Take Action – This Class Prepares You for Emergencies

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By Hannah Lee | Photography by Beth Mann


When Mary Stuart Alfano went to the Norfolk Yacht & Country Club in Virginia on a Tuesday in 2014, she thought she’d be spending her evening getting a bite to eat. Instead, she was trapped inside. An employee returned to the country club with a gun, firing several shots.

The Hillsborough resident has never looked at her surroundings the same. She’s not the only one. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 346 mass shootings in 2017 and nearly just as many in 2018. More and more people are worried about their safety and the safety of others.

“I’m constantly looking: ‘Where are the exits? Where are rooms that lock? How can they be locked?’” Mary Stuart says. “Things I don’t think everyday people who haven’t been in those situations are thinking.

“Because you think, ‘Oh, it’s not going to happen to me.’ But the reality is there’s a pretty darn good chance these days that something like that could happen to you. And the more you can do to prepare yourself, to help yourself or to help others, I think comes down to whether you’re alive or someone else is.”

For Mary Stuart, that was signing up for the course Stop the Bleed, a national program that started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The program was initiated by the National Security Council Staff and the American College of Surgeons to teach classes on how to identify serious bleeding and stop it until professional medical help arrives.

On a Monday afternoon in November, Mary Stuart sits among 10 other students, mostly volunteers or medical professionals. They listen as instructors Gigi Dubé-Clark and Tracey Farmer warn of the gory images about to be displayed on the two screens at the front of the conference room in UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus.

But it’s important to see, the two registered nurses say.

“When we started this course back in January (2018) … it was Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, right?” says Gigi. “Well, it’s November, and since then, I’ve had to say movie theater, yoga studio, mall, concerts, just since we started this in the beginning of the year. It’s really kind of sad. Every time I come in to teach this class, I’m adding somebody to the list.

“In the next 30 days, I think there might be someone else to add.”

Gigi places five 1-liter water bottles on the table at the front of the room. They represent the amount of blood in the body. Gigi starts pretending the bottles are someone bleeding. “What am I supposed to? Is that a lot of bleeding? I think that’s a lot of blood, but I don’t know,” Gigi says in mock panicked voice as she slowly knocks down one bottle every couple seconds.

Each bottle represents how quickly blood loss can occur, how a life can be lost within minutes if someone doesn’t act quickly. And it’s not limited to mass shootings. 

“I think about workout facilities, I think about kitchens, I think about all these places where people might not think they’re going to get hurt, but the reality is, you could,” Mary Stuart says. “One of those exercise machines, one of those big weights could crash on someone’s arm and slice it open. Most of those instructors are trained in CPR, but do they know how to stop the bleed?”

Shootings might have been what propelled people like Mary Stuart to take a course on how to use a tourniquet, pack a wound or apply pressure to uncontrolled bleeding, but it’s not why they should do it.

“When you’re faced with these physical choices, it’s stressful,” Gigi says to the class. “When someone’s bleeding a lot – it’s messy, it’s scary, there’s blood everywhere, and people are freaking out. Right? You’re like, ‘Oh my God, we can’t do this in a classroom.’ … And while you may be tending to somebody who you may feel like you’re not doing a lot for, you have the ability to save their life.”

For Chapel Hill:

The course is offered once a month at UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus with a maximum class size of 16. If a class is full, check back every few weeks as the instructor pool is growing quickly. 

In the meantime, refer to the resources tab on the website for initial information on techniques you can use to stop excessive bleeding. bleedingcontrol.org

For Durham:

Duke Trauma Center offers Stop the Bleed classes by request for businesses, organizations or any individuals who are interested. They currently do not hold regular classes, but are willing to come to your location any day of the week. For more information or to request a training session, visit their website. If you have a medical background, Duke Trauma Center is seeking additional trainers to add to its roster of more than 40 trainers throughout the county.

For Chatham:

Chatham Hospital started participating in the Stop the Bleed campaign along with other members of the Mid Carolina Regional Advisory Council (MCRAC) toward the end of 2018.

Chatham Hospital has five certified trainers. Their training has been focused on groups/businesses that work in “at-risk” areas for injuries resulting in blood loss. If a business or organization is interested in the training, Chatham Hospital can come to your site and provide it.

For more information, contact Warren Stinson, emergency director at Chatham Hospital, at 919-799-4552.

Read the original article from the January/February 2019 Issue:

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Chapel Hill Magazine is a 8-times-a-year lifestyle magazine dedicated to bringing you the very best of Chapel Hill. Our magazine places high emphasis on food and dining coverage, the arts, and community.


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