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Ocean rescue officers in Miami put trauma care skills to the test

Staff from Ryder Trauma Center teach marine rescue officers how to respond to traumatic water injuries at Haulover Beach.
Luis DeRosa
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Staff from Ryder Trauma Center teach marine rescue officers how to respond to traumatic water injuries at Haulover Beach.

Groups of ocean rescue teams circle around tan mannequins with bloody limbs splayed on the shores of Haulover Beach in Miami. One has a shark bite on its upper thigh. Gauze covers gashes on a few of the arms. Some had lumps of flesh where limbs should have been.

These simulated injuries call for a specific response by trauma care professionals. When timing is everything, one swift action could mean the difference between life or death.

Throughout the year, staff members from the Jackson Health Ryder Trauma Center teach various Miami-Dade County agencies about appropriate trauma care aimed at improving patient outcomes.

Lieutenant Yuniel Usin who works for Haulover Beach Ocean Rescue has taken workshops offered by the center before. He has learned how to effectively identify and report a traumatic injury, as well as control hemorrhage and bleeding, so patients can have a better chance of survival by the time they reach the hospital.

"They showed us how, with very little pressure, we could control a deadly bleeding with one finger," he said. "And those are things that we wouldn't have had [without] this kind of training. Then, after I took the class, I had to go back and hug them because I felt like a surgeon myself."

The specific workshop Usin took catered to ocean rescue officers, which had them run through different scenarios of water traumas, which are injuries that happen on or in the water. That includes shark bites, jet skiing or boating accidents.

Last year, Miami-Dade ranked as the number one county in the state for boating accidents, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife report. Out of the 95 total accidents in the county, seven were fatalities and 65 were injuries.

 Miami-Dade County ranked as the number one county in the state last year with the most boat accidents.
2021 Boating Accident Statistical Report, Florida Fish and Wildlife
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Miami-Dade County ranked as the number one county in the state last year with the most boat accidents.

Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties also made the list of top ten counties for boating accidents.

"Operating on a vessel is the same as driving a vehicle," said Captain Matthew Starling with Haulover Marine Rescue. "You need to have your wits about you, even more so."

Starling said his team gets a variety of calls with some (boating mishaps or propeller strikes) more common than others (shark bites or spear gun accidents).

"On a surgical level, it's good to know what's expected of you as a first responder when the surgeon is telling you what they need you to do in the frontlines," he said.

The workshops took place a month before Memorial Day weekend, when Florida's tourism numbers are expected to increase.

Luis DeRosa has been a trauma nurse at the Ryder Trauma Center since 2007 and coordinates the water trauma workshops. He said easy access to boats in South Florida and inexperienced people behind the wheel of a vessel can lead to risky behavior.

"Because one of the worst things is actually seeing my face, looking down at you and you're on a backboard after a fun day in the sun, it turns tragic," DeRosa said, citing accidents posted on social media websites. "Prevention truly is key."

Miami-Dade County Ocean Rescue learn about treating propeller injuries during water trauma workshop in Haulover Beach.
Luis DeRosa
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Miami-Dade County Ocean Rescue learn about treating propeller injuries during water trauma workshop in Haulover Beach.

Such classes are not limited to emergency personnel. DeRosa said he has led workshops on trauma care for firefighters, paramedics and even teachers.

The key is to prevent as much blood loss as possible, by putting a lot of pressure on the wound by using anything near you whether it be a belt, a towel or even a finger to stop further bleeding.

DeRosa hopes to keep expanding the program to raise more awareness about trauma care to residents and tourists. He said anyone can learn these skills and save a life.

"We just want them to really provide some care and bystander care instead of just sitting back and just seeing this person bleed out, we want them to actually do something," said DeRosa.
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