Friday, May 27, 2011

It is in these times that I wish I were a Nurse.

I can barely change the channel lately without seeing the horrors of mother nature play out on the television. The news this morning tells of the possibility of more rain and hail, more damaging winds, more destruction.  I feel for the people affected by tornadoes and flooding, for their families and friends that are looking for loved ones, and for those who already know that their loved ones were called home by their Creator.

It is in these times that I wish I were already a nurse.  I see the Red Cross alerts asking for more volunteers to deploy to these areas to help with search and rescue and to staff the make shift field hospitals; I feel helpless knowing that there is nothing that I can do to help at this time.  Should I already be a nurse I would put in for vacation time and deploy to these areas so that someone might be saved, a family might be made whole again.

This is part of the reason why I want to become a nurse.  It is not because I have some idealistic idea of swooping in to save the day and having people appreciate the things, both big and small, that you do for them on a daily basis.  I have done the clinicals on the Medical/Surgical and Post Operative units with some telemetry mixed in, so I am completely aware that this job is, for the most part, thankless.  Patients yell at you, families yell at you, everyone needs your attention because they are the most important at that time.  You do everything you can to get it done with no expectations of gratitude, but you never decided to become a nurse because you want gratitude.  If you want to be thanked, if you want gratitude, if you want to be a star, you should have become a professional athlete.

No, I want to be a nurse for the everyday situations, but also for the disasters in the Mid-West and other places.  To be able to look at my hands and to use them to save a life, to comfort a loved one of a patient, to provide some sense of sanity when the rest of their world has gone the way of chaos (even though as a nurse you operate, and live, in a world of controlled insanity).  It is about running in while others are running out, to go into the hell as others are trying to escape, because you know that for some people that you are the very last hope they can cling to.

This is not something that is true only for nurses, but for all emergency and non-emergent medical personnel.  Paramedics, EMT's, Nurses, Nurses Aides, Doctors, Advanced Practice Nurses, Fire Fighters: we all rush in when panic has gripped others and I am grateful to all of my fellow medical personnel, both presently serving and those of us still learning.

It is these times that I wish I were a Nurse, because in times of chaos, everyone needs an anchor to hold onto.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Putting together a first aid kit, Part 1

In my last post I gave some thoughts on being prepared, and did a quick inventory of my own situation at home. In this post I am going to talk about putting together a first aid kit.  These will be things that I will be purchasing for my home/car kit.  Some of the items may not necessarily apply to everyone but it will give a general idea of what may be needed for first aid situations until you can get professional help, or things you will need to give treatment for minor things when professional help will not be needed.

Something that is very important for you to remember as you read this is that it is for informational purposes only.  It should not replace medical advice given to you by your doctor.  You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that you understand how to administer first aid.  The information that I am giving comes from my knowledge gained from first aid classes through organizations such as the Red Cross, from current reference resources, and from my Nursing school classes.  I encourage everyone to at least take a basic first aid class.

If you have ever purchased one of those small plastic kits from Wal-Mart, you would think that the only thing you need are some band-aids, a couple gauze bandages, a tongue depressor, one of those reflective blankets, and a glow stick.  Why do they include a glow stick?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that those kits are useful if you get a splinter, cut your finger, or run out of ibuprofen and remember that there is typically a pack in the med kit.  This is not my type of medical kit, and offers very little by way of filling the gap between the time an emergency happens and professional help arrives.

So what should you put in your first aid kit?  Keep in mind, this kit will be useful not only in your home and car, but also when you go on that camping trip. Let's start with the simple things.

 Every kit needs to have 2x2 and 4x4 gauze pads, abd (absorbent) pads in various sizes, and non-adherent (also called telfa) pads, which will meet a lot of dressing needs.  I personally prefer to use the ones that are already packaged separately and are sterile, but they can be also be found in non-sterile, clean packages.  2x2's are used to help clean a wound, and then the 4x4's are placed on the wound, followed by the abd pad on top of that which is then covered with the telfa pad and they are all taped into place.  These are great for keeping larger cuts, abrasions, burns and blisters covered, and clean to help promote healing.  In order to keep these bandages in place you will need tape.  There is the porous "paper" tape and the clear "plastic" transpore medical tape.  They are both very useful and cheap enough to keep them both on hand.

Compression bandages (think ACE bandages), are also good to have on hand for wrapping and stabilizing joints.  This is great for support in sports or hiking, or a joint that is giving you some pain.

Band-aids of various sizes should be added to the list, and used the same way you use them now.  Those little things that the larger dressings are not necessary for are the perfect candidates for band-aids.  Get them in multiple sizes and shapes and get ones that will stick.  I prefer the brown elastic ones because they stick well and you don't have to worry as much about them falling off, after all, what good is a band-aid that will not stay in place?

Gloves are the final item I will touch on in this post.  In my first aid kit, I will be placing both sterile and non-sterile "clean" gloves.  A lot of people will have no use for the sterile gloves because they will not keep them sterile while putting on and using them which will make it moot to have them, however if you do know how to use them and keep them sterile, they are a fantastic idea to have especially when dealing with burns because burns carry with them a higher rate of infection.  Sterile gloves will also keep those sterile gauze, well, sterile.  The clean gloves, are your regular run of the mill "latex" gloves, however I suggest that you get nitrile gloves instead of latex gloves.  The chances of having an allergic reaction to nitrile gloves are much smaller than a reaction with latex gloves.

That is all I will touch on for now, the next post will discuss medications including sterile saline, pills, and topical ointments and sprays.  All of the products I have discussed here can be found at your local drug store, online by doing a simple Google search, or from this website http://www.shopmedvet.com/ which has some of the cheapest supplies that I can find.

Stay safe,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In light of recent events, my thoughts on being prepared.

As I sit here and catch up on news reports from the past week or two, I see an overwhelming majority of them are comprised of two things; the wedding of William and Kate, and the tragedies being dealt with across our country as a result of tornadoes and flooding.  The former I am not very concerned with, it is the latter that has been weighing on my mind.

As I take a quick look around my apartment and do a small mental inventory, I am a bit surprised at how SOL my wife and I would be if a disaster occurred here.  I couldn't even find a cold drink when I came home from the range today, non-the-less find something to drink if we lost the use of utilities here.  Sure, we have a few food items here but not nearly enough to last even 3 days if we needed to survive for that long.  I am only thinking of basics, such as a snow storm that closes down the city for a few days, or a storm that causes the lose of power that can not be restored for some time.  I can not imagine what would happen in the event of a larger natural disaster.  Had we been hit with the tornadoes and flooding that some others sustained, we would be up a creek without a paddle in site.

I asked myself a few simple questions before deciding to write this post:  how long could I survive taking most things into consideration.  Food, water, warmth, basic first aid, emergent first aid, and safety are the most immediate things in my mind (feel free to suggest others) that would need to be addressed in the event of an emergency.  I am prepared to provide exactly none of these things to myself and my wife at this moment in time.

We do have a first aid kit, it is stocked with bandaids, and maybe some ointments, but not much else is in there.  We have no bandages to deal with heavier bleeding, or to wrap limbs in the event of a strain or sprain.  We have some anti-inflammatories, NSAIDS, anti-pyretics etc etc (think Aleve, Tylenol, Ibuprofen and other things that you might take for fever, pain, swelling), as well as things like Tums and Pepto.  We have nothing available for more emergent care and in that case, especially if emergency services are tied up, as would be the case in a disaster situation.  We would be in a lot of trouble.  Luckily my wife, nor I, take prescription medications.

I addressed the food and water issue, we simply do not have it.

In regards to warmth, we have plenty of blankets, but we do not have an alternate heat source in our apartment. If we lose power, we also lose the heat.  I am sure we could survive for awhile with blankets, but eventually the cold would get to us even in our apartment.  I think, in a pinch, some of those reflective blankets would help and when combined with those 12 hour hand and feet warmers, we could survive a bit longer.

Where safety is concerned, I have a limited supply of items in order to keep us safe.  Needless to say I need much more.  I do not want to delve into what I am lacking because it is a security issue, and I am not going to divulge where there are weaknesses here.  Suffice it to say, I can hold off a band of marauders for a time, but not indefinitely.

So what does all of this mean for me?  Well, it means that if tomorrow I was in a disaster situation this would probably be my last blog post.  This also means that I am going to begin preparing our home for an emergency situation. This means getting a food supply (canned goods, MRE type products), bottled water and water purifying items, first aid items, and items to help with basic comfort needs such as keeping warm, clean and dry.

I plan to make a series of posts to chronicle my research on these topics and to show how I begin to prepare. My hope is that I can get the supplies needed to survive for at least 3-5 days, as well as medical supplies that can be transported. I hope that this can also be a resource to others that want to be a little more prepared.