In life, there are certain moments when one is forced into action. When crisis arises, and one is left with a split second to react, the only questions left to answer are how the problem is to be faced and what the outcome will be.
Such a pivotal moment came for Cumming Elementary School nurse Kathy Gregory on March 16, and when it did she reacted quickly, effectively and saved the life of a child at her school.
“I happened to be standing out in the hallway, outside the clinic, and a teacher turned the corner with a … panicked look on her face, and honestly all I can remember hearing was, ‘come quick, there’s blood everywhere,’” Gregory said.
A little girl, 9-year-old Jennifer Leon-Lopez, had fallen on the playground and through a “freak accident” had broken her arm so badly that an artery had been punctured. She was rapidly losing blood from the wound.
Gregory said that one day prior to the incident, she had received a shipment of emergency tourniquet kits from Stop the Bleed — a program aiming to train bystanders to respond to emergencies — and that after hearing about the child she grabbed one of the kits and sprang into action.
“I could just tell, even though she had on long sleeves, from the pattern of the blood and the amount of blood that was there in such a short time, that we needed to stop the bleeding,” she said.
Gregory said that by the time she reached the playground and began administering the tourniquet to Leon-Lopez’s arm, other staff members had cleared the playground and contacted emergency services.
“Within 20 minutes they were loading her on the ambulance and were able to get her to medical care,” she said.
Forsyth County News did not interview the family of Leon-Lopez due to a language barrier and press time schedules.
Gregory said that she and nurses from other schools in Forsyth County received their training with the emergency tourniquets in January as part of the Stop the Bleed School Response Program.
Stop the Bleed, a $1 million dollar program funded by the Georgia Trauma Commission, was approved in March of 2017, aimed at turning bystanders with little or no medical training into “heroic lifesavers,” according to a news release from the organization.
For Gregory, the incident was a wakeup call: everyone, not just school medical staff, needs to know how to use the kits in case another accident happens.
“This was a freak accident. It could not only happen at a school, it could happen anywhere ... I’m a huge advocate for these [tourniquet kits] now. I would say that if you have someone who can train your staff … go ahead and do it, because you never know when something like this could happen,” she said.
According to Capt. Rick Hamilton, EMS coordinator for the Forsyth County Fire Department, the agency plans to have each of the 37 public schools in Forsyth County fully trained on how to use the emergency tourniquet kits by the end of April.
“Over half the schools now have the kits in place and training done,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton added that according to the Georgia Trauma Commission the incident March 16 at Cumming Elementary School has sparked renewed interest from the community.
“Within the next couple of days, I received a number of emails either requesting training or saying that they had done the training. We have also had a couple of private schools inquire about training,” he said.
Hamilton said that he expects more groups and communities to request the training, as news of its effectiveness spreads.
“This can take off and just spread like wildfire. The goal is for it to be as easy to get as CPR class,” he said.