So You’re the Medic. Now What? (Part II)

“When” disaster strikes, regardless of the cause, the medic, (or medics) are going to be very busy indeed.

If there are injured, such as in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, triage and tending to the injured will be first and foremost.

However, even in a non-violent bug out situation where the physical injuries are few or minor, chances are there are going to be a lot of distraught, overly stressed people who are going to need your help just as much, if not more than if they’d been physically injured. Many may have watched as everything they owned was destroyed by a hurricane or tornado, fire or numerous other unthinkable acts of nature or man. They may have even lost friends or loved ones and will need, minimally, consolation. Chances are their entire world and sense of stability just ceased to exist. More than likely, a few will need more than just a shoulder to cry on. The primal fight or flight response will be in full swing and epinephrine will be flowing through everyone in your group in torrents. This natural, normal reaction to danger alone can cause serious problems in those with cardiac or emotional issues. Those people will need to be watched very closely.

Different people react to extreme situations in different ways. Ideally, most will have anticipated and planned for such a dire situation and will be shaken but under control, thinking through the situation as rationally as they possibly can under the circumstances and helping to get things under some semblance of control. Unfortunately, no one knows how they will react to extreme situations until they’ve dealt with one.

Some will revert into themselves and become quiet and possibly unresponsive-known in military jargon as “shell-shocked.” While these people will require your attention, those demonstrating signs of hysteria are going to be your first concern. They will not be at the helm of their own ship, so to speak, and their hysteria can not only cause them to do something to endanger themselves or others, but it could spread through the group like wildfire causing total chaos. Depending on the size of your group, that can get ugly very quickly.

Unless your group medic is an MD, chances are you’re not going to have any prescription sedatives on hand. While some injectable Ativan would be a Godsend, it’s probably not an option. At a time like this, your team needs everyone in control of their faculties and doing what needs to be done to organize and stabilize the situation.

Regardless of what you’ve seen in the movies, slapping a hysterical person across the face or throwing cold water on them will rarely bring them back to their senses. It can even cause them to go into shock-or worse. More than likely, it’s just going to make a bad situation worse and cause them to be even more agitated and out of control. Knocking them unconscious with a hammer crack to the cranium is not an option no matter how appealing it may seem at the time. That only works in cartoons and Three Stooges shorts.

For those in your group who have doctor prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, this might be a good time to make sure they take them. Oral anti anxiety meds are usually not fast acting. It will take time for things to get down to a dull roar, but it’s a start. If you’ve studied the medical questionnaire that each member of your group should have filled out pre-disaster, you should have an idea of who has been prescribed meds for anxiety or depression and can discretely suggest that they take them. How they handle and distribute any extra meds they may have on hand is a discussion you can have if such a situation arises. Sharing meds is illegal and against medical advice, but in a dire situation where emergency services are overburdened or non-existent, the rules are going to change and the immediate needs of those in your group will be your only concern.

Your calmness and rational-speak are going to be your best, first line of defense when dealing with a hysterical person. Regardless of your personal anguish, you’re the medic. You’re responsible for the wellbeing of the people you’ve been elected to care for. Put on your best, calm face and concentrate only on the needs of those in need of your assistance. You can decompress when everything is under control.

Try speaking calmly to them, assuring them that things are going to be OK. Stress the need for their services in setting up your camp. If you’ve drilled as a group, everyone should have a specific task to complete when the group meets after the disaster. Duty and the needs of others tend to have a very sobering effect on those suffering from emotional overload.

Do not, under any circumstances, try to immediately embrace or restrain a hysterical person unless there is a chance that they’re going to do something to hurt themselves or others. Causing them to feel cornered or trapped will only make matters worse and possibly get you or someone else hurt. In most survival groups, everyone’s probably packing so if things aren’t quickly brought under control, a bad situation can escalate into a secondary disaster in a heartbeat.

Reiterating here that I am not a medical doctor and do not diagnose, prescribe or recommend any medical or herbal treatments in any way, shape or form, having a supply of herbal sedatives on hand will definitely come in handy in a SHTF situation. Keep in mind always that just because they’re natural remedies doesn’t mean that there can’t be adverse side effects in some people. Most of the common prescription drugs on the market were originally derived from natural ingredients. Have you seen some of the commercials on TV lately regarding the possible side effects of the drugs they’re touting? In some cases, the side effects seem to be worse than the condition they’re meant to treat! Do your homework, know any herbals you plan on carrying in your medical supply kit right down to their very essence-and know your patients.

Some of the more common, readily available sedatives would be Ashwaganda, Valerian Root, Passion Flower, Skull Cap and Chamomile. Like oral antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, none of these will immediately calm a hysterical individual, but should calm them over a period of time. Regarding adverse effects of herbals, Chamomile, for instance, in contraindicated in those with allergies to ragweed. Know your patients, their allergies and medical conditions and the contraindications of the herbals you’re carrying.

Benadryl (with many bulk generic brands available) should be a staple in your medical supplies to deal with allergies and allergic reactions.   It is nonprescription, inexpensive and also has sleep inducing effects and may be an option to calm a hysterical person in a pinch. Here again, some people will fall asleep shortly after taking as little as a 25mg dose, while others can tolerate much higher doses without even a yawn.

Family can be of great help to someone who is overwhelmed. That old expression, “No one knows you like family,” couldn’t be truer. Having a family member console someone suffering an overload, after insuring that they’re not otherwise injured and are disarmed, will free the medic(s) up to deal with other individuals who may require their help.

In a SHTF scenario, chaos is deadly. Things need to be done expediently and correctly to insure the continued safety and comfort of the group collective.

Plan well, drill often and always be prepared. Expect and prepare for the unexpected. Your life and those of your friends and loved ones will depend on it.

Until next time, keep prepping, studying and learning new and inventive ways to care for those who will be placed in your care.

Brian Greenleaf is a former paramedic with extensive training in herbal medicine, body work and massage. He and his wife, Brenda, an RN, have been prepping and training for three years.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Nothing in this article is intended to be taken as medical advice and should not be construed as such; nor is it intended to treat, cure or prevent any medical conditions. This article is for informational purposes only


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