As Manhunt in Janesville Continues, Mercyhealth Trains Students for the Unthinkable

Story originally published on April 12, 2017 on WKOW TV Channel 27 News in Madison.

Clinton (WKOW) — Across the country, San Bernardino continues to deal with the aftershocks of a school shooting, close to home Southern Wisconsin grapples with an unprecedented manhunt.

During a soft lockdown for that manhunt earlier this week, Clinton High School students took part in a special CPR and emergency disaster training workshop.  The goal was to prepare them for anything.

“We have a nationwide manhunt right up the road for someone bent on perpetrating harm against the innocent, ” Mercyhealth EMS Associate Director Dr. Chris Wistrom said.

He’s teaching the teens how to do something taboo: pack wounds and tie tourniquets.

“Empowering the innocent is how they [the students] can fight back,” Dr. Wistrom explained.

The disaster preparedness side of the training is thanks to Mercyhealth’s Casualty in the Classroom program.

“So well received by students, I was shocked,” Dr. Wistrom said.  “But it makes sense, that this is on the news everyday some tragedy, if you’re trained and know what to do, how much peace of mind is that?”

Prior to now, the program focused on giving teachers the skills to deal with dangerous active shooter situations.  A few months ago, however, they opened the training up to students.  Right now, more than 6,000 teachers have been trained in 9 different states.  More than a thousand students in Rock County have taken the class.

“Wound packing sounds disgusting, wound packing is disgusting,” he told the students as they prepared to take the training.

“I didn’t think we had to go into the wound to stop the bleeding,” Senior Vanessa Johnson said.  But she’s still grateful for the experience to learn.

“Because anything can happen, know the basic skills, you can save someone’s life,” Johnson said.

Dr. Wistrom trained the teens to look at inanimate objects in the classroom as ways to save a life.

“Old Glory would be happy to come off that wall, be cut into thirteen strips,” he said.

But it took some students a little time to come around to such a novel idea.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate to use the United States flag to patch up a wound, but when he [Dr. Wistrom] said you could use anything to save a person’s life, I’d do anything to make sure they were safe and healthy,” Charly Pinto said.

“The environment that today’s kids are growing up in..they need to know this, they need to know how to be that immediate responder, even if they don’t react, having that knowledge and being able to is empowering,” Dr. Wistrom said.

If you’d like to learn more about the program and how to bring it your school, click here.