Eyes on the Road: The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Author: Bridget Gardner, Injury Prevention Coordinator

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Have you ever been on a cell phone and passed your exit? Have you reached for an item in your vehicle or taken your eyes of the road just for a second, only to find yourself swerving to avoid the car ahead?

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When you are in your car, a moment’s distraction can easily have more devastating consequences.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 9% of the fatal crashes in the U.S. were caused by distracted driving and 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Distractions aren’t just cell phones. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving.

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Distractions include adjusting a radio, GPS or MP3 player, texting, talking on a cell phone, updating social media, selecting a song list, talking to passengers, eating, drinking, grooming, like shaving or applying makeup, reading, and diverting your attention to crashes and billboards.

If you remove your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, at 55 mph, you will drive the length of a football field.  So, you’re basically driving blindfolded for the length of the football field. This not only places you at risk, it places every driver on the road at risk.

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Cell phones are a primary distraction, because it involves three types of distraction simultaneously:

  • Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
  • Manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and
  • Cognitive (taking your mind off driving).

In the fractions of a second in which you need to identify a danger, process the decision, react and respond to the hazard, there isn’t enough time when you do not remain focused or your attention isn’t on driving.

Forty-four states, including Louisiana, ban text messaging for all drivers. Fourteen states prohibit hand-held cell phone use by drivers.

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Currently, Louisiana has a bill to propose the use of hands free devices only for drivers.

University Medical Center, which is home to the region’s only Level I Trauma Center, has a strong commitment to the prevention of injuries due to distracted driving. The Trauma Center’s Injury Prevention Team is committed to decreasing the risk of injury through programs such as Sudden Impact.

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Twice per week, high school sophomores attend the hospital-based program to understand the real consequences to such high-risk behavior. Helping them understand the risks of distracted driving is essential – after all, 76% of participants state that they have been in a crash or near crash because the driver of the vehicle was distracted.

Distracted driving is also written into the script for the Sudden Impact Mock Crash, “Consequences of Impact” and the Mock Trial, “Lifetime of Consequences.”

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We encourage you to not be the next victim.

Reduce cell phone distractions

If there is an option to turn your phone off or send automatic replies to texts while driving, this is highly recommended.

It can wait

Most conversations and texts can wait and if they cannot, pull to a safe, well-lit area to return the call or text.

Safety first

Be a role model to the passengers in your vehicle. If you have a call or text that needs to be returned, have a passenger return the call or text for you.

Eyes on the road

Keep your eyes on the road and always be aware of your surroundings.

Drive defensively

Be ready to avoid a crash by driving defensively.

Remember, crashes are PREVENTABLE.

Know Your Numbers

Authors: Alan Gatz, MD and Kendria Holt-Rogers, MD, UMC Primary Care Physicians

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Today,  many people are aware of the need to focus on the effect of risk factors and life choices on overall health and wellness. Health professionals speak to patients about cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI (body-mass index), and hemoglobin A1c, but many individuals become overwhelmed and do not totally understand all of the information as presented.

Here’s a condensed and simplified description of the above mentioned health determinants.

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Cholesterol

This term actually should be changed to lipids, which includes the entire family of proteins sub-divided into three major subcategories:

  1. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol
  2. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and
  3. Triglycerides (TG).

The two numbers the majority of people need to remember are their LDL and HDL levels.

A simple way to understand the concept of reducing heart and vascular disease is to keep the low low and the high high. LDL level above 150 mg% increases the risk of developing blood vessel blockage while HDL above 50 mg% helps protect against the development of this problem.

High triglycerides also can affect a person’s health including development of pancreatic disease.  Any intervention – including lifestyle changes and medications –  that will improve the overall cholesterol readings will also improve the total TG.

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Interventions to improve the cholesterol numbers and reduce risk of cardiac disease:

  • Exercise – 30-45 minutes 3 times per week
  • Diet – increase fiber, reduce fat and sugar
  • Weight loss – even 5 pounds will affect the level
  • Medication – effective but comes with risk of side effects

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Blood sugar (Glucose)

Important in the proper functioning of most all body systems, if the blood level is too high, many of the major organs can be damaged irrevocably, most notably the heart, kidneys, circulatory system and eyes. Normally, people think of getting a blood sugar reading by having their finger lanced to obtain a drop of blood.  This “spot” reading will give an idea of current glucose level but the Hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c) is much better at allowing us to determine average blood sugar level over several weeks.

Without getting too scientific, the higher the average blood sugar, the higher the level of Hgb A1c.  In general we strive to get the level below 7%.

Ways to improve Hgb A1c :

  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Prescribed exercise program
  • Improve diet and control your weight

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Body Mass Index

This number is determined by a patient’s height and weight.

The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 25.  Below 18.5 is considered underweight with 25-30 being overweight.

Those individuals above 30 are classified obese.  The importance of BMI lies with the effects of stress on the heart, circulatory system, joints, muscles and metabolism.  Severe obesity with BMI greater than 36 increases the individual’s risk for hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, diabetes, degenerative arthritis, decreased independence.  Obviously we cannot affect the BMI by growing taller but anything we can do to reduce weight will improve the BMI.

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Blood Pressure

The measurement of blood pressure is important in determining the stress the heart experiences pumping the blood through the thousands (approximately 60K) of miles of blood vessels in the body. Like a body builder the heart, if faced with greater weight (pressure), will grow to meet the challenge.  But, also like the body builder, there can be too much growth (the heart becomes muscle bound) which results in the heart failing to “lift the weight”. The result is heart failure which many times causes permanent disability and death. 

We don’t have the time or space to discuss the effects of blood pressure on the kidneys,  but suffice it to say untreated blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney failure and need for dialysis.

Remember these numbers – Systolic 135, Diastolic 80. 

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If your readings fall above these numbers you should seriously consider speaking with your health care provider about intervention.

Interventions to improve blood pressure:

  • Reduce weight
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Reduce salt in the diet
  • Exercise with emphasis on aerobic activity
  • Adequate rest – sleep 6-8 hours/night
  • Stress reduction – yoga, meditation, therapeutic massage

Hopefully, this primer will help you manage your health with greater confidence and purpose.

Dr. Gatz and Dr. Rogers look forward to being your partner in wellness. To schedule an appointment, call the clinic at 504-962-6120. Visit www.umcno.org/primary-care to learn more about UMC’s Primary Care Center and its services.

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Out With the Old: Why It’s Important for Seniors to Get Moving

Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist

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How do we age well and gracefully? This question has been on the mind of human beings for ages. We have all been searching, to some extent, for the fountain of youth or a way to slow down the aging process. Unfortunately, that fountain has yet to be discovered, and no scientist has come up with a formula that will keep time from aging the body.

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Nevertheless, there is some good news. We, as humans, can improve our aging process and increase the number of “healthy” years by doing something that humans have been doing for centuries – MOVE! That’s right, moving the body is one of the best ways to age well and to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which are a few of the main causes of death and poor aging among older adults.

Evidence has shown that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and even frail older adults (ages 65 and older). 

This physical activity can range from low intensity walking to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises, depending on the individual’s preference and physical ability.  Basically, for older adults, some form of physical activity is better than nothing at all or a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity (think brisk walking) every week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

This may sound like a lot, but please do not be discouraged; you don’t have to start here.  If you have never worked out before or have been inactive for some time, you can safely work your way up to this point by joining a local wellness center or YMCA.  There, you can find trained professionals that can help you work towards your goal of achieving a healthy and physically active lifestyle.  As always, you should consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise routine, especially if this is new to you or if you have a pre-existing heart or metabolic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.

To make an appointment for a consultation with one of our primary care physicians, click here.

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Keep this in mind: If you want to improve your health or if you want to maintain the level of health you have for years to come, your best bet is get or stay as active as you can.  The more active you are as you age the less likely you will be to develop debilitating diseases, which can only work as catalysts to age you beyond your years.

So, get out there and move your bones!

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

McPhee, J., et al.  Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy aging and frailty.  Biogerontology. (2016). 17: 567 – 580.

Safe and…Sound: Tips for Voice Conservation During Mardi Gras

Author: Kevin Hemenger, UMC Speech Pathologist

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Most of us take our voice for granted—it’s there when we need it, and we don’t think much about it. But when your voice isn’t working right, it can cause serious problems, like one of these vocal disorders. It is important to take care of your vocal health just like you take care of other aspects of your health.

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You have two vocal cords located in your throat a little below the jawline (behind the Adam’s apple in men). The vocal cords are made of very delicate tissue that vibrates to produce voice. They stretch and contract at the same time to produce all of the different sounds and pitches that we use while talking and singing.

If the vocal cords are overused, they can become inflamed and swollen, so they don’t vibrate as well, causing the voice to sound hoarse. With repeated or frequent overuse, the vocal cords can be injured. Depending on the injury, this can require speech therapy or surgery.

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It’s easy to get carried away at parades, sporting events, concerts, and other festive occasions and overuse your voice. In these situations, you should avoid yelling above your typical conversational level.

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Tips for Saving Your Voice

  • Try clapping, waving, or whistling instead.
  • A “noisemaker” is also a good way to express your excitement.
  • If you know someone riding in a parade, make a sign to get their attention—it’s easier for the rider to spot you that way too!

It’s important to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. 

Your vocal cords are very susceptible to dehydration. Be sure to have water or juice with you on the parade route and drink plenty of these throughout the day.

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If you do overuse your voice and find that you are hoarse the next day, rest your voice as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Typically, a one-time voice overuse will take care of itself in a couple of days.

If your voice is hoarse for more than a month with no improvement, then you should consider making an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physician, who will take a look at your vocal cords and may refer you to Speech Therapy.

To make an appointment with an ENT at UMC, please call (504) 702-5700. Our ENT Clinic is located on the 3rd floor of the Ambulatory Care Building (ACB) in Zone C.

Stay safe and SOUND this Mardi Gras Season!

The ABC’s of Antibiotics

Author: Jennifer Lambert, PharmD, MPA, UMCNO Clinical Pharmacist

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What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are types of medicine that help stop infections caused by bacteria. How they do this is by (1) killing the bacteria or (2) keeping the bacteria from reproducing.

The word antibiotic, itself, means “against life.”

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Did You Know?

An estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occur each year in the US due to antibiotic resistant infections.1 Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. Using antibiotics the wrong way can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections that cause illness or death. This is why healthcare providers are being more careful when prescribing antibiotics.

  • When not used correctly, antibiotics can be harmful to your health.
  • Antibiotics can cure most bacterial infections. Antibiotics cannot cure viral illnesses.
  • Antibiotics cause one out of five Emergency Department visits for drug-related side effects.
  • It is estimated that more than half of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed.1
  • Antibiotics can lead to severe forms of diarrhea that can be life- threatening, especially in elderly patients.
  • When you are sick, antibiotics are not always the answer

Antibiotics: The Alphabet Letter by Letter

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A (Ask)

  • “Are these antibiotics necessary?” and “What can I do to feel better?”

B (Bacteria)

  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses. They only kill bacteria.

C (Complete the Course)

  • Take all of your antibiotics exactly as prescribed (even if you are feeling better).

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How Can You Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?

  • Take antibiotics exactly as your healthcare provider instructs.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you.
  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness or share them with others.
  • Do not pressure your healthcare provider for antibiotics.

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Do You Need an Antibiotic?

Illness Virus Bacteria
Colds NO
Flu NO
Whooping cough YES
Strep throat YES
Most ear aches NO
Bronchitis NO
Pneumonia YES

What Can You Do to Help Yourself Feel Better if You Have a Viral Illness?

Pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest may be the best things to help you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what symptom relief is best for you.

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Prescriptions for antibiotics can be filled and picked up at the Walgreens Pharmacy at UMC.

 

If you are in need of a healthcare provider, click here.

 

Citations:

1 CDC. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. 16 September 2013. 32.

Why You Won’t Want to “Feel the Burn” This New Year’s

Author: Angelle Bonura, BSN, RN, Nursing Director of UMC Burn Center

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Sparks fly every New Year’s Eve, and I don’t just mean romance during the annual midnight kiss. Fireworks are the staple tradition for ringing in the New Year, and for 2018, it will be no different.

While fireworks are fun to enjoy, they also pose hazards to those using or near them. On average, 250 people report to the emergency department every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month of July around Independence Day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For New Year’s, that number historically spikes again.

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In total, more than 50 percent of injuries involving fireworks happen to people under the age of 20.

At the UMC Burn Center, it is our job not only to treat and care for those who have suffered burn injuries, but to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Here are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to popping fireworks this year, compliments of the American Burn Association:

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DO

  • Consider safe alternatives, such as glow sticks and confetti poppers
  • Follow your local and state laws regarding fireworks
  • Have a designated SOBER adult light all fireworks
  • Light one firework at a time and move away quickly
  • Keep children and other observers at a safe distance
  • Keep a bucket of water close for disposal of fireworks

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DON’T

  • Allow children to handle fireworks
  • Attempt to alter, modify or relight fireworks
  • Point or throw lit fireworks at anyone
  • Ever hold lit fireworks in your hand
  • Consume alcohol or drugs when lighting fireworks

THE FACTS

  • Sparklers can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Thousands of fireworks injuries were treated in the U.S. emergency rooms, often leaving permanent damage.

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IF A BURN INJURY DOES HAPPEN…

  • Cool the burn with COOL water.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry from the burned area.
  • Cover the area with a dry clean sheet or loose bandages.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.

The UMC Burn Center will open in early 2018. It will be the only combined Burn-Trauma Center from Houston to Mobile, and will comprehensively treat thermal, inhalation and chemical burns.

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To learn more about the new Burn Center, visit: www.umcno.org/burncenter or click here.

To learn more about our Level 1 Trauma Center, visit: www.umcno.org/trauma. 

Seat Safety is #HowWeSonic

Author: Bridget Gardner, RN, UMC Level 1 Trauma Center Injury Prevention Director 

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Every three minutes.

In Louisiana, someone is in a crash every three minutes. At the Level 1 Trauma Center at UMC, we see all too often the injuries and fatalities that result from motor vehicle crashes – and know that many of these injuries could have been prevented with proper protective equipment.

Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children aged 1-14 in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

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Protective equipment that could prevent these injuries, such as car seats, booster seats and seat belts, are sometimes underutilized or not used correctly.

When used correctly, child restraints are the number one factor in reducing serious injuries and death in motor vehicle crashes.

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Recognizing that some families in Louisiana cannot afford to buy the proper child safety seats, Louisiana’s SONIC Drive In restaurants reached out to us to help. They’ve banded together to raise money for that purpose. SONIC Drive-In has created a “Tot” calendar – which is on sale through February 18 at 147 locations in the state.

If you are visiting UMC, be sure to stop by the hospital gift shop on the first floor, near Tower 1 to pick up a copy of this year’s calendar.

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Calendars are only $5 and all proceeds will be being directed to the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force to purchase and distribute child safety seats throughout the state. In addition to free car seat safety tips, the calendar offers more than $45 worth of coupons redeemable towards SONIC Drive-In purchases.

We are extremely appreciative of this partnership, which has raised $103,000 and provided nearly 2,000 child safety seats in just two years. It provides an avenue to reach the unrestrained and improperly restrained population to prevent the injuries that we far too often witness as a Level 1 Trauma Center. SONIC also supports National Seat Check Saturday, an annual statewide event hosted by the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force that provides free child safety seat inspections for all families. This event takes place in September during National Child Safety Week.

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If you aren’t sure if your child safety seat is installed correctly, FREE assistance from certified child safety technician is available very Wednesday in our area from 1-4 p.m. at Louisiana State Police Troop B, 2101 1-10 Service Road in Kenner.

As parents, we want to do everything we can to make sure our children are safe. When you ensure that your children are properly restrained in your vehicle, you can reduce serious injuries. Take this important step to make sure your child is safe, every trip and every time.

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For more information, go to www.umcno.org/injuryprevention

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Bridget Gardner, RN is a registered nurse and coordinator of the Community Injury Prevention Program at UMC New Orleans. The Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force is a network of certified child passenger safety technicians throughout the state, directed by the UMC Trauma Program.

 

Stop the Bleed, Save a Life

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Authors: Jen Avegno, MD (LSU Emergency Medicine Physician) & Rebecca Schroll, MD (Tulane University Trauma Surgeon)

A nightclub. A country music concert. A Congressional baseball field. These are normally places of leisure and entertainment, but in the past year, they have become scenes of unimaginable tragedy where innocent victims have been targeted for mass murder and injury.

As doctors at University Medical Center’s renowned Level 1 Trauma Center and Emergency Department, treating victims of violent injury is our job and something we do every day. With our fellow dedicated team members, we are proud to serve our fellow Louisianans on what is often the worst day of their lives.

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Although we are professionals who are trained to handle anything that comes our way, it affects us personally, too.

We are mothers, wives, neighbors, and citizens of this great city – and it’s hard not to put ourselves in the shoes of the grieving family members and friends we see after a violent trauma.

When we talk to others about high-profile tragedies like the recent Las Vegas concert shooting or the Washington, D.C. shooting of Representative Scalise and others, we often hear remarks like “I feel helpless” or “there’s nothing I can do to help.”

And yet … there is.

Anyone can save a life – and UMCNO is making it easy to learn how.

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Through partnerships with our two medical schools, we are proud to bring the national Stop the Bleed program to our community. New Orleans has long held the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of violent trauma from shootings and stabbings; now it’s our turn to lead the way in turning the tide. Stop the Bleed was developed by the Department of Homeland Security and American College of Surgeons to teach anyone – especially non-medical personnel – the basic skills needed to identify and control life-threatening bleeding in any emergency situation.

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Imagine you’re jogging in the park and you come across someone with a badly broken leg who is losing blood rapidly. With Stop the Bleed training, you can quickly and easily stabilize the victim while EMS is on the way.  It’s an empowering feeling to know that YOU can save someone’s life, and a natural way to prove we are a community that cares for each other.

The only thing more tragic than a death is a death that could have been prevented.

Because we believe so strongly in this program, UMCNO is hosting FREE community classes every two weeks – open to anyone. Or, if you’d prefer, UMCNO medical staff can come to you and give a free training in your school, business, church or other organization.

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We have also put together special Bleeding Control kits containing the supplies that can be used to help stop bleeding.

Our goal is to put a kit in every school, place of worship, large building, and public space in the city.

Since the program started, UMCNO has trained nearly 1,000 of our neighbors, colleagues and friends. We’ve given the training in schools, organizations, security agencies – to anyone who’s asked.

In partnership with Ceasefire New Orleans, we have set up a great community training kick-off event October 16 at Kermit Ruffin’s Mother-in-Law Lounge. Come eat some great food and second-line while you learn some valuable skills!

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To learn more about Stop the Bleed at University Medical Center New Orleans or sign up for a class, visit: www.umcno.org/stopthebleed.

We lead the nation in celebrating life in New Orleans … together, let’s lead it in saving lives, too!