Letter Re: Advanced Medical Training and Facilities for Retreat Groups

Mr. Rawles,
Last month I wrote to SurvivalBlog about what do one would do medically in TEOTWAWKI, when all systems are down. I had received three very good replies, and have ben thinking about what was said. I want to thank those people for their valued replies. Now, I have more questions and concerns.

From what I’ve read concerning medical advice leaves me wondering. All of the advice given has stated to get a good quality Field Surgical Kit, and two books: “Emergency War Surgery”; and, “Where there is no Doctor”. Then these articles went on to [imply that] when a medical emergency arises, grab your surgical kit and the Emergency War Surgery Manual, and handle the situation. This is where I am concerned.

First: The human body is not like the family car. Both are made up of many complex parts that must work together to provide transportation, in the sense of a car, and life, in the sense of the human body. There are numerous maintenance manuals for the car, and the repair of your auto can be learned in a short time. However, This is not the case for the human body. The human body is composed of many systems, that are inter-related. It takes a highly trained individual to repair us, and sometimes, complex medical instruments to help him do his job. The skills are not learned over night or in the quietness of your family room. They must be used and practiced on a continual basis in order to do the job properly. Anyone that says he can operate on a human being with a Field Surgical Kit in one hand and an Emergency War Surgery Manual in the other, in my humble opinion is wrong! This individual is about to break the Cardinal Rule of Medicine: First, “Do Thy Patient No Harm!”

Second: For those either setting up a retreat or are already living with theirs, I ask this question: Are you prepared for medical emergencies? I’m talking about a specific area for treatment (i.e. disease and trauma)? If you do not, then now is the time to prepare for that need. A treatment facility need not be very large–about the size of a two-car garage. Inside this structure would be an operating suite, intensive care unit for two patients, and a small laboratory. You will need specialized training to utilize each area. You can add wind or solar power systems, running water, or whatever you feel is necessary. It takes a lot of work and effort to build something like this. It will also be expensive to supply the right equipment.

Third: If you are a member of a group, you may be in a better position to set up a treatment facility, and to find a General Practitioner Physician/Surgeon. Finding such an individual is like having gold in hand. This individual would be the most important member of your group. He would take care of all the aches, pains, sniffles and sneezes.

Think about these things and give me your feedback. It will be valuable information to all the readers. In advance I want to thank you for your replies. – DS in Wisconsin
Not every retreat group is blessed with finding a doctor to be part of their group. In the absence of a doctor, I recommend that at least one group member get EMT training. This is best accomplished by volunteering with your local Emergency Medical Service. These are usually paid positions, so the pay offsets the training expenses.

JWR Replies: Regardless of whether or not your group has a medical professional, I recommend that all adult group members get as much training as time allows. Start out by taking the Red Cross basic and advanced courses and their CPR course. Then take the field medic course offered by Medical Corps. Several SurvivalBlog readers have taken this course, and they all have all commented to me about how impressed with their training. In fact, one of our readers from Hawaii flew all the way to Ohio to take this course, and he reported that it was worth the expense. Their upcoming class (May, 2008) is full, but get on the waiting list for the next one.

I also recommend the Practical Medical Course taught by the Western Rifle Shooters Association. (This course is subtitled: “Field Expedient Medical Care for Outdoorsmen in Austere Environments.”) Coincidentally, they have one scheduled for May 16-17-18, 2008 in Brookings, Oregon. Check their web site regularly, for announcements of other course dates and locations. This modestly-priced training, led by an Emergency Room doctor with 35 years of experience, will teach you many things that the Red Cross doesn’t teach you! For example, their classes place an emphasis on treating gunshot wounds.

Only the largest and best-financed groups could afford to set up a surgery suite and lab like you described. It is a worthy goal. But keep in mind that even modest medical training, instruments, facilities, and logistics are better than no preparation–which sadly is the state of 98% of American families.