Sea Sick: Medical emergencies happen; are you prepared?

Apr 13, 2018 by Keith Murray

Sea Sick: by Keith Murray

Medical emergencies happen every day.  These emergencies can be accidental, such as car accidents, falls and cuts; health-related, such as heart attacks and strokes; or environmental emergencies caused by mother nature, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Another group of medical emergencies are caused by acts of terrorism, war and violent criminals.

Being prepared for all medical emergencies is our goal, but it is difficult to predict when and where these emergences will happen. The key is to be aware of our surroundings, stay current on our CPR AED and first-aid training, and have a high quality first-aid kit with us in as many places as possible – yacht, tender, car, Jet Ski, backpack, etc. At minimum, first-aid kit contents should be refreshed every year.

In the U.S., two school shootings happened in the first two months of 2018.  One shooting occurred at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, on Jan. 23, 2018. As students gathered in an open area before the start of classes, a 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun, killing one 15-year-old and wounding another who later died at a nearby hospital. Eighteen other people were injured. Then, on the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen people were killed and 15 more were taken to hospitals, making it one of the deadliest school massacres in the U.S.

The school shootings made the headlines, and rightfully so. Nobody wants to think of an innocent child being gunned down in school. But did you also know that in the first month of 2018, 309 people were shot in Chicago – 60 of them killed and 249 wounded? For an idea of how often shootings happen in just one U.S. city, consider that one person is shot every 2 hours and 27 minutes on average in Chicago. A total of 3,561 people were shot in Chicago in 2017.

When mass shootings and major disasters occur, it can overwhelm local emergency medical services. Under normal conditions on land, we can pick up the phone and dial 911, and within 8 to 12 minutes help arrives. But while at sea, or during a major incident on land when resources are stretched thin, help is not 8 to 12 minutes away. In these cases, you are the one providing emergency medical care. Are you prepared? Are your emergency medical first-aid skills up-to-date? If you were the victim, who around you has the proper training and skills necessary to treat you? If you were impaled with something, would they leave the item in or pull it out? If you were shot, would your team know how to control the bleeding? If you don’t feel confident in your skills or in the skills of those around you, now is the time to schedule a class.

Once your CPR AED first-aid skills are up-to-date, what’s next? Make certain the right equipment and supplies are available to treat the medical emergencies likely to be encountered. Make certain you have the right tools to protect yourself – your PPE, or personal protective equipment.  PPE includes gloves, glasses and a CPR barrier mask. These protect you from bloodborne pathogens.

Next, go through your emergency medical first-aid kit. Be sure to know what each item does and that it’s up-to-date. For bleeding control, I like the Israeli bandage, also called the emergency bandage. These are great for quickly applying pressure to a wound and stopping most bleeds. Hemostatic bandages are also good in certain situations. For more extreme emergencies, a tourniquet may be required. For smaller injuries, sterile gauze and flexible, self-adherent wrap like Coban works well.

Now, let’s talk about home and family. Put together a good first-aid kit for your house. Make certain everyone at home is trained in CPR and first-aid. Make certain there is a good medical kit in the car, along with your PPE – gloves and eye protection. If your budget permits, get an AED for your house. AEDs can be purchased for as little as $1,100.

In closing, it is not possible to have PPE, first-aid kits and defibrillators everywhere, but the more places you have them, the better your odds of being able to safely help a person in need.

EMT Keith Murray provides onboard CPR, AED and first-aid training as well as AED sales and service. His company can be found at Comments are welcome below.