Emergency Medicine Vs. Survival Medicine
Standard emergency medicine strategies are intended to aid you in managing situations where the incident did not occur within easy reach of a hospital . Certainly, modern medical care on an ocean voyage or wilderness hike is not readily available; even trips to the cities of underdeveloped countries may fit this category as well.
There are medical protocols for these mostly short term scenarios that are widely published, and they are both reasonable and effective. An entire medical education system exists to deal with limited wilderness or disaster situations, and it is served by a growing industry of supplies and equipment. You expect, not unreasonably, that the rescue helicopter is already on the way. So what is the difference between routine emergency medicine and survival medicine? It revolves around your goal.
What is your goal when an emergency occurs in a remote setting? The basic premise of “wilderness” or “disaster” medicine is to:
- Evaluate the injured or ill patient.
- Stabilize their condition.
- Transport the individual to the nearest modern hospital, clinic, or emergency care center.
This series of steps makes perfect sense; you are not a physician and, somewhere, there are facilities that have a lot more technology than you have in your backpack. Your priority is to get the patient out of immediate danger and then ship them off; this will allow you to continue on your wilderness adventure. Transporting the injured person may be difficult to do (sometimes very difficult), but you still have the luxury of being able to “pass the buck” to those who have more knowledge, technology and supplies. And why not? You aren’t a medical professional, after all.
One day, however, there may come a time when a pandemic, civil unrest or terrorist event may precipitate a situation where the miracle of modern medicine may be unavailable. Indeed, not only unavailable, but even to the point that the potential for access to modern facilities no longer exists. Therefore, YOU have become the place where the “buck” stops for the foreseeable future. We refer to this type of long-term scenario as a “collapse”. In a collapse, you will have more risk for illness and injury than on a hike in the woods, yet little or no hope of obtaining more advanced care than you, yourself, can provide. It’s not a matter of a few days without modern technology, such as after a hurricane or tornado. Help is NOT on the way.
Few are prepared to deal with the harsh reality of a long-term survival situation. To go further, very few are willing to even entertain the possibility that such a tremendous burden might be placed upon them. Even for those stalwarts that are willing, there are few, if any, books that will consider this drastic turn of events. The chances of each individual disaster may be very small. Yet, the likelihood of your exposure to such a situation, in some degree and at some point in your lifetime, may not be so small. It stands to reason, therefore, that some medical education might be useful in times of trouble.
Almost all handbooks (some quite good) on wilderness or third world medicine will usually end a section with: “Go to the hospital asap”. Although this is excellent advice for modern times, it won’t be very helpful in an uncertain future when the hospitals might all be out of commission. We only have to look at Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to know that even modern medical facilities may be useless if they are understaffed, under-supplied, and overcrowded.
Unwittingly, the majority of the citizens in New Orleans became their own medical care providers in the aftermath of the storm. With medical assistance teams overwhelmed, no one was coming to the aid of one injured or ill individual when thousands needed help at once. Each household became the “end of the line” when it came to its own well-being. If you become the end of the line with regards to the medical well-being of your family or group, there are certain adjustments that have to be made. Medical supplies must be accumulated to deal with varied emergencies. Medical knowledge must be obtained, shared, and assimilated. These medical supplies and skills must then be adjusted to fit the new mindset that you must adopt in a collapse: That things have changed for the long term, and that you are the sole medical resource when it comes to keeping your people healthy.
This is a huge responsibility. Many, when confronted, will decide that they cannot bear the burden. Others, however, will find the fortitude to grit their teeth and wear the badge of survival “medic”. These individuals may have some medical experience, but most will simply be fathers and mothers who understand that someone must be appointed to handle things when medical help is NOT on the way. If this reality first becomes apparent when a loved one becomes deathly ill, the likelihood that you will have the training and supplies needed to be an effective medical provider will be close to zero. This is a sure way to assure that, when everything else fails, you will, too.
Yet, if you are willing to put some time and effort into being prepared now, you will be better equipped to handle 90% of the emergencies that you will see in a power-down scenario.
The tough reality, however, may place you between a rock and a hard place. Over time, you will certainly have to make difficult decisions. The strategies we put together are not the most effective means of taking care of certain medical problems. In fact, some of them are straight out of the last century. They adhere to the philosophy that something is better than nothing; in a survival situation, that “something” might just get you through the storm. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “You must do what you can, with what you have, where you are
Hopefully, societal destabilization will never happen. This articles and our book, DVDs, and website are a weapon against, not an argument for, an end of the world scenario. If we never encounter a long-term survival situation, this information will still have its uses. Natural catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina will always rear their ugly heads. These events are inevitable at one point or another, and will tax even the most advanced medical delivery systems. Medical personnel will be unlikely to be readily available to help you if they are overwhelmed by mass casualties. With some medical knowledge and supplies, you may gain precious time for an injured loved one and aid in their recovery.
An important caveat: The practice of medicine or dentistry without a license is against the law. None of our recommendations will protect you from liability if you implement them where there is a functioning government and legal system. Consider obtaining formal medical education if you want to become a healthcare provider in a PRE-collapse society. All it takes is time, energy, and dedication.
No matter how much you learn, you won’t not be a physician. You will, however, be more of a medical asset to your family, group, or community than you were before. In a very uncertain future. You’ll have a head start on making sure those bumps on the road aren’t the END of the road.