You can bleed out in under 5 minutes from a severed limb. Our bodies have between 4.5 to 5.5 litres of blood, on average.
Bleeding needs to be stopped ASAP.
When a shark has mauled a person, arresting the blood flow can seem a superhuman order.
Dr. Jon Cohen is a member of Surfing Doctors. Canadian-born, he is an honours degree medical doctor with advanced training in Emergency Medicine and an abiding interest in making the seeming-impossible, possible.
Dr. Cohen recalls a course he attended, called Stop The Bleed. The course was designed for lay people by the American College of Surgeons in response to mass shootings in the U.S.
The criteria for a life-threatening bleed were described in the course as follows:
“If any of these apply, all you have is direct pressure,” Dr. Cohen says. “Do that. Press straight on the wound to stop the blood coming out.”
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Medical personnel and first aiders are trained for this. But what can the average Australian do for severe bleeds?
A tourniquet, says Dr. Cohen “is kind of the holy grail in terms of preventing loss of life.
“Once the tourniquet is on, you’ve got at least 3 hours… probably more, before the tourniquet starts to damage the victim.”
Dr. Cohen has now released the Calm As Shark Bite First Aid Slam Pack — a purpose-built kit for anyone faced with the gnarly task of stemming blood loss after a shark attack. It comes in a small waterproof knapsack that can be brought to the beach as easily as sunscreen and board wax.
The kit is designed for immediate action with one goal in mind: stop the victim bleeding out.
The idea, when confronted with a shark attack victim losing blood at a rate of knots, is to “slam that pack out”. Only essential first aid items will emerge, along with a tea towel-sized piece of fabric with printed instructions.
“It’s the simplest thing you can do to save someone’s life,” says Dr. Cohen.
An emergency kit can only be as good as its accessibility. The Calm As kit is built for glove-boxes and PWC storage bins It’s rugged enough to live in your car or boat and compact enough to stow on a jet ski.
Inside the waterproof roll-top bag are Australian TGA-approved, hospital- and military-grade components:
This Slam Pack First Aid kit is a one-trick pony. But saving someone who’s been mauled by a shark is a trick Harry Houdini would have applauded.
The purpose-built contents of this kit give any responsible person a jump-start to take a first-responder role, should the unthinkable happen.
Quote from the website where you can buy the Calm As Shark Bite First Aid Slam Pack:
Lifetime replacement warranty – if the worst ever comes to pass and you need to use this kit on a loved one or a random on the beach, you’re a legend and we would be honoured to shout you a replacement (and a beer, of course).
When a shark is intent on attacking you, grab any available weapon — a paddle, a diving knife. Aim to strike at its eyes and gills. If no weapon is available, you’ll need to gouge at these vulnerable areas using your hands.
Striking the snout, another sensitive spot, could get a result for you, but it’s also perilously close to those razor-sharp teeth.
If you are bitten, apply pressure directly to the wound to stop the bleeding. Try to leave the water as quickly as possible by swimming on your back. Make sure others are warned, and seek medical help once you’re out of the water.
Alert a lifeguard. Any rescue attempt is best by boat. The Hollywood shark rampaging onto the deck of a boat is pure fiction.
Do not put yourself at risk if no lifeguard or boat is available.
Assuming you’re in a position to do so, help the victim out of the water as soon as possible. Arrest the bleeding by applying pressure directly to the wound.
If you paid attention to our earlier advice, follow the directions that came with your Calm As Shark Bite First Aid Slam Pack.
Keep the person still and wrap them in towels to keep them warm, in case of shock. Dial 000 for medical assistance.
We have a statistics-based article on Shark attacks in Australia you might also find interesting.