I often get questions from people that say: “I take this medicine or that medicine for this medical problem. What do I do if there’s a collapse and I can’t get modern medical care?” I usually say, well, what did your doctor say? “Well, I haven’t really asked.” OK, how bad is your condition? “Umm, I’m not too sure…I haven’t really asked that, either, but the doctor wants me to do this test”. What’s the test for? “I’m not really sure, but I’m supposed to get it done” Do you see a problem here? I do.
Your health is a team effort, in which you, not the doctor, play the most important role. One of the best ways to communicate with your doctor or alternative health care provider is by asking questions. If you’re accumulating all this knowledge as a prepper, learning how to grow food, how to store preps, taking responsibility for your family’s survival, why not take responsibility for your own health? Anyone that takes medication for a medical condition should ask their doctor lots of questions. Armed with this knowledge, you will be more likely to handle medical issues and stay healthy in uncertain times.
The main reason for people being unclear about why they’re taking this medicine or should undergo this test or that test is that they don’t ask the right questions. When I first opened my medical office, I would prescribe a medicine for a patient with a medical condition and I was always surprised when the only response was “yes, doctor”.
Answers to medical questions might be simple, but sometimes they’re complex. You have the right to have things explained in plain English; the more questions you ask, the more your doctor understands that you want to be an active partner in your care.
The below are what I should have been asked, and that you should ask your doctor if you haven’t yet…..
1. Doctor, why did you decide to put me on that medicine?
What will the medicine do for me? The response might be: “You have high Cholesterol, this drug will lower it”. Ok, fine, but how does it work to do that? What benefit will I reap from being on it? The answer might be: “It will decreased your chances of dying from coronary artery disease”. This is a more logical reason to take the medicine than just lowering some lab value.
2. What will the medicine do to me?
All drugs may have side effects. You should be aware of them; it should be a factor as to whether you decide to take the medication. Sometimes, side effects are unrelated to the medicine’s primary purpose. Antibiotics could give you diarrhea, for example. Aspirin could cause bruising due to its blood thinning effect. Sometimes, the side effect is the reason to use the medicine. Ritodrine, an IV asthma medicine, was found to coincidentally relax uterine muscle. As such, it was used for a time to stop premature labor.
3. Is there a natural alternative to the medicine I’m prescribing?
You might have to depend on natural products one day, so why not try it now and see if it really works? Let’s take thyroid disease. There are a number of natural desiccated thyroid supplements on the market. If you’re interested in trying something that you, as a prepper, could stockpile, ask you doctor if he would be willing to monitor your thyroid levels for a time on the natural supplement. In this way, you can identify whether the supplement will actually work to keep your thyroid levels at normal. So the question would be:
4. Would you be willing to monitor me, if I decide to try a natural alternative?
The doctor might not be for this, but then ask: What’s the harm in
trying it for a short time and checking its effects?
5. Would my condition improve if I changed my diet or lifestyle?
I go through chubby phases and, well, less chubby phases. When I’m heavier, my blood pressure goes up. Staying at a normal weight keeps my blood pressure within normal limits. Another lifestyle change, such as not smoking, will improve your stamina. You know you’ll need more stamina if the you-know-what hits the fan. The same goes for type 2 Diabetics. If you adhere to a good anti-diabetic diet, you might need less diabetic meds.
6. Will this new medicine change the way my other medicines work, or their effectiveness?
A lot of people have more than 1 medical condition and see more than 1 doctor. Don’t think that doctors have some kind of mental telepathy with each other. Some are pretty smart guys, but they’re not psychic! That doctor may not have noticed that you wrote these medicines down on your medical history sheet. Medicines may affect each other; they may make each other have a stronger or lesser effect, or might cancel each other out altogether.
7. This test you want me to take, what are the things you’re looking for?
If a doctor asks you to do a test out of the blue, ask what he is worried that he might find? What does the doctor believe you are at risk for?
8. Are there risks to this test?
Tests might be necessary, but they are not always without risks. CAT scans of the chest and abdomen, for example, give the equivalent radiation exposure of having 100 standard chest x-rays.
Cardiac catheterization is a test where they check for blocked coronary arteries (which is the cause of heart attacks). During this test, they run a line and infuse dye into your coronaries to look for blockage all the way from an artery in your thigh. This procedure can actually cause a heart attack about 1- 2% of the time. Which leads us to the next question….
9. Is this test or medicine absolutely necessary, what happens if I don’t take this medicine or don’t do this test?
You should be aware how the test’s results will impact your treatment. Will anything change as a result of having the test done? If a test does not affect your doctor’s treatment, is it really necessary?
10. Could you explain your plan for my long term care?
Is this a temporary solution, or will I have to be on this medication the rest of my life? This will help you, prepper, rethink your medical supplies for times for trouble.
Did you ask this list of questions when you were prescribed this medicine or told to do this or that test? My patients rarely did; most just took their prescription and left. For most patients that I prescribed medicine for or recommended a diagnostic test, I asked: “Do you understand exactly why you’re being given this?” Do you have any questions or concerns? If they just looked at me and didn’t say anything, I would say: “Do you know what I would ask, if a doctor prescribed me this drug?”
So, could you explain your medical condition to a stranger? Could you tell someone what is different about your thyroid that requires you to take medication? Do you know why your doctor wants you to keep an aspirin in your purse or wallet, if you have heart disease (answer: to slow down further blockage in an acute coronary event like a heart attack)?
The more you learn, the more in charge you are of your own life! If I was told I had diabetes, I would ask my doctor for every piece of literature that he or she had on the topic. I’d be at the local bookstore the next day, and by the end of the week, I’d have a small library on the subject.
Lack of interest with regards to your health is tantamount to saying, “ok, you win. Guess I wasn’t meant to live that long, after all” That defeatist attitude is just not the prepper way. If you take charge of your destiny by storing and growing food, learning home defense, getting a ham radio license, all that stuff, it just makes common sense to take charge of your health the same way.
Find out what natural product might have an effect similar to the medicine you take. It’s easy to find: just google natural remedies for _____________. It probably won’t have as strong an effect, but it might help some, and something is better than nothing.
You have an obligation to your family and yourself to have a plan of action to deal with medical issues if a disaster occurs. It’s not just about having medical supplies as part of your preps, it’s an actual plan on what to do if this or that medical issue happens and your doctor is unavailable. It’s your health, take charge of it.
Joe Alton MD