Crisis Medicine: Whether to Move a Patient
As I have mentioned in the past, the main goal of a medic in a survival situation is to transfer the injured or ill person to a modern medical facility. These facilities will be non-existent in long-term collapse scenarios. As such, you will have to make a decision as to whether your patient can be treated for their medical problem where they are or not. If they cannot, you must consider how to move your patient to where the bulk of your medical supplies are.
Before deciding whether to move a patient, stabilize them as much as possible. This means stopping all bleeding, splinting orthopedic injuries, and verifying that the person is breathing normally. If you cannot assure this, consider having a group member get the supplies needed to support the patient before you move them. Have as many helpers available to assist you as you can. The most important thing to remember is that you want to carry out the evacuation with the least trauma to your patient and to yourself.
Medical Supplies: How to Make a Stretcher
An important medical supply in this circumstance is a stretcher. Many good commercially-produced stretchers are available, but improvised stretchers can be put together without too much effort. An ironing board might make an effective transport device. Other options include taking two long sticks or poles and inserting coats or shirts through them to handle the weight of the victim. If the rescuer grasps both poles, a helper could pull the coat off; this automatically moves the coat onto the poles. Lengths of Paracord can also be crisscrossed to form an effective stretcher.
If you must pull a person to safety, grasp their coat or shirt at the shoulders with both hands, allowing their head to rest on your forearms. You could also place a blanket under the patient, and grasp the end of the blanket near their head. If you are uncertain about the extent of any spinal injuries, do your best to not allow much bending of the body during transport. These methods are sometimes tough on your muscles and joints, and probably just as tough on the victim.
If your patient can be carried, there are various methods available for a single rescuer.
The “Fireman’s Carry” is effective and keep’s the victim’s torso relatively level and stable. In a squatting or kneeling position, you would grasp the person’s right wrist with your left hand and place it over your right shoulder. Keeping your back straight, place your right hand between their legs and around the right thigh. Using your leg muscles to lift, rise up and you should have their torso over your back and the right thigh resting over your right shoulder. Their left arm and leg will hang behind your back if you have done it correctly. Adjust their weight so as to cause the least strain.
Another option is the “Pack-Strap Carry”. With your patient behind you, grasp both arms and cross them across your chest. If squatting, keep your back straight and use your back muscles to lift the victim. Bend slightly so that the person’s weight is on your hips and lift them off the ground. There are several variations on this method, some using rope to secure the injured individual almost as you would a backpack.
If you have the luxury of an assistant, you might consider placing your patient on a chair and carry using the front legs and back of the chair. This constitutes a sitting “stretcher”. Another two person carry involves one rescuer to wrap their arms around the victim’s chest from behind while the second rescuer (facing away from the patient) grabs the legs behind each knee. This is done in a squatting position, using the leg muscles to lift the patient.
There are many other techniques used to transport people when injured. Check out this slideshow for more information:
Important to remember when pulling or carrying a person is the simple acronym: B.A.C.K.
Back Straight – muscles and discs can handle more load safely when the back is straight.
Avoid Twisting – joints can be damaged when twisting.
Close to body – reaching to pick up a load causes more strain on muscles and joints.
Keep Stable – the more rotation and jerking, the more pressure on the discs and muscles.
Difficult decisions will have to be made when there are no ambulances or EMTs to take an injured or ill person to professional medical care. Careful evaluation of the situation will be required when YOU are the end of the line when it comes to the medical well-being of your people.