This is the first of a series on the medical reference works preppers may want to acquire if they are to rise beyond the confines of a simple Red Cross First Aid course. Being who we are, we have undertaken to identify for ourselves the most likely problems to be faced in an increasingly uncertain future. Having identified the challenges that most threaten us, we then prepare accordingly. Said preparation should also mean learning how to address those challenges to the best of our abilities, and then expanding on that learning.
One area of problems we will face will inevitably be medical problems. Issues of age or genetically triggered illnesses aside, all of us are prone to injury. Add in potentially weakened immune systems due to changes in diet and environment, and we can add susceptibility to various infectious diseases such influenza, pneumonia, upper respiratory illnesses, staph infections and more. Neither the American Red Cross nor the Boy Scouts prepared us to handle these if there is no call for the application of direct pressure or need for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Even worse, soap and water will not rid us of cellulitis. In the most simple of examples that is why we need A. references, and B. to continue to learn and expand our medical skills.
Fortunately the system still stands intact and we have access to various physical references to instruct and guide and remind us. Even after 40+ years of medical practice ranging from Eagle Scout to advanced prepper medicine backed by a pair of medical licenses – Paramedic and RN – I still rely heavily on a large medical library that sits physically on the shelf, immune to most grid-down scenarios beyond fire or high water. So long as I have eyes and light I can refresh my memory and add to my cerebral knowledge base.
If you have downloaded or otherwise obtained a copy of Survival and Austere Medicine: An Introduction then you should already know that it contains a fairly extensive chapter devoted solely to physical and electronic references. To borrow from said book:
“Knowledge cannot be undervalued. While at first thought it may appear that the loss of modern technology and medication will place medical care back in to the dark ages it is important not to forget that the knowledge underpinning modern medicine is still there.
And to add further emphasis to the point:
“In a long-term disaster it is vital that this knowledge is preserved. For this reason it is extremely important that you have a comprehensive medical library to begin with and that there is a priority to preserve the knowledge the books contain. It is also very important that the knowledge is passed on.”
This article will concentrate on the beginning references that can guide the non-medical prepper, grunt, or unintentional refugee down the road to being able provide at least basic medical care. Future articles will build on the ladder until even a brain surgeon will find new material that will aid them in a grid-down or broken-society future.
Where There Is No Doctor
Everybody and their Uncle Buck recommends this book for good reason: it is as useful a tool as can be had when we are trying to teach people with little to no education beyond the very elementary the essentials of basic medical care. Crawl before you walk; walk before you run. Even if you have taken a Combat Lifesaver Course you will learn a lot from this book related to general disease-related and other physical ailments that were not caused by high speed projectiles. Last updated in December 2017, it now includes such nice-to-know tidbits as mosquito-borne illnesses, eye and vision problems and medicines.
Yes, it can be had in .pdf format and I recommend downloading a copy, but never ever rely on an electronic copy of anything being available when you need it most. It is the nature of the beast for the power to be out or a virus to have infected your computer, or your smart phone battery to be dead. Even a much earlier edition will be useful and should not be spurned if that is all you can acquire.
Where There Is No Dentist
The next most must-have basic medical reference. Most of us still have teeth and keeping them is a survival tool worth pursuing. Even if equipped with a full set of removable grinders oral problems can still occur and having a bit of guidance might make a significant difference in your health.
The latest update was in 2018, but the new information is not critical enough (advice on old mercury fillings and updated medications list) to warrant laying out the bucks for the latest edition compared to the original 1983 book. The basic essentials have not changed.
Pocket Companion for Physical Examination and Health Assessment
This is the portable version of a much larger book by Carolyn Jarvis. It indicates it is pocket-sized but we are talking cargo pockets, not your dress shirt. Most practitioners will have their favorites but this one was selected as being user friendly for people who don’t have the luxury of attending formal anatomy and physiology classes followed by instruction in hands on physical assessment beyond that of a first aider. Just make sure you already know how to use a stethoscope, reflex hammer, pulse oximeter, blood pressure cuff, etc.
It is now up to the 8th edition, to officially be released in February 2019. Because we aren’t clinical providers subject to potential malpractice suits any edition will prove useful. Used copies work just as well as new provided the ink hasn’t been worn off the pages. This book is nicely illustrated and written for nursing students, meaning it is well within the range of the average high school graduate and above to comprehend.
The HELP Guide To the Basics of Wound Care
This is my exception for the day to the rule against electronic downloads. This is a 16-page downloadable guide to wound care using some pretty gnarly color photographs to nicely illustrate the issue. There is of course much more to proper wound care than you can cover in 16 pages but this is an introduction to basic medical references that offer the maximum bang for the buck as it were. Download this, print it off in color, and add it to your medical reference shelf. Be forewarned though: they aren’t talking about combat wounds here but some of the principals remain the same.
The few references named above should comprise the minimum your medical library has, especially and most importantly if there is any chance you may have to train non-medical people – including children – from the very beginning.
Conspicuously missing is a reference on anatomy. That is a subject for a future article and will be addressed accordingly.
I must add a word of caution here: many useful medical books are offered as “free” downloads and anything free is very tempting. However, experience shows that most such offers are scams originating from outside the US. Free potentially means paying a registration fee, only to find that they don’t actually offer the promised book, but you can find a plethora of fiction works or craft manuals. Many of these sites come up as search engine results when looking for a particular title or topic.
Two of these known sites which are scams are Intech Open and AM – Medicine.
One service which actually offers free medical books is FreeBooks4Doctors. They will allow you to download books as a guest without even registering.
Medicins sans Frontieres is another reliable download service though their works tend to be refugee oriented. You may wish to consider them for the future as your need for more advanced reference materials grows.
Also recommended without reservation is Scribd. They do charge, but you can get frequent offers for a 30 day free trial if you offer your email but don’t follow through with payment. Scribd does offer some amazing medical books that we will address in future articles, the classic War Surgery Field Manual being but one.
Free-to-acquire aside electronic media is also the most unstable of storage media from the prepper standpoint. Nuclear war and/or EMP attacks are possible, but we know with absolute certainty that Carrington-type storms occur, just as they have ever since 1859 when the Effect was first observed. The solar tantrum that wipes out your 50,000 hours of easy listening and classical music for the bunker entertainment system would have zero effect on that pile of books and manuals.
In later articles in this series we will tackle more advanced references and why you should invest in at least some of them, even if you are in the beginning stages of learning prepper medicine. Meanwhile – safe and effective prepping.