By Juliet Altenburg, governor of District 7390 (Pennsylvania, USA), a member of the Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg-North, and executive director of the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation
A 10-year-old boy was riding his bicycle down a hill with his friends in 2021 – something he had done many times before – when his fun morning turned tragic. As he entered an intersection, he collided with a car he didn’t see coming. In an instant, he broke both of his arms and had uncontrolled bleeding that could have killed him within four minutes.
Fortunately, the accident happened near a police station where officers quickly called 911. As a team of emergency medical responders headed to the scene, the officers applied tourniquets to each of the boy’s extremities. The EMS team examined the boy and transported him to a local pediatric trauma center, which quickly diagnosed his injuries and surgically corrected them. Weeks later, he was discharged to his family and assigned a team of rehabilitation specialists.
By any standard, this is a heart-warming story of how local police officers, medical responders, and hospital personnel saved a boy’s life. What makes it even more amazing to me is how my Rotary club, my Rotary district, and The Rotary Foundation helped to save him.
In 2019, I invited our local trauma center nurses to my Rotary club meeting to speak on a national awareness campaign administered by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma called STOP THE BLEED.® It was launched as a result of a meeting after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a national team of medical experts discussed how more lives could have been saved. They realized that if teachers and others on the scene had been educated in bleeding control techniques, it could have made a difference.
After the presentation, my club applied for a district grant which allowed us to get a $2,500 match and purchase 300 tourniquets for a local township police station. Those police officers were educated by the local trauma center on their use, and it was those tourniquets that saved the life of the boy in the bicycling accident.
What makes this especially personal for me is the fact that my entire professional career has been dedicated to working in or overseeing trauma centers. In the first part of my career as a nurse, I cared for trauma patients and worked in a leadership role to advance trauma care in my hospital. In my current statewide role, I serve as executive director of an organization that accredits trauma centers in Pennsylvania.
This year as district governor, my vision was to advance partnerships between trauma centers and local Rotary clubs to bring the STOP THE BLEED® campaign to Rotarians and the public. We’ve educated more than 200 people during Rotary club meetings, community health fairs, our district conference, and separate STOP THE BLEED® classes at a local community college. Through all these activities, I’ve come to realize more deeply how combining one’s professional interests with the power of Rotary can provide huge results.
Note: During the month of May in the United States, special days have been established to celebrate nurses and other healthcare workers. STOP THE BLEED® Day is 25 May. To learn more go to https://www.stopthebleed.org/