The tragic events last month in Boston delivered a stark reminder that a bomb attack can happen anywhere. As devastating as any attack is, you usually can learn from it.
The bombs resulted in numerous leg injuries and subsequent amputations. The legs contain major arteries that, if injured, can bleed rapidly and lead to death within minutes.
Why were there so few deaths when the risk for life-threatening blood loss was so great? It was because so many medical personnel who knew how to apply tourniquets were at the site within minutes.
In Colorado Springs, we're lucky to have many military and medical personnel who have first responder skills. But what if they're not around when an arterial injury occurs?
When to use a tourniquet
Recently, I was talking to a group about how to stop blood loss in the rare instance that direct pressure to the wound won't. When I mentioned a tourniquet, someone asked, 'What is that? '
At that point, I learned a valuable lesson because I thought everyone knew what a tourniquet was - maybe just not how to use one.
Everyone should know what a tourniquet is, when to use it and how to use it. Remember: You only want to use one if bleeding is life-threatening and direct pressure is not doing the job. Since a tourniquet cuts off the blood supply, you risk killing the tissue downstream; to save your life, you may lose a limb.
How to use a tourniquet
A tourniquet is made of a thick strip of strong material. You can buy one or make one using a belt, rope or strip of cloth. The strip should be a half-inch to a couple of inches wide and long enough to encircle an arm or leg.
Wrap the tourniquet around an area of the injured limb that's closer to the heart than the injury.
If the wound is at knee level, wrap it around the thigh. If the wound is close to the wrist, wrap it closer to the elbow, or even the upper arm.
Tighten until the bleeding stops, and fix it in place. If you're using a belt, wrap a second time and stick the buckle prong in the hole. With a cloth, tie both ends to a stick or something similar, and tighten by twisting. Go to TheSurvivalDoctor.com to watch a video demonstration. Better yet, ask someone who already knows. It takes only a few minutes to learn.
Who knows? You might save a life one day.
Family doctor James Hubbard teaches how to survive during disasters or any time you can't get expert medical help at TheSurvivalDoctor.com.