Hospital Emergencies:  Surviving a Medical Crisis Made Easier with a Tailor-Made Kit

You're going about your daily routine, working, driving, getting dinner ready, when an emergency strikes like lightning. But this is not a pandemic, flood, or tornado, nor is it a lost-in-the-woods scenario for which you have anticipated and prepared. A medical emergency is more common than people want to think about. And when it does happen, you will have to drop everything without hesitation and run--just as if your house were on fire.

This article is not about instructions for providing medical help to a sick or injured person; it's assumed that you have access to emergency medical care. The point that I would like to get across, having been there myself, is to get yourself ready for that phone call that someone dear to you has suffered an accident, heart attack, or frightening diagnosis.  Everyone wishes to believe it won't happen to them, but it DOES happen every single day to someone, and tomorrow that someone could be YOU.

Chances are much higher that you will be dealing with the aftermath of a car accident or fall on the ice rather than an earthquake or terrorist attack.  Who do you call?  What is your child's pediatrician's number?  What are your spouse's allergies and/or medications?  Where do you need to go?  What items will you need for an overnight stay, or several nights away from home?

Call on the knowledge and preparedness strategies you already have. After all, any crisis forces you to adapt what you have to the situation at hand to survive.  Try the S.T.O.P. technique (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan). You don't have to be lost in the wilderness--it's just as useful in any situation you find yourself panicking.  Stop whatever daily task you had been doing--this might be harder than you think because you might not want to face the frightening situation, or try to downplay what's happening.  (I work with a man who was at work all day trying to crank out the numbers; his wife called him throughout the day saying she didn't feel well or felt funny. That night she died.  He had been unable to stop and get out of the rut of his daily routine to address a brewing emergency).  Or you might start to panic--either way, stop and get ahold of yourself.

Think:  where are you now, where is your loved one, and how do you get from point A to point B safely (without forgetting to turn off the stove)?

Observe:  write down the medical issue, the name of the doctor or hospital, address, phone number and directions. (You can prepare a card with these questions ahead of time so you won't forget an important piece of information.)  Find out which family members still need to be notified.

Plan:  if you have friends or other family members present, delegate important tasks like looking up directions, packing, or calling other relatives.  Do you have children or an elder, pets, or a work task that you will need to make arrangements for? At some point you may need to discuss medical decisions or looking after your family member's home for a time.

When you head out your front door for a late-night drive to the emergency room, you will want to have your necessities with you. You will want to prepare a bag geared for this specific situation ahead of time so that you don't waste time and don't forget something important, like your cell phone charger.

No, you usually don't have to worry about freezing or starving while you're stuck in a hospital waiting room, but there are a lot of other basic needs you don't want to overlook. So leave your fire starters and snares at home and get planning and preparing for a different kind of survival now.  Every survival situation comes down to the same thing, getting through a long, scary wait full of unknowns--and hopefully back home again to a normal routine.  Being prepared mentally will help you get through if something bad happens.  Having your own basic requirements prepared ahead of time and ready to go will at least allow you to take care of yourself during a crisis and help make you more effective at dealing with it.

Using a small or medium bag like the Alpha Response Kit bag, pack a change of comfortable clothes (you may end up sleeping in your clothes).  Aim for lightweight so you can layer without getting too hot. The facility should be able to provide you with a blanket if needed. For organizing smaller items such as toiletries, money, etc., try the Survival Basics accessory pouch or Ready Five compact kit bag. Another option for fast easy retrieval is the clear LOKSAK bags. You don't want to have to rummage through your stuff for a quarter for the pay phone when the doctor walks in with news.

You will need cash on hand for parking and vending machines at least. Other expenses for which you will need cash or a credit/debit card are cafeteria or restaurant meals, possibly a hotel stay, over-the-counter medications, and cards or gifts, balloons or flowers.  If you prefer pre-paid cards, stash one in your hospital kit.

Bring several days' worth of our own medications (such as prescription, allergy, headache) for your own use. If you are responsible for the patient, bring a current list of their medications and dosages, allergies, doctor's name, health condition (such as diabetes), and procedures (such as previous surgery).  Notify any relatives, neighbors, teachers, minister, and workplace as needed, or ask for help from a hospital social worker or volunteer.  If you are considering applying for FMLA for the patient or yourself as caretaker, find out the rules and time limitations; it's possible you may have to initiate the claim before even getting out of the hospital.  (I worked with a man who had a planned surgery and was off work for one week; he applied for FMLA when he got back, however it was denied because he had to apply within 48 hours of the start of the event). You may need to call your medical insurance, supervisor, or HR department to get information.

Now you will be sitting and waiting.  You may be waiting for more relatives to arrive or for news from the doctor. Your hospital kit should contain some food. The same emergency prep items you use in the outdoors work well in this scenario too. Pack some food ration bars like the Mainstay 1200 (also available in larger sizes); this will provide some nutrition without melting like a candy bar will if stored in your car.  These bars are scored so you can share sections around, and the pouch is resealable. A couple of MREs per person are very useful to have on hand, that way you don't have to trek to the cafeteria and still be able to eat normally.  Consider including a pack of Stay Alert caffeine gum in your kit.

You may be waiting all night in a dark corner of the waiting room or the patient's room while others are trying to sleep.  Be sure to have a small flashlight handy such as an eGear Pico LED or Zipper Lite.  Keep a small notebook and two pens with you so that you can take notes and jot down your questions. Pack a book or deck of cards to occupy yourself, and puzzle or coloring books for younger ones.  You might not think you need an emergency radio, but consider the Eton FRX2, small and powered by crank or DC (also solar), it will provide you with news, weather, and music; it features a flashlight and glows in the dark, and it can charge your smart phone.

You already have an EDC and/or BOB, mapped an escape route, and stocked up on food and water.  But you might not have realized you're still missing an important component to survival in everyday, and far more likely, situations.  Your EDC is not, repeat NOT, what you want to grab on your way to the hospital, because it contains extra stuff you don't need and is missing stuff you DO need when facing a medical crisis. Don't waste time tossing out matches, wire, fishing lures, and water purification tablets.  Stop and take a little time from your busy schedule and create a customized kit.  Sit down with your family and list everyone's allergies, medications, and health conditions. Do you have up-to-date phone numbers for your neighbors and doctors?  Just a few items as noted above are needed for this kit, and it's worth it to purchase a duplicate item so that you have a complete stand-alone kit for each type of situation--don't try to figure out which kit has the radio in it when you just need to grab and GO.  Your escape plan may include taking your pets but your hospital plan won't; set up the necessary caretaking with a friend or neighbor in advance.

Think about where you will store your hospital kit.  Your vehicle may be a good choice in case you have to leave from home, work, or wherever you happen to be, and you choose emergency foods that can withstand car temperatures. Be aware of the storage conditions required for any medications; a temperature-controlled environment or on your person may be a better choice.  Ensure no one else can get into your meds wherever you have them stored.  Separate your car kit from your hospital kit so that you are not lugging extra items through the parking lot and along endless corridors. Leave the emergency blanket, first-aid kit, tools, etc. in the car.  Follow the law and hospital rules regarding weapons/sharps; don't expect these items to be allowed anywhere on the premises.  Keep the whistle in for security.  Substitute a compact umbrella for your poncho.

A little time and effort and minimal monetary outlay should see your hospital kit in good order.  This is a good kit to get started with since it is not complicated and if you've been trying to get other family members on board with preparations this kit may seem like a practical place to start.  It's also handy for a planned hospital stay for example planned surgery or the birth of a baby.  Schedule a time to review, update, and rotate kit items and information.  During your planning, information gathering, and updating activities, you may find gaps in a loved one's medical needs that can be addressed by seeing the doctor and dentist on a regular basis or refilling a needed prescription.  Your hospital kit could possibly be the one kit that can help prevent an emergency from occurring in the first place.

Submitted by:  Jen Morgan 5/11/15