Take Care of Yourself

Sometimes being an EMT is frustrating. We take people to the hospital who, had they made a few different choices, would be OK. I’m not just talking about choosing not to take drugs or drink and drive, although I wish I could go back in time and beat different decisions out of those people. But there are people out there that don’t take basic care of themselves. Sure, maybe we all put off going to the doctor or dentist for longer than we should. That’s both a normal part of being an adult and having a busy schedule. But if something is actually wrong and you ignore it, well, you’re just asking for trouble.

When I was in the Navy, it was an oddly ideal situation. We got to treat people in the way that they needed to be treated, without having to worry about insurance approvals and all of that. As long as people got treated at a military treatment facility, we could do what was needed to get them healthy again. It’s a pretty good system if you get the right people to work it.

But for the rest of you, I know that medicines and doctor visits and tests and specialists and all of that can really add up. No doubt it is expensive and unfortunately not everyone can afford all that they need. But there are grants and supplemental insurances and payment plans. You should at least try to do all you can to get the care you need, whether it is difficult or not.

Look at it this way: if you need a certain medication to make sure that your blood pressure stays low enough for you not to die, you should try as hard as you can to get that medication and continue taking it on a regular basis. That’s expensive and I get it. But the heart attack you have when you don’t take the medication will make things worse. If the heart attack does not kill you, you’re faced with a whole host of other problems. Aside from the health concerns after having the heart attack, you’ll have more financial difficulties. The ambulance ride, the specialists, the possible surgery. All of that stuff is way more expensive in the hospital. Comparatively, monthly maintenance medications don’t seem so expensive now do they?

I know, I know, it’s all wishful thinking. It is stupid that people who need treatment can’t always get treatment when they need it, or they have to get prior medical approval, or it costs thousands of dollars. The people around here have a tough time in a lot of ways, and that can make it difficult. In general, it isn’t a healthy area, jobs don’t pay enough, and healthcare is stupidly expensive. I get that there isn’t much I can do about that, either.

Just please. Do what you can to take care of yourself. I would much rather meet you at a bar over a few beers than while you are face down in your kitchen when you keel over from that heart attack.

Emergency Kit For Your Car

The average person spends more time in their car than they want. If you commute long distances, you spend a lot of time in your car. Those of you with kids who are in different activities also spend a lot of time in your car shuttling kids around. Why am I reminding you of that depressing fact?

It is because the more time you spend in your car, the more likely you will have some kind of incident while in it. I know this because I essentially work out of a vehicle. It might be as small as a skinned knee or as big as a crash but stuff happens on the road so you need to be prepared. To make things harder, you need to be covered on two fronts: mechanical and personal.

For your car, you need jumper cables or a portable starter battery (which you then have to remember to keep charged). A phone charger is good to keep in your car in case your battery is dead during an emergency. The camera on it will also help if you are in a wreck so you can take pictures of your car and the other person’s. Also a flashlight and flares or triangle reflectors to keep you safe if you have to make repairs or wait for a tow in the dark or bad weather. Speaking of repairs, a toolkit with a jack, tire iron, a tire inflator and patch kit, and a spare will make things easier for you. You also need fluids – motor oil, coolant, washer fluid, and water. If you live where there is snow, you’ll need an ice scraper. Kitty litter can help you gain traction if you are stuck in mud or snowy slush. I also keep a seatbelt cutter/window breaker in the car. Those things will help you handle most situations.

Now for things to keep in the car for you: a pen and paper in case you get into a wreck and need to take someone’s information, some non-perishable snacks like granola or energy bars to eat if you get trapped in your car and need to wait for help, a blanket to stay warm if you get stuck and need to stay warm, and a basic first aid kit.

If this sounds too complicated, there are pre-assembled kits you can buy online. Whether you buy it all together or you assemble it yourself, keep everything together somehow. A box, a backpack, whatever works for you. Here is the most important part: please leave it in your car so you’ll have it if you ever need it.

Regular maintenance can stop many vehicle problems before they start, so stay current with all that. And even if you obey every safety law and are careful when driving in bad weather, sometimes you cannot avoid an accident. So it’s better to just be prepared.

Teaching First Aid to Kids

When I was out in the field with Marines, they all had to know at least some first aid just in case I got myself blown up or something, despite the fact that they treated me like a bunch of nerds with a first edition comic. Everybody needs to know the basics. It doesn’t matter how old somebody is, there are things you can teach kids to help them take better care of themselves or even others. You just have to know your target audience.

I bet there are books or videos you can show them if you want. However, you don’t really need to bother with all that. It isn’t hard to talk to kids. You don’t need to dumb things down but you do have to explain stuff to kids in a way they can understand. You can’t actually see germs, and getting an infection is something that happens in the future. They can both be hard concepts to figure out as a little kid. But you can tell them that not keeping a cut clean could make them sick. Most kids have been sick, so that is a concept they understand, so that is something they can work with.

Another thing you need to remember is that kids often learn by watching, so give them the chance to see what first aid looks like. Let them see you taking basic care of yourself if you yourself get hurt so they can see the things that you need to do.

Even small kids can learn how to put antibiotic ointment or cortisone cream on themselves and how to open packages of adhesive bandages. You can teach them how to recognize certain things, like what a seizure or broken bone looks like. Or what having an asthma attack or allergic reaction might feel or look like if that is something that is a concern at your house.

Once you think they can handle it, you can tell them where the first aid kit is, what’s in it, and how to use the items in it. If anybody in your house has a medical condition, teach them what the signs and symptoms are, what problems look like, and what to do about them. You can also give them more responsibility for their own care. If anyone has severe allergies, you will need to teach them how to use an epi pen. If your kid uses a rescue inhaler, they need to know how and when to use it.

If you don’t think your kid is ready for all of that, it is fine. There are still a couple of things you can do. Making a list of helpful numbers and an emergency plan and posting it where your kid can see it is an excellent idea. But the most important thing you can teach a kid is what we consider an emergency, and how to call 911. They need to know their address and phone number to help the dispatcher if they are at home when they need to call.