Bleeding control kits in every school will save lives
Amy Hamrick walked her 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son to school on Jacob Hall Superhero Day on Oct. 5, 2016. She struggled to explain to them the tragic reason why they were wearing Superwoman and Superman costumes weeks before Halloween.
“I didn’t want them to be afraid on the playground, so I told them a modified version of why they had on superhero clothes,” said Hamrick, APRN, who is the trauma program manager at Spartanburg Medical Center.
What started as an awkward conversation after a tragedy resulted in a statewide effort to put special medical kits in schools designed to stop children from bleeding to death.
Jacob Hall was 6 years old on Sept. 28, 2016, when he was shot in the leg. He was being ushered off the playground at Townville (SC) Elementary School when a teenage gunman began shooting. The wound put Jacob in a coma for several days before he passed away. The boy loved superheroes, and his family asked people to wear costumes to his funeral. School kids across the Upstate — and people around the country — also wore costumes to school in his honor.
“We walked a mile to school and back, and on the way back, I was sobbing,” Hamrick said. “I thought, ‘How can I help? How can I keep this from happening to my children, anyone’s children? What can I do to prevent children from dying preventable deaths?’”
By the time she returned home, Hamrick knew the answer: “I can’t fix gun control. I cannot fix safety in schools, but I can equip school leaders, faculty, and resource officers with the equipment and skill to stop hemorrhage prior to definitive care.”
Hamrick began the grant writing process to equip all public schools in South Carolina with bleeding control kits and the education on how to use them.
An idea grows
Her idea expanded to include hospitals and schools across South Carolina and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control Advisory Council – Health Care Preparedness helped. In 2017, the Upstate Healthcare Coalition presented a project to provide stop the bleed kits to all regional schools in the Upstate, as part of the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) grant funding, through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Centers for Disease Control.
“We took this proposal to the State Health Care Coalition Advisory Council, and it was well received by the other three regions in the state,” said Jeff Straub, CHEP, system safety and emergency manager for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.
Straub is also chairman of both the Upstate Healthcare Coalition and the South Carolina Healthcare Preparedness Consortium Advisory Council.
“As the landscape of our country changes and risk within it changes, we have to change with it,” Straub said. “We are seeing a large increase in school shootings and events that will precipitate need of the blood stop kits.”
Spartanburg Medical Center, Palmetto Health Richland, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, and the Medical University of South Carolina received $1.2 million in funds to put bleeding control, or “B-Con,” kits in every school across the state. The funding is also being used to educate school nurses, teachers and staff about what to do if someone has a wound that is bleeding dangerously.
The kits have a belt-like tourniquet, trauma sheers, and gauze with kaolin, a clay that helps wounds clot faster.
B-Con, First Aid, AEDs
Last summer, Spartanburg School District 6 purchased and placed bleeding control kits in every school, where first aid kits and automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, have become a normal part of life, according to Judy Edwards, RN, director of health services for the district.
“We have a number of kits in each school, strategically placed in locations for easy access in case of need,” Edwards said.
Like AEDs, B-Con kits are positioned close enough that it takes no more than three minutes to grab one.
The kits could be useful for any injury, including stabbings, glass injuries, and even penetrating traumas caused by a tornado, Straub said.
“It used to be during a blood control phase that the tourniquet is the last thing you’d apply,” he said. “But we learned from the military campaign in the Middle East that sometimes the tourniquet is the first thing you apply.”