Christmas Day, I slipped on a patch of ice on my front porch and twisted my knee pretty severely. Today I finally got to the doctor and the diagnosis (which I had already come up with myself - R.N., remember?) is a sprained medial collateral ligament, possibly with a torn meniscus on top of that. Orders are ibuprofen around the clock until the swelling subsides, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), wait three weeks and if not significantly better, return for an MRI.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I think it will be fine - well, as fine as it was before, anyway, which isn't great. ("Doctor, will I be able to play the violin....I mean rugby?") But it got me thinking about preparation for medical emergencies. Lately I haven't been writing about it much, but my preparations for a more self-sufficient homestead are proceeding apace. Many of my major goals are either met (reproducing livestock, barns and fences, Homero's shop, biodiesel processor) or partially met (water storage, food storage systems, off-grid heat and cooking capability). Some are still in the planning stage (electricity generation).
Over the past several months I have slowly been building up the pantry, with the goal of eventually having a year's worth of food on hand. It's a gradual thing; an extra twenty pound of rice one week, a case of tuna the next, et cetera. When I hurt myself and it happened to be a holiday weekend with no medical attention short of the emergency room, it occurred to me it would be a good idea to do an inventory of my medical preparedness. One never knows what the future holds, and if it holds scenarios in which professional attention is not readily available (euphemism for "Oh crap, we're goin' down!") then it behooves us all to make what preparations we can.
As in other areas, medical preparedness consists of both knowledge and equipment. Although I am a registered nurse, my training is rapidly receding into the fuzzy past and it would be a good idea for me to take a first aid course. Every adult in a given household should at least have CPR training. Lucky for me I have all my old college nursing textbooks, which make a pretty big stack and include all kinds of extremely useful information. Many used bookstores carry textbooks, and emergency medicine texts should be relatively easy to find. This isn't the forum for a complete course in first aid, but adults should - at a minimum - know how to treat bleeding, recognize anaphylactic shock (extreme allergic reaction), give the heimlich maneuver and CPR.
Building a medicine cabinet is a good idea. We all have a bottle of aspirin in the cupboard, but that doesn't cut it. A good medicine cabinet will have a supply of both equipment and medicines. Here's a list of what's in mine - as a nurse, I have some things that aren't necessary or helpful for the average person, so take with a grain of salt.
Thermometer, band-aids, sterile gauze, tape, moist burn pads, ace bandages, self-adhesive wrap (horse tape), couple of assorted braces (wrist, knee) scissors of various sizes and specialties, good quality tweezers, nail clippers, chemical cold packs (if the power is out, you still want to be able to ice an injury), iodine and alcohol swabs, dental floss, stethoscope, otoscope, blood pressure cuff, blood sugar monitor. Measuring spoons and syringes (no needles). Epi-pen. cotton balls. An eyewash cup.
Not including prescriptions (try to have a month's supply of any prescription meds), aspirin, tylenol, and ibuprofen in quantity, including liquid and pediatric formulations. Benadryl for allergic reactions. Hydrocortisone cream. Triple antibiotic ointment (neosporin, for example). Tums or other antacid. An anti-diarrheal medicine and a laxative. Throat lozenges and spray - I like Chloraseptic, which actually contains an anesthetic. Mouthwash. Iodine. Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Anti-fungal cream for vaginal infections. Nasal spray (good for bites and stings as well as stuffy noses). Epsom salts.
That's about all I can think of at the moment, though I'm sure more will occur to me later. Most of these items can be purchased at a VERY steep discount at Costco. For example, if you buy Ibuprofen in 24 caplet bottles at the grocery store, you will pay about $5.00. If you go to Costco, you can get 500 tablets for about 8 bucks. Same with Benadryl (diphenhydramine is the generic name) and things like band-aids. I think a year's worth of medical supplies is a laudable goal. Not all medications will last a year, but most will. Just keep the cap on that bottle of hydrogen peroxide!
UPDATE: I thought of a couple of items important enough to add. Vitamins and fluoride tablets or drops.