First up is the Survival Medicine Handbook from Dr. Joseph Alton, M.D., and Amy Alton A.R.N.P., who run a web site called www.doomandbloom.net and have also published this excellent resource.
I picked this up shortly after writing up the Let’s Talk Trauma series for this blog and have to say I wish I had it before. Dr. Alton, aka “Dr. Bones,” is an OB/GYN and pelvic surgeon by trade that collects 19th century medical books to jigger his thought process on a SHTF/WROL medical world. Amy Alton, aka “Nurse Amy,” is a Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and certified midwife (wonder how they met, hmmm).
The Survival Medicine Handbook is exactly that, a handbook. It should be in your kit and be something you refer to, and not just read once and store on a shelf. It should get dirty, bloody, and beat on throughout its life. I think it is an excellent complement to the Special Operations Medical Handbook and Emergency War Surgery, as it covers some of the same ground, but is more dialed in for a formerly First World setting heading south, with less explosions and bullets whizzing through the air. If the fur was flying 300 miles away but supply lines, water, and power to an area were cut and you were in said area, then this is the book for that scenario.
They have content broken up in nice chunks of information that include; Principals of Medical Preparedness, Becoming a Medical Resource, Hygiene and Sanitation, Infections, Environmental Factors, Injuries, Chronic Medical Problems, Other Important Medical Issues, Medications, and References.
One of the best parts of the book is part of the preface, called “Taking Responsibility” which is a head-check, gut-check, and an invitation to step up and be a resource if things ever go south. The tone and tenor of the book is set in this section with the following line, “This book is a weapon against, not an argument for, an end of the world scenario.” That’s right on.
The language in the book is easy for anyone that has any interest in medical care to understand. It is not written for advanced practitioners, but it is obvious that the knowledge in the book comes from some.
A few areas that I found especially useful were identifying infections, wound closure and suturing, managing chronic diseases, and especially the medications information. The authors do a good job of walking the reader through the different types of antibiotics out there, what they are best used for treating, and the names of avian and aquatic antibiotics that have human parallels that may be easier to acquire. You need to read the book to find out what they are. The authors do a good job of warning people to knock off the over use of antibiotics, just in case any eyes are rolling about that right now. Personally, I think lots of raw garlic, chicken broth, water, and sleeping in warm clothes can knock out just about anything that a person with a functioning immune system needs to kill, but that’s just my opinion.
The authors also spend a good amount of time on herbal remedies and essential oils that can mitigate some of the signs and symptoms of various illnesses. That herb garden you’ve been neglecting may make your life a lot more comfortable should the Walgreens in town get knocked over and cleaned out by zombie drug addicts hungry for pills, beer, and food. That section is a great read and certainly gets the gears clicking in your head, because anything you can grow is a lot more sustainable than anything that requires a huge logistics network.
Dr. Alton finishes the book with an open letter to his fellow physicians about being open minded to working with patients on preparing them medically for potential breakdowns. I applaud him for doing that, because it truly is a scenario of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.
If you have people that are starting to open up to the idea of prepping and preparedness, I would recommend this book as the one to introduce them to medical information. It is almost soothing in the way it is written and drives home the message of providing aid and comfort very well.
Next on the list is an old one that I re-read last night in a bout of insomnia and was refreshed by it.
Warfighting, The U.S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy is the book.
My knowledge is that it was originally written by U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General A.M. Gray and handed out to officers in 1989. It was first published commercially in 1994, and I believe my paperback copy is vintage circa 1995, so if there are newer versions out there, anything I say from here on out may be totally wrong if it has been revised. My apologies if that is the case.
Let me pause for a minute and say I am not going to talk about war in any experiential way, because I have not experienced it. I have seen some weird things, tragic things, and amazing things in my life, but nothing I have seen can compare to what anyone who has lived through combat has seen.
What strikes me about this book is its brevity, clarity, and simplicity of purpose. These qualities seem fleeting in our modern era of parsing, talking points, “getting on message,” “misspeaking,” and all of the other words I hear bandied about to mask fecklessness, cravenness, and indecision.
The book is strategic philosophy on how the Marine Corps fights war. The influences of Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are thick in every page. It is broken into four main chapters; The Nature of War, The Theory of War, Preparing for War, and The Conduct of War.
What is remarkable about this book is the bold simplicity with which the authors describe the nature of the thing they must master, the range of its intensity, the value of excellent leadership, communication, training, and execution required to master it, but most of all, what “it” really is.
Leaders are expected to provide clarity of purpose to their subordinates while balancing an environment of openness with ultimately making sure the commander’s intent is done. There is great emphasis on flexibility and adaptability down to all levels to make sure something innovative is not excluded. Mastery of skill at the individual and unit levels are identified not as one in the same, but two distinct areas that leaders must ensure their subordinates have the space, time, and training to do.
There is much about maneuver warfare and the innovative use of strength against weakness to very quickly best your enemy. Below is a great quote that sets up the chapter, The Conduct of War:
“Many years ago, as a cadet hoping some day to be an officer, I was poring over the ‘Principles of War,’ listed in the old Field Service Regulations, when the Sergeant-Major came up to me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement. ‘Don’t bother your head about all them things, me lad,’ he said. ‘There’s only one principle of war and that’s this. Hit the other fellow, as quick as you can, and as hard as you can, where it hurts him most, when he ain’t lookin’!’”
—Sir William Slim
The inspiration one can take from this book is that it proves unity of purpose can and does exist – even in large organizations – if they want it. The lessons in this book are timeless yet simple and provide anyone that currently leads, or wants to lead, with great tools to propel him. They can be applied to just about anything. One can read this book in less than an hour and grok everything in it, thoroughly.
I highly recommend it as brain food in these murky times.