Medical emergencies happen all of the time, in fact, these are one of the most urgent of all emergencies you can face. If you run out of money, you probably won’t die. If you lose your job you probably won’t die. If you have a heart attack, you probably will die without quick medical treatment. Here’s some tips to help you take care of any medical crisis that may occur:
Before an emergency happens, be prepared:
- Have a well stocked first aid kit.
- Know some basic first aid skills such as CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, and how to fix up some basic injuries such as sprains, cuts, minor illnesses, etc.
- If you or anyone in your home takes medication on a regular basis, try to have at least a three month prescription for each necessary medication and always keep a good supply of said meds on hand; you don’t want to run out right as a hurricane hits your town, thus closing down every pharmacy within a many mile radius. This is especially critical with medications needed for acute problems such as Nitro pills for a heart condition or an Epi Pen for someone with serious allergies.
- You should keep a list of pertinent medical information for each family member in an easy to access location; this information should include each person’s name, birth date, name of doctor, doctor’s phone number, allergies, and list of past and current medical issues (chronic medical problems, surgeries, etc). The list should also include the name, dosage, and reason for taking each prescription medication the person uses. In an emergency, this information can be invaluable.
- Other ways to be prepared prior to a medical emergency is by having some useful (but spendy) equipment such as an AED (automatic external defibrillator) which can make the difference between living and dying from a heart attack, taking the time to learn more advanced medical skills through an EMT or Paramedic course, and practicing (ie: volunteering with the local ambulance so you will get some real life experience at treating patients in an emergent situation).
- Having basic first aid/medical books on hand can help tremendously for unusual or uncommon problems that you need more information on.
- Note that the more remote you are, the greater the chance that YOU will be put in the position to have to render medical care. If you live a mile from the trauma center, you could cart the patient there yourself but if you are living in the Central American highlands, medical care could be hours or days away, and your skills and equipment could make the difference between life and death for your friends and family members.
- Make sure the scene is safe. If the person is in a burning car, obviously do what you can to carefully remove them from the car. If there has been a shooting, make sure the shooter is gone before you attempt to help the person or you could be the next victim. assess the situation quickly.
- Does the person need basic at-home medical care or will they require immediate medical attention (you can usually tell this by looking at the patient—if they can’t breathe or are having difficulty breathing, if they are having classic symptoms of a heart attack, if they are having a severe allergic reaction such as hives or intense swelling of the face and extremities, if there is copious amounts of blood, if an extremity is positioned very oddly (like a foot facing backwards or bones protruding), or if there is the possibility that the person has a head, neck or back injury, these are good signs that advanced emergency medical care is required.
- In the case of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately or have someone else call before you begin any type of care (you don’t want to start CPR then have to stop to call 911 so call 911 first).
- Administer basic first aid: CPR in the case of a heart attack, the Heimlich Maneuver in the case of someone choking, compress the wound in the case of bleeding, etc.
- Take direction from the 911 operator. They will tell you what you can do to help the patient before the ambulance arrives. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you can’t stay on the phone for some reason, tell them, don’t just hang up.
- Do what you can to keep the patient calm, breathing, and their blood circulating until help arrives.
- Don’t try to perform advanced medical procedures yourself unless there is absolutely no other option. You may have seen someone make a slit in a patients throat on TV then put a tube in to help them breath but if you’ve never done it before, the 911 operator does not instruct you to do it, and medical care is on its way, DON’T DO IT.
- When help arrives, stay out of the way unless otherwise directed and provide necessary information in a clear, concise way to the medical responders.
- In the case of minor emergencies, treat as per the problem (ie: disinfect a scrape, put on some antibacterial ointment and a bandage).
- If you are unsure as to the severity of the situation, you can call the nurse hotline at your local clinic or hospital, call the Poison Control Center in the event of a possible poisoning, or call 911 for direction.
- Follow up with the patient to ensure their medical needs are being met.
- Restock any supplies you have used from your first aid kit.
- Find out more—after having lived through such an experience, people are often interested in learning the first aid skills that “they never thought they would use”.
Medical emergencies can be traumatic for all involved but with a little preparedness and practice, you can be the difference between life and death for someone.