Urbanites often ask, “But what will you do if you need medical assistance way out there?”
I, like many who live off the grid, answer somewhat dismissively and definitely fatalistically, “Well, we do what everyone does, of course, we get ourselves to the emergency ward and simply expect that it will take a bit longer to get there. We deal with a few more situations at home than do city dwellers but, when the situation is dire and emergent in the extreme, we seek professional help.”
I am changing my mind a bit on that……….
The last blog illustrated the problem well. We had an emergent and dire situation and we called for help. It came. It took too long but it happened. All in all, the situation was handled just like the first two paragraphs above suggested.
But it was NOT ideal. Of course, no emergency situation will ever be ideal but our response might have been better. We were definitely willing.
So, I have been re-thinking it. FOR ME.
Maybe it is just me…maybe I am NOT as experienced as some others. But, regardless, rather than acting decisively, we all deferred to the ‘professionals’ and that is the part I am re-thinking for myself.
When I burnt my leg badly a few years ago, I just treated it at home. A nurse-friend visiting the day after the burn was horrified and sent pictures to her burn-specialist sister who advised immediate medical attention with a suggested skin graft. I opted to ignore her, treated it myself and the decision worked out. I do not even have a scar. Had it been even worse than it was, I might have followed her suggestion. I doubt it. I know what they do for burns and I can do it as well as they can.
And therein lies the issue. We can often deal with our own problems. People have been doing so for eons. But, more and more, we defer to ‘experts’. I am not so sure that is as necessary as we all think. I could be wrong. But I think we can do more for ourselves than we have been conditioned to think we can.
Admittedly, when one is hurt, thinking that independently is NOT the first instinct. Our first instinct is to ask for assistance and I understand that completely. I have been hurt badly enough times to know what goes through the victim’s head. “Yikes! Help!”
Having said that, when I cut my little toe off when I was involved in a large crash while racing motorcycles decades ago, I drove myself home from the race course because it was taking too long for the ambulance to get there and, of course, no one was going to take care of my bike and equipment. I went home and asked my father to drive me to the hospital. It was about 11:00 am when I got home, my boot was filled with blood and I was covered in mud. So, I cut off the boot and I had a shower with the toe hanging off my foot by a ligament. Seemed like a good idea at the time and it was.
When my father drove me to Vancouver General, I realized that I was also very hungry and that we were not likely to get seen right away so I suggested we stop at the White Spot for take-out. We did. I got into VGH at about 1:00 pm. My toe was on the ice-bag we brought from home.
The surgeon sewed my right foot little toe back on at 11:00 pm. More than twelve hours after the event! He erred a bit and it now sits a bit sideways. It did not work for a few years but it is now a fine specimen of a right little toe only a bit less efficient because of it’s sideways orientation.
Could I have sewed on my own toe? No. I could not. Sally, maybe (hadn’t met her yet)….but I could get cleaned up. I could get some food in me. And I could get all my stuff home and have someone who cared take me to the hospital. In other words, I first did what I could for myself.
And – transferring that silly story to living out here – I think we first have to do what we can for ourselves. Most everyone does already. Sal takes out any stitches I may have acquired – it’s a simple task (made simpler by repetition). And do not forget the woman who broke her leg last year and then drove herself to the hospital.
She had it right. Basically, I think we have to rely even less on the professionals and become a bit more skilled in treating ourselves. I think all of us can.
Our little community is already starting to talk about that.
I think my answer to the city-dweller as written above will eventually change. “Well, we first take the time to assess the situation. Then we factor in the delay of waiting for help and the inevitable slowness of the pace of the professionals involved. So we MAY just call one of our own first aid trained OTG’ers first and allow them to make decisions. It is very likely that in all circumstances, we will eventually seek professional help but we are going to have to learn to act as ‘first responders’ ourselves. In fact, we may undertake to provide our own transport instead of waiting for people in uniform.
It is NOT an equipment or logistical thing, it is an attitudinal shift that is required.
I am NOT being critical of the police when I say this: they could do nothing to help us. They even eventually retreated to the warmth of their own vehicle at one point.
When they first arrived, they took note of the victims, took notes from the witnesses but, after those first two to three minutes of being official observers, they inspected the inside of the overturned vehicle checking for booze or drugs (my assumption but I cannot conceive of anything else) and they were looking at the vehicle longer than they were looking at the worst hurt of the accident victims.
Am I really critical and just pretending NOT to be…? NO. They made sure the car was going to be eligible for an ICBC clam and they had the vehicle towed off the hill by early the next day and that was a huge assist to the community.
But – as first responders – they were not helpful to the victims.
If it makes sense for us to live more independently, that has to include emergency situations. We do it already but we may have to do it a bit better. I am thinking we may have to elevate that ability in our own community.”
I didn’t know about the burn situation. Wasn’t in the book was it? Then again, I didn’t hear about the (almost) missing toe either.
I find living OTG makes one a little more cautious, but accidents DO happen. That’s why they’re called ‘accidents’ and not ‘onpurposes’.
I made the effort to check in with the nearest medical service when I first moved out. Apparently, they do have an emergency department. Only its only open from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. All emergencies outside of normal emergent hours are to be referred to 911, if you’re able to hobble/drag yourself to the nearest land line (we don’t have cell service yet). Apparently they will dispatch an ambulance from the nearest centre, about an hour each way. Better be a pretty minor emergency or one might end up dead.
Yeah. We are ‘peripheral’. The Fire Department’s jurisdiction ends about 100 or so yards from where we were on the other island so they wouldn’t go any further. Imagine that! But the cops extend that distance but they were less prepared than we were. So, were they there just in aid of ICBC? And, bear in mind, we were all on the ‘civilized’ island preparing to depart the GRID!
The accidents I mentioned about me are but two of dozens. I have not learned to be much more careful but I have learned to heal well. Second best, I guess. Scars are sexy, they say…..
Other than having an automatic defibrillator and a helicopter landing pad ( big enough for one of those double rotor Search and Rescue egg beaters…yo ho blow my house down!) near your hacienda….yer on yer own brudda!
As for the police…..empathy, but not much ERT qualifications( probably not allowed to help medically cause they may get sued….thank the lawyers).
As a personal servant who survived the sinking of the Titanic once said,
” I did my duty, saw my charges off in the lifeboats and then grabbed two bottles of rum, stuffed them in the pockets of my wool overcoat, and a lifejacket and jumped overboard”
He spend HOURS in the Atlantic and survived… when people in lifeboats died of exposure.( the water was 0c the air was -10c + windchill)
Ya never know when yer timeclock is punched.
But what the hell.
Maybe your community can implement some sort of volunteer ERT?
Couldnt hurt to have a bunch of Industrial First Aiders in your midst…..
We do have a de-fib at the post office but you pretty much need a good heart to get to it. And I was e-vac’ed by helicopter when I was run over by the outboard motor so a single person rescue is possible. And we assembled/cobbled a first aid station in the community centre but again, I’d need a boat and a car to get to it. Sal and I have the equivalent of a small suitcase in medical supplies but only I have the knowledge to take out Sal’s appendix. She would be loathe to remove any of my parts, I am sure. I’d be a bit reluctant myself. In the community there are maybe half a dozen with 1st Aid tickets of some kind but they are spread out over 25 square miles of islands. But none of that is the point. the point s simply this: if the person is conscious, they can advise another so long as that ‘other’ has a high two-digit IQ and there is something to work with. Relying on ‘the professionals’ is relying on people who rely on the grid and we have already rejected that – may as well include them as well. Even if they are good, they are too far away. We are here. We are now. We have to act.
I may sell that slogan to the next big protest group….
But I think you’re selling Sal a bit short in the medical dept..
Most women could remove a mans head with a frying pan if given enough incentive……try it!