The following post on medical preparedness is contributed by Pete Farmer, who holds advanced degrees in research biology and history, and is also an RN and EMT.
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If you are in the process of preparing for future medical contingencies, a critical step is to recognize that no one possesses all of the medical scientific knowledge necessary to survive and thrive in a disaster scenario. The explosion of new knowledge in medicine and the life sciences over the last quarter century, to say nothing of the revolution in bioengineering and computers, has assured that no one person can “know it all” concerning human health, medical diagnosis and treatment, and so much else.
Once you’ve acknowledged your limitations, what comes next? One could do worse than build a high-quality collection of medical and scientific references. Please note that collecting the books and media alone will do little to get you ready in practical terms unless you study them diligently, and put the knowledge you have learned into use. Also, do not substitute books for contacts; build your medical network at the same time as you build your library. Both are vital. So, without further adieu, here are some recommendations.
Basic science textbooks – this recommendation is open-ended, depending on your level of scientific education and training, which you will have to determine. I recommend current college-level texts in general biology, general chemistry (inorganic and organic) zoology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and cell biology/biochemistry. Reputable college texts in physics and statistics are also valuable. Choose appropriate computer-based substitutes as feasible.
Drug Reference Guide – A current copy of the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) is a cornerstone of the medical caregiver’s library. The PDR, published annually, collects drug package insert and manufacturer prescribing information in a single volume. It is published in professional and lay (general readership) versions. The professional version is accessible to motivated general readers with access to a medical dictionary. The PDR is bulky and may be too-advanced for some readers, and consequently you may favor a portable reference such as a drug guide for nurses. Excellent volumes by Mosbey and other medical publishers are available at chain bookstores, on the internet and elsewhere (university medical, nursing, and health sciences booksellers will have these works also). There is also a PDR for non-prescription drugs, supplements and herbs, for readers so inclined.
Medical dictionary – You’ll need one, trust me, unless you are already a physician, and even then – you may still want one.
First Aid – Responding to Emergencies – Published by the American Red Cross, this volume is recommended for those seeking knowledge of BLS (basic life support) and first aid. An EMT-B manual or text would probably also fill the bill here as well.
U.S. Army Special Forces Handbook – A concise field guide to the many contingencies a special forces medical NCO might encounter while on duty, and a very good reference for anyone who may have to deliver medical care under less-than-optimal circumstances. This guide, now somewhat dated, has been superseded by the newer Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook, which is illustrated and features contributions from some 80 military and civilian authorities (not yet reviewed by this author).
Where There is No Dentist – Murray Dickson. This volume is a classic of expedient dentistry, well-regarded by medical preppers for many years. Written for the lay person in clear, straight-forward language.
Where There is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook – Jane Maxwell. This highly-respected work is the medical counterpart to the above volume. A classic of its own.
Emergency War Surgery – Dr. Martin Fackler. An essential reference for the handling of combat trauma. As recommended by James Rawles and featured in his book “Patriots.”
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy – Well-used by physicians for many years, this is a classic standard text. It may be tough to tackle for lay users.
Medical Corps (http://www.medicalcorps.org/) – Medical Corps, run by former U.S. Navy corpsman and Vietnam veteran Chuck Fenwick, teaches operational medicine workshops. His website has a page devoted to references – books, audiovisual materials, etc. Among the best references mentioned on the site is a DVD entitled “Operational Medicine,” by Michael J. Hughey, MD – which is a very complete resource on operational medicine, field medical care and public health, and related issues. Though it isn’t cheap, this DVD is worth the money provided you have a laptop or PC on which to play it. Dr. Hughey’s website is at: http://www.operationalmedicine.org/about_us.htm.
101 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare – Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D. You didn’t really expect me to leave this useful and very readable book off of my list, did you? This handy book is filled with tips on how to make the most of your healthcare dollar, and many of its suggestions apply equally well to survival medicine. Dr. Koelker has an upcoming book , so watch this space for a heads-up when it is available.
In addition to the above references, I would recommend reading some non-fictional, biographic, or autobiographical works on medical care – whatever interests you. These will give you some insight into the challenges healthcare providers face in the real-world. Pick up a book by a physician, nurse, paramedic, military or civilian – and prepare to have your eyes opened. There are also some remarkably realistic and well-done films depicting trauma care in battle – from “Flags of Our Fathers” to “Blackhawk Down” and many others. Whether you are a newbie or an old hand, these will prove education and entertaining both. Of special note concerning trauma care, I was very impressed and quite moved by “On Call in Hell,” by LCDR Richard Jadick, D.O. – who served as a U.S. Navy battalion surgeon during the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq. He and his team of corpsmen saved lives under the most trying circumstances imaginable.
Unfortunately, I have not yet read Dr. Paul Farmer’s (no relation to the author) volume on medical care in the developing world, but I hear it is quite good.
Please note, in addition to the websites and references mentioned above, this article was prepared in part using works listed/mentioned on SurvivalBlog.com, the superb prepping website by James Rawles.
In closing, please feel free to comment on this list; suggestions, comments and criticisms are welcome. Happy reading and viewing…
Copyright © 2010 Peter Farmer