Sunday, June 12, 2011

Medical Kits

   Whether you are in the woods or in town it is important to have medical training 
and a good medical kit available.

   During our Basic Bushcraft course we discuss how important it is to always have a small survival tin with you at all times. You can make them small enough that you forget about it somewhere in one of your pockets. You should have one of these kits in every jacket, jumper, and coat that you own.
   The same preparation is important with a medical kit. You don't need a large kit containing massive trauma supplies. Put a few plasters, tablets, steristrips and an alcohol wipes into your bushcraft kit or a separate medical kit.

   More important than  having a medical kit is the knowledge to know how to use it and when to use it. Anyone can buy a medical kit from Aldi or your local market. Many people do. We all like our toys and our kits. I remember rock climbing in Seattle with a bunch of IT guys from Microsoft. They were so excited about all of their new kit, cookers, and climbing gear that they forgot why they came out into the woods in the first place.

   That approach can be dangerous when it comes to medical gear and medical training. If you buy a large first aid kit, you are only as protected as the person who knows how to use the kit. People who travel a lot or go on expeditions will buy the nice medical kit and think that if they are ever in medical trouble all they need to do is open the kit and all will be well.

   Not so fast!

   First, whatever kit you have you need to be intimately familiar with it. Medical kit or otherwise. The first time you open your medical kit should not be when you are on the mountain and having trouble or bleeding heavily.

Buy your kit. Open you kit. Play with your kit.

   Oh, and replenish your kit. I would suggest that you buy two kits. One kit you keep well stocked and topped up with additional advanced medical toys. The other kit is identical. This kit you take out at least once per month and play with all of the toys.

   In Special Forces medicine I don't see this approach very often. When we teach the "normal" troops we often see the medical kits still wrapped up in the shipping wrapper. The US Marines where the worse when it came to this. Their command would order them to never touch their IFAK in order to be ready for inspection at any time. We asked the Marine wearing his medical kit to open it up and show us what he knows about the contents. He looked at us aghast. He had never opened it. He had NO idea what was inside. This was the kit he deployed with to Iraq. Thankfully he never had to use it.

Bleeding out from a major wound is not the time to play "what the heck is in my first aid kit."

   The civilians are just as difficult with this as the military. I have seen people living in remote areas of the planet talk about having the latest blood stoppers in their kit. When I ask them if they knew how to apply it they mumbled something about youtube. Medical training is not something you learn by watching the tele. Some of the blood stoppers reach a temperature of 160C! Unless you know how to use it correctly you will do more damage than good.

   Enter medical training
        If you have to choose between paying for a medical course and buying a really nice kit, always go for the training. With some great "unconventional" medical training you will be able to implement and fabricate most of your medical gear. Why did I say "unconventional?" 
   Conventional medical training works wonderfully if you have quick access to a hospital or advanced paramedics. If you do not, there really is nothing you can do with your patient except go through their pockets for loose change. Prolonged care is an incomprehensible concept in normal medicine.

   Unconventional Medical Education can be found in remote, austere and wilderness settings. In the military we were spoon fed this concept from day one. You cannot always assume that the magic helicopter will come down and collect your injured. The same goes for most of Ireland and many parts of Scotland and the Scandinavian countries.
   I am not surprised that the majority of my medical students come from Ireland, Scandinavia or are travelling to very remote areas of the world. Those students already know the value of good kit and good medical training to follow that up.

Before you buy your medical kit
    Go out and enroll in a wilderness medical course. The REC courses are brilliant for this. There are also options to take a Wilderness EmergencyFirst Responder course. If you really want to be safe in the wilderness, and more importantly, if you want to provide safety for your friends and family, then take one of theses courses before you buy your expensive kit.

Suggested Medical Training
   Get medical training from different organisations. Everyone has their particular passions. If you take a REC 2 course from two different instructors, you will have two very different experiences and twice the medical knowledge.
   I would start with a two day first aid course. Sure you can take our REC 2 course and you will go away with a tremendous amount of medical knowledge. But if you can't make it to Kerry, take the REC 2 course in Wicklow or Dublin. Then come back to RMI and take the Wilderness First Responder. Those two courses will cover the majority of what you need in medical training at home and in the woods.

If you are a bit touched.......
   Continue your medical training with the Remote Emergency Medical Technician course. That courses start you on your path to being a medical professional.

But I have to warn you.. If you think you have a medical kit now....wait until you see all the kits you will have after this training!!!!!!

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