Parliament Hill staff, MPs, trained to save lives during a catastrophe

Swiftly applied tourniquets saved lives during last fall's Westboro station bus crash. Now, the Ottawa Hospital wants to make sure Parliament Hill workers have the same training.

'If something was going to happen, they could be first responders'

Vaughan—Woodbridge MP Francesco Sorbara, left, takes part in the 'Stop-the-Bleed' training program on June 5, 2019. Surgeons at the Ottawa Hospital hope parliamentarians go back to their ridings and advocate for more training in their home communities. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Dr. Jacinthe Lampron was on her way home last January when she got the call to turn around.

There'd been a bus crash at Westboro station that had sent more than 20 people to hospital — many with life-threatening injuries.

Lampron, the Ottawa Hospital's medical trauma director, said some crash victims who'd arrived with lost limbs had tourniquets applied at the scene, and that saved their lives.

On Wednesday, she was helping train people working in the parliamentary precinct to perform similar life-saving work.

"They are possibly in a hot spot in town. And if something was going to happen, they could be first responders," said Lampron. 

"So I think it's important that they are aware of those skills."

Trauma surgeon Dr. Maher Matar, left, shows a group of people who work on Parliament Hill how to apply a tourniquet on June 5, 2019. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Program created after Sandy Hook

The program, called "Stop-the-Bleed," is designed to empower regular folks to save lives when a catastrophe strikes.

It was was created after the deadly shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., in 2012. 

The idea came out of a committee led by the American College of Surgeons to create a national policy "to enhance survivability from active shooter and intentional mass casualty events."

One of the goals is to add bleeding control kits in the same public spaces alongside defibrillators.

Patients who've lost limbs only have a few minutes to survive before they bleed to death, said Dr. Maher Matar, a trauma surgeon at the Ottawa Hospital.

"We're talking about minutes if it's massive bleeding," said Matar, as he showed a group how to apply a tourniquet.

"So it really makes a difference."

Spreading the message

Matar recalled how, while training at a U.S. hospital, he treated a construction worker with a partially severed limb.

The worker's colleague had tied his belt tightly around the limb. Matar said he didn't know if that coworker had formal training, but his actions saved a life that day.

"He left the hospital alive because of the individual who put on that belt," Matar said.

The trauma team at the Ottawa Hospital hopes the staff and elected members of parliament become advocates for the need for both training and kits in their home communities.

"They also have the political power," said Lampron, "and they can bring the idea of how important it is to have those tourniquets available on a larger scale."  

Knowing how to tie a tourniquet, Lampron said, should be as ubiquitous as CPR training.


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