New Jersey Woman Stopped the Bleed and Saved a Life

April 13, 2021

Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the COVID-19 pandemic, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.

While on vacation in Colombia in January 2020, Pilar Brahim, a Hackensack University Medical Center team member in the Department of Pathology, was walking along a riverbank with her brother, Alex, and boyfriend, Tom, when she suddenly felt a burning sensation in her right ankle. She was confused because she didn’t understand what had happened and why she was feeling pain. When she fell to the ground and saw how profusely she was bleeding, she realized she had been hit by a stray bullet. She also realized she could die.

The only thing more tragic than a death from severe bleeding is if that death could have been prevented. Someone who is severely bleeding can bleed to death in as few as five minutes. In Pilar’s case, she survived because she remembered the lifesaving knowledge she received in a Stop the Bleed training class that was offered at Hackensack in December 2018.

“I remembered we were taught to stop the bleeding immediately,” Pilar says. “Tom took off his shirt and used it to put pressure on my ankle, and it was blood-soaked in a matter of seconds. With no tourniquet in sight, I saw my brother’s belt and, as a last resort, I asked him to take it off and use it as a tourniquet. He did and the bleeding stopped.”

Pilar was taken to a local hospital and discharged after a few days. She learned that the bullet shattered her fibula but fortunately missed an artery by an inch. Two days after Pilar was discharged, she returned to the U.S. and underwent surgery to repair her ankle.

“Looking back, I feel I was very lucky,” Pilar says. “I was able to react due to my instinct to survive and what I learned in Stop the Bleed. It will take some time for me to fully recover, but I am happy that I survived and I can walk.”

What Is Stop the Bleed?

Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and call to action presented by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. Those nearest to someone with life-threatening injuries are best positioned to provide first care.

Next Steps & Resources:

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