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Teens and Tourniquets: What War Makes Necessary

  • February 10, 2023
  • Access to Medicine
  • Ukraine
  • Volunteers practice how to utilize a tourniquet to perhaps save a life in Ukraine

Around the world, mothers and their teenage daughters often enjoy spending an afternoon together, shopping, cooking or taking in a movie. The same was true in Ukraine until a year ago. Now, living under threat of shelling and bombardment, at least one mother and her daughter chose to spend a day learning lifesaving skills at a tactical course in trauma care.

In late 2022, Americares provided the Poland-based Institute of Emergency Medicine with more than 10,000 tourniquets, used to stop the flow of blood to a limb or extremity in an emergency. Because the tourniquets were intended for civilians, Americares also provided two-day courses in emergency medicine, taught by certified trainers. The goal was to train 100 instructors who could, in turn, train and supply 10,000 civilians with tourniquets. By the end of the December, IEM had trained more than 140 instructors in Lviv, Odesa and Uzghorod. Two of those are Natalia S. and her 13-year-old daughter, Olena.*

Natalia was a local organizer of the courses in Lviv, where she and her family stayed while their home in Kyiv was not safe. “I gathered two groups of 20 people,” Natalia says. “In the beginning, Olena was supposed to be only an observer, but it turned out that she was truly interested in all these things, and finally, she took the course on a par with others, as an equal participant.” “At first, I thought this course would be rather boring, but in fact, it was interesting, and when it came to practice, even more interesting,” says Olena.

“Before the course, I had no idea about first aid. Now, in case of an emergency, I will be able to help someone. Today, it’s crucial knowledge.”

Volunteer being taught the proper way to apply a tourniquet.
Volunteers practice how to utilize a tourniquet to perhaps save a life in Ukraine

During the course, students use mannequins and other aids to learn and practice skills such as identification of life-threatening injuries, safe evacuation from a danger zone and principles and techniques for treating injuries, including the use of hemostatic dressing and tourniquets, which participants left with.

Although she was the youngest participant, Olena doesn’t think age is a consideration for first aid. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. Anyone old enough to understand these things can gain this knowledge. Even if we are not talking about war, these skills are useful, for instance, in case of emergencies such as car accidents. I am sure many teenagers would be interested in taking part in courses like that.”

While watching her daughter learn to save lives, Natalia thought that before February 24, 2022, this situation would have been “unthinkable.” But now? “I am proud of her and happy that if it were necessary, she would be able to help her sister, her father, or me. And, I truly believe, nowadays, at least two people in the family must have this knowledge, ” says Natalia.

Natalia and Olena try to be optimistic, not live in the past and look into the future. They still have an everyday life, working, studying and singing together, which is a favorite hobby. However, power cuts and shelling have huge impacts on their lives. That’s why they try to adapt to their new reality.

“A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that people would start learning how to shoot. Even I started to learn how to shoot!” says Natalia. “Everybody is busy doing something needed. Every free minute I have, I try to do something useful for Ukraine people: I volunteer, make candles, or cook pielmieni (Ukrainian dumplings). There is our new reality, which we must adapt to.”

“Life goes on and we are very hopeful for our future,” says Natalia. “We have children, and they are our future. Our biggest dream, like every Ukrainian, is a victory. And, I would like no one to die anymore. I would like all those who came out of the country to come home.”

*name changed

READ MORE about our work in Ukraine.

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