For the last several months, Sydney Brewer, a junior at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, has been working hard to protect her fellow students. The 17-year-old has raised $3,000 to purchase 60 Stop the Bleed kits, which can help save lives in emergencies.
In February, Brewer, who lives in Merrick, had expressed hope that doctors from Northwell Health would visit the high school sometime during the spring to demonstrate for students and staff how to use the items in the kit, which includes a tourniquet, gauze and trauma sheers.
On May 12 and 19, that goal became a reality, as instructors from Northwell Health arrived at Kennedy to teach students how to apply tourniquets, pack wounds and stop critical bleeding on medical dummies.
Brewer, who is the same age as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivors, was inspired to purchase the kits as a result of the mass murder of 26 students and staff in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, when she was in first grade.
Brewer had joined Kennedy’s Leadership Program, a three-year course designed to create young leaders in the community. As a junior, she is enrolled in Leadership II, the program’s second course, where she was tasked with planning and carrying out a civics project that would give her a voice in school or community issues.
The aim of her project was to ensure that every classroom has access to a Stop the Bleed kit.
“These kits have essential things in them — like a tourniquet, gauze, trauma sheers — that if, God forbid, there’s ever any type of emergency, someone can be saved,” Brewer said.
Dr. Matthew Bank, director of the Northwell Health Trauma Institute, described the significance of keeping the kit handy.
“It’s horrible, but we hear about school shootings and workplace shootings, it seems like everyday,” Dr. Bank said.
“The way you die after getting shot is you bleed to death. There are some bleedings that it’s difficult to control, if you get shot in the chest or abdomen — but if you get shot in the leg or arm or neck, you can stop that.”
And while the threat of a tragedy occurring in a school is a real concern nowadays, learning how to use the kits can be helpful in other scenarios as well, like after a car crash or accident in the home.
EMS personnel usually should arrive on the scene of an emergency within 10-12 minutes, Bank said.
“But if you have an immediate responder, which is basically the lay public, and they know some very basic skills we can teach them, you could save somebody’s life,” he added.
Earlier this month, Stop the Bleed training actually helped save the life of a police officer who was shot in the line of duty in Suffolk County, Bank said.
“The tourniquet was placed on him by his fellow officers — it was not by the public, it was not by EMS, it was by fellow officers who had been trained in this course,” Bank said.
“This course, we train you, and it takes about 30 to 60 minutes,” he added. “Our plan is to train hopefully about a third of the population in the United States. It has been shown to be effective in the military, as well as civilian areas, and it may not even be a school shooting — it may be at home, you may cut yourself with a knife — these skills are very applicable to all of it.”
Catherine Dunckley, Northwell Health’s coordinator of administrative operations and a Stop the Bleed trainer, led a presentation during a gym class at Kennedy on May 12, explaining situations in which the training could be useful and giving step-by-step instructions to the students on how to apply gauze and make a tourniquet.
She said tourniquets could cause excruciating pain to an injured person, but that doesn’t mean they should not be applied.
“Tourniquets hurt, and they hurt a lot,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you put it on incorrectly or to remove it.
“The only person who should be removing a tourniquet is either EMS when they arrive on scene, and even then, they’re going to leave it in place and allow the doctors to remove it in a more controlled environment,” Dunckley added.
Most of the items in the kit are easy to use with proper training, officials said.
Brewer said she was excited to see her project through to completion and hoped her peers now have a greater understanding why Stop the Bleed trainings are so important.
“I’m so proud of myself and everyone that’s helped me to do this,” Brewer said. “Now I feel like people can actually know what to do in a life-threatening situation, and there won’t be any hesitation, and hopefully more lives can be saved.”