Stop the Bleed empowers community to take life-saving measures

A growing program offers training to help stop life-threatening bleeding — be it on the mountain, the road or at home

Community members participate in a Stop the Bleed Training at Eagle County Paramedics Services in Edwards on Thursday.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily

Stop the Bleed is empowering individuals to take life saving measures in every day and extraordinary life events by offering training on how to stop life-threatening bleeding — be it on the mountain, on the road or even at home.

“Bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death that we see in the hospital,” said Dr. Turner Lisle, a Vail Health trauma surgeon, at the start of a Stop the Bleed training on Thursday evening in Edwards.

The public health initiative was launched in 2015 by the American College of Surgeons following a wave of school shootings, including the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. And in January 2020, Eagle County Emergency Services, Eagle County Public Safety Council, Starting Hearts and Vail Health worked to bring the initiative to Eagle County.

While the original intent of the program remains important to the local training, there are also unique applications for the program in Eagle County.

“When you look at our community, we have a very active population and so many people backcountry ski or they’re up on the mountain skiing, or they’re mountain biking,” said Sally Welsh, director of public relations for Vail Health. “The program is called Stop the Bleed, and that’s the importance of it. You can buy more time for that person to get them the proper emergency care after a situation like this.”

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According to Stop the Bleed, someone who is severely bleeding can bleed to death in as little as five minutes. While this time frame differs person to person and injury to injury, the importance of bleeding control is unwavering.

“It is instrumental in saving lives. I don’t think we can put a time on it, but if you do it, it will save a life,” said Elizabeth Kruger, a trauma program manager for Vail Health, adding that it’s just as important as other life-saving trainings like CPR.

Vail Health began offering Stop the Bleed trainings in January 2020, at first to its own employees, and then to various community partners such as Eagle County employees and students at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. But then, come March, the trainings were temporarily paused by the pandemic.

Eventually, the hospital began offering the trainings again — with the help of a video and virtual training aspects — and now, it is ready to “roll it out to the community in a more visible, public way,” Kruger said.

The first real invitation for community members to participate in the training was on Thursday, May 19 — also known as National Stop the Bleed Day — at the Eagle County Paramedics Services station in Edwards.

The training was well attended by around 30 community members, which included everyone from educators to adventurers and everyone in between. The training was done in collaboration between Vail Health and the Eagle County Paramedic Services.

“We want you to be able to identify life-threatening bleeding as opposed to non-life threatening bleeding and we want you to have the tools and the confidence to be empowered to deal with that life threatening bleeding, because it’s important,” Lisle said. “You guys could actually, should the time come, whether it’s some mass casualty event or you’re out camping with friends or in the park — you can actually do something that could really affect people and save lives.”

Vail Health President and CEO Will Cook participates in a Stop the Bleed training at Vail Health in 2020.
Vail Health/Courtesy Photo

The training taught attendees how to identify life-threatening bleeding and then how to stop the bleeding in terms of applying pressure, packing wounds and applying tourniquets. Or, simply put, the ABC’s of bleeding:

  • Alert: Call 911
  • Bleeding: Find the bleeding and assess the injury
  • Compression: Apply pressure to stop the bleeding

Following a presentation, attendees were also able to get hands-on training, practicing using a tourniquet and applying pressure to a variety of wound types (including one that had been impaled).

As part of bringing the training to Eagle County, the county government also worked with local nonprofit Starting Hearts to add bleeding trauma kits to defibrillators across the county. These trauma kits include items such as a C-A-T tourniquet, compressed gauze dressing, latex gloves and more — all that is needed to stop bleeding before a paramedic arrives.

According to Starting Hearts, there are more than 400 defibrillators in Eagle County located in a variety of restaurants, businesses and even on mountain at Vail and Beaver Creek. All of these now include Stop the Bleed kits.

The Stop the Bleed trauma kits are also available for purchase online and can be a great addition to community members’ backpacks, cars and more, Kruger said.

Going forward, Kruger is hopeful that all community members — especially teenagers — are able to take the training at some point. The trauma education group at Vail Health is able to schedule the trainings with local employers and schools but also hopes to host more community trainings in the future.

“What we’re trying to do here is just empower someone to do something, because there’s nothing else we really can do,” Kruger said.

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