NEW ORLEANS -- The trauma director of the Spirit of the Charity Trauma Center says if first responders to that movie theater massacre in Colorado two years ago had immediately applied tourniquets, it's possible they might have saved several of the 12 people who died.
Dr. Norman McSwain was among experts who have devised a national policy to help more victims survive such shootings.
As a result, police here in Louisiana are now being trained on how to apply tourniquets.
The procedure is centuries old, but until about 15 years ago, applying a tourniquet at crime scene to stop the bleeding by anyone but a medical professional was considered bad medicine.
“We all thought that when you put a tourniquet on somebody, that identified the point of amputation because it was so damaging to the tissues,” McSwain said.
But McSwain said the military at war in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown the value of using tourniquets in the field before the patient gets medical attention.
“Literally thousands of people had their lives saved because of the tourniquets,” McSwain said.
McSwain was part of a national committee to create a national policy to improve the survival rate of victims in mass shootings. It was called the Hartford Consensus.
Often in mass shootings -- like Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut -- the crime scene is locked down. EMS is locked out as officers search for the shooter and safeguard evidence.
“They forget about the patient,” McSwain said. “And once they forget about the patient, then everybody knows the patient can bleed to death and probably has in several incidents.”
He said several people may have bled to death in the Aurora movie theater.
So the Hartford Consensus calls for training officers to apply tourniquets to stop the bleeding when possible.
And right now the Louisiana State Police are among the first to get the training.
“And as first responders, especially to some scene like an active shooter scene, we can apply tourniquets and we can save lives,” said Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Trooper Melissa Matey.
They plan to train the entire state police force and all police agencies around the state, and ultimately to offer this kind of training to you and me.
“So in the same way that CPR is taught to more than the medical community these days, you’re going to see tourniquet application being taught to people within the community,” said LSU nurse Bridget Gardner.
McSwain said you have to tell the patient it’s going to hurt when applying the tourniquet.
“And it does hurt,” McSwain said. “But it doesn’t hurt near as bad as dying.”