combined with this simple class, have given me the confidence that I could make a difference and save lives.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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