St. Louis Street Medics held a medic training event to educate activists on how to treat the most common injuries that are occurring at street protests on Thursday, June 4 at Tower Grove Park’s Stupp Center.
With the growing number of protests after the police killing of George Floyd and other senseless killings of African Americans, St. Louis Street Medics realized there was an increasing need for medics, especially in Ferguson where protestors are being tear gassed.
Attendees sat in a circle around the speakers. All were wearing protective masks and were spaced out as much as they could as public health precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said medics also should always wear gloves to keep their patient safe, especially with the pandemic.
A medical advisor later in the presentation said that protestors should wear goggles and earplugs and to avoid contact lenses.
“The one rule of being a street medic is: don’t become a patient,” Talia from St. Louis Street Medics said. “Stay hydrated.”
For overheated protestors suffering from heat exhaustion, she said, medics should pour water on their chest and find shade for them.
Speakers then covered security. Protestors should not call the cops whatsoever, they said. Street medics should make themselves known to their patient. Introduce themselves as a street medic and ask for their consent to treat the patient. They said street medics do not have to give their real names.
They also advised protestors to wear layers of clothes for physical protection from possible assault by police or collateral damage if the protest turns rough. They also suggested protestors wear pants and long sleeves made from natural fibers as opposed to materials made from polyester.
Legal protection is another concern. They advised protestors to carry a Sharpie to write down legal numbers. The jail support number is (314) 312-0836.
St. Louis Street Medics then explained how to flush out a patient’s eyes. Water is the best solution to use on someone’s eyes. Squirt bottles are optimal.
Medics said not to use liquid antacid and water together because antacid leaves a white residue on clothing. Cops can then easily identify who was at the protest. Police have a pattern of harassing protestors and retaliating for being protested, they said.
Medics then demonstrated a scenario. A patient was seated on the ground and was instructed to keep their eyes open as much as they could. Wearing gloves, medics must try to open their patient’s eyes up while they flush out their eyes with water. When washing out someone’s eyes with water, go from the nose out, not sideways or the irritant can get in the other eye.
Speakers then addressed how to carry a patient if they need to be moved and there are no known or suspected neurological or spinal injuries. Medics must place their arms around and then underneath the patient’s armpits. They must grab their patient’s wrists and then cross their arms tightly while someone else grabs the patient’s legs. If a medic tries to carry a person any differently, they could drop the patient and possibly aggravate any injuries.
If a patient is too heavy to be carried in this way, a sheet can be placed under them. The patient can then be carried feet-first by two medics.
Medics then covered how to treat burn victims. Protestors must wear leather or work gloves, not medical gloves, when picking up tear gas canisters. Medical gloves are made from nitrile and can melt on skin. For burn victims, the most important action is stopping the burning process by dumping water on the burn. The water doesn’t have to be sterile. The goal is to bring the temperature down as fast as possible. Once the burning process has stopped, the patient needs to be transported to a hospital, preferably a burn center that specializes in more severe burns.
Speakers noted that if a patient is burned and traumatically injured, especially with penetrated injuries, the trauma comes first.
“Someone could bleed out a lot faster than they could succumb to infections from burns,” said one of the medics.
For trauma patients, medics should wear their gloves. First and foremost, stop the bleeding. Tourniquets can be used except on the torso and should be placed two inches above the wound. Medics should also identify if there is an exit wound. If there isn’t, medics need to be careful when moving the patient. It is also imperative that medics write on the tourniquet the time the tourniquet was placed on the patient (another use of the Sharpie). Medics should immediately take the patient to a trauma center.
Medics then followed with another demonstration. There needs to be a lot of pressure when applying a tourniquet. The tourniquet should feel tight. If the bleeding continues, do not take it off. Cover it up instead. Speakers also covered the 4 Ts: tight, turn, tuck and time. Make it tight and pull all the slack out. With a rod, turn it until the bleeding stops. Tuck the rod to secure it. Finally, write the time you put on the tourniquet onto the tourniquet.
When handling internal bleeding, medics should try to cover the wound as much as possible so no air goes in or out of the body.
Dr. LJ Punch, a trauma surgeon for BJC HealthCare and community advocate, then brought out 200 trauma first aid kits. Each contained a water-resistant flashlight, a tourniquet in a plastic wind-able bag, a pack with gloves and disinfectant wipes, two kinds of gauzes, trauma shears, and a Sharpie.
“My advice is: try,” Punch said. “We’ll figure it out at the hospital.”