Tag Archives: survival

And The Winners Are….

AndTheWinnersAre

The Allergic to Life Giveaway is over and I am excited that there were 496 entrants in the Goodreads Giveaway. Goodreads selected the three winners and all books are on their way.  One of the winners is a fellow Rave Reviews Book Club member, Kenneth Kerr. Congratulations Kenneth your book is on its way!

During my Giveaway, I promised that I would also give away three e-books. Using a generating tool, I entered the names of all the contestants who commented on my giveaway blog posts. I have sent an email to each winner with information on how to claim their prize. Congratulations to:

Jill Ward

Colleen

Ruby Benasky

Because of the number of those commenting, I chose to have one more name selected. I would also like to congratulate: Princess and the Pea.

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Homelessness Part 5: First Aid – could be graphic for some – revisited

In this final installment of Vanessa’s five part series, she discusses first aid and what she feels is paramount to survival on your own.  I first met Vanessa on Planet Thrive.

This is the final installment of a five part blog series on homelessness and survival.  In this section I will address first aid as a homeless person with limited resources.

Disclaimer:  the advice in this section does NOT constitute medical advice.  Please contact 911 or local emergency personnel or your physician if you are having any medical emergency that requires professional medical intervention.

Since I am now uninsured, I informed my doctors that the only way I was going into a hospital was if:

A – I have something large sticking in me.

B – I have something that belongs internally coming out of me.

C – If I am bleeding profusely and cannot stop it. (major artery)

D – If I have broken a major bone needing surgery and/or setting (toes and fingers don’t count).

E – Large open wounds that were beyond my ability to stitch shut (yes, I will stitch some of my wounds shut). i.e. large puncture wounds

F – An infection that either will not go away or is getting worse.

G – I am bitten by an extremely venomous snake or insect (Black widow and rattlesnakes come to mind)

H – I am bitten by an animal. (this includes being mauled by a bear or cougar).

I – Extremely sick to the point of utter incapacitation by pain, dementia (would I know to call for help?), or illness OR death was imminent if I don’t do something.

Everything else I will try to do myself.  These are my general rules and I do not recommend others following these, especially if you have health insurance and do not have to endure prolonging going to the hospital.

Kidding aside, I know that prolonging necessary medical treatment will make whatever I have worse and harder to medically manage, possibly leading to further complications.  The harsh reality for me is that I am uninsured and I have MCS.  I have been in a situation where I told medical staff that I had MCS and was treated like a child.  An x-ray tech that came to my room was swimming in cologne and I asked for him to open the window and he would not.  He pushed me here and there to get the x-ray while I was trying not to cough.  As he left he said, “There’s nothing wrong with you” even though I was spitting up phlegm right in front of him.  I will NOT endure this again.  This is why I came up with the above list and shared it with my doctors so if they received a call that I was hospitalized, it was serious.

I strongly recommend everyone to take first-aid courses if possible, learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.  Homeless people need to delve a little further by reading about wilderness first-aid when help is hours if not days away.  In many of the places I stay the best possible response time in usually 2 hours for them to get to me.  The things that I have learned are stop gap measures to enable me to get out to where EMS can reach me faster or until they reach me.

I will cover what I carry in my first-aid kit and suggestions for reading material and resources to get educated on what to do in an emergency.  Again, this is not a substitute for taking first-aid classes and/or doing your own research.

My first aid kit, left to right:

* Various size latex free band-aids (cloth), a couple of the transparent bandages.

*Quick Clot bandage for larger wounds which contains a compound to help blood coagulate faster.

* Steri-strips for butterfly closures (using the strips to close larger wounds that do not require stitches).

* Variety of tapes, different kinds and sizes.  Cloth adhesive, fabric adhesive, etc.

* Two small vials of baking soda (for upset stomachs or heartburn or insect bites)

* Cough drops

* Tincture of Iodine

* Alcohol and Benzalkonium Chloride (from Dr. Rea’s) wipes

* Latex and non-Latex gloves

* Large feminine hygiene pad (for gynecological emergencies or great for large chest or abdominal wounds as an emergency field dressing). (Should carry two)

* One roll of gauze and two rolls of adhesive wrap bandages (for sprains/strains).

* Snakebite kit

* Neosporin/Bactracin

* Excedrin and Aspirin

* Cotton swabs in a vial for applying ointments and iodine.

* Large 5×7 wound dressing

* Kit for foot injuries (blisters, corns, etc).  Contains moleskin, band-aids and a needle to pop blisters.

* Dental floss and Ambesol for dental emergencies

Things I need to add yet (as finances allow) – scalpel, EMT scissors (for cutting through clothing if necessary) and syrup of ipecac (for inducing vomiting if poison is ingested), suture kit (a proper one), dental emergency kit (with material to replace a lost filling, temporarily).

Some of these things have expiration dates (like the Neosporin, Excedrine, etc) and it is important to go through this bag at least once a year to ensure that everything is current.

Things I have in my car for quick first aid (not shown)

* Activated Charcoal (for stomach flu or accidental poisoning or uncontrollable diarrhea).  Warning:  drink lots of water with this and it will turn your stool black.

* Vodka (in a Witch Hazel bottle so I don’t have issues with alcohol containers in the car.  I carry the bottle in the trunk)

* A variety of band-aids and moleskin

* Cheese cloth

*Cut strips of cloth from an old shirt, preferably cotton, for making bandages and compresses

* Tweezers

* Needles (for digging out slivers or other small things in the skin)

* An antibiotic salve with all plant ingredients, Golden Salve by Equinox Botanicals

* Azulene oil (from the Yarrow plant), good for burns, wind chaffing.

* Dercut homeopathic cream for abrasions, cuts, rashes

* Traumheel homeopathic salve for bruises and sprains.

* Clay face mask cream (ready to use).  Good for applying on bites, pimples, skin eruptions (easier than making a baking soda paste)

* 100% Tea Tree oil for antibacterial cleaning and dressing of more severe wounds or infected wounds and for tick bites.

* 100% organic, extra virgin coconut oil (Barleans cooking oil).  This is great for sunburns, dry skin and small abrasions, scrapes.  Keeps skin supple and aids forming scabs on wounds.  Also helps to minimize scaring. (but not recommended in grizzly country, smells strongly of coconut).

(note:  I do not carry aloe any longer as there are no longer 100% aloe gels.  They all contain preservatives of some kind and some need refrigeration)

*Astragalus capsules for when I feel like I am getting sick.  Some people carry Echinacea as well.

I recently received an email from my Naturopaths office regarding first aid kits and equipping them with less toxic homeopathic items.  I am copying from her list and sharing this for those who struggle to find acceptable first aid alternatives.

Digestion:

– Charcoal caps or charcoal powder

– Ipecac syrup

Bites and Stings:

-Homeopathic Apis 30c (oral) – for stings with swellings (bee stings)

-Homeopathic Ledum 30c (oral) – For bites (mosquito or spider)

-All purpose herbal salve (either over the counter like Golden Salve or from your naturopath or homeopath)

Cuts, Abrasions and Burns

-Calendula Succus Tincture – dilute with water and clean wound

-All purpose herbal salve (after wound is cleaned)

Larger wounds that need more attention:

-Homeopathic Cantharsis 30c (oral)

For Burns or Sunburns:

-Lavender Essential Oil – Apply 1-2 drops topically to burns

Bruises and Muscle Aches:

-Homeopathic Hypericum 30c (oral) – for shooting pains or nerve pain

-Homeopathic Arnica 30c (oral) – for bruises and muscle aches

Miscellaneous:

-Hand sanitizer called “Clean Well”

-Epipen (prescription needed) A personal note on Epipens.  I used to carry two but they were ruined due to my inability to keep them from freezing or getting too hot or exposed to direct sunlight.  These need to remain at a fairly constant temperature to keep the epinephrine from degrading and becoming useless.  Keep this in mind if you are living outside 100% of the time with no way of keeping these safe.

-Euphrasia Eye drops – cleansing eyes.  Weleda recommended as it comes in single doses/packets.

-Electrolyte Replacement Packets

I do not recommend getting the small first aid kits that you see in stores.  These are virtually useless (except the container can be used for you to build your kit) as they only address small injuries and not potentially life threatening ones.  Outdoor stores and backpacking stores (REI comes to mind) carry more advanced first aid kits, but they are expensive.  I think it’s cheaper to make your own.)

Here are some things I have improvised:

-Deodorant for skin protection against the wind on my face.  I use Alba Botanical with baking soda and lichen.  This does have a slight odor to it even though it is fragrance free (no added fragrances, but the essential oils are what gives it its odor).  It is waxy, but goes on smooth.  It does not protect against the sun.  As always, do a small test patch to make sure you do not break out.

-Duct tape for slivers.  This is ok, but not always effective for deep slivers.

-Oatmeal for poison ivy.  What I did was break conventional wisdom and scraped the blisters with the dull edge of a knife (wiping the blade each time to prevent spreading).  I then boiled down oatmeal so it was thick.  I separated the water from the oatmeal and kept the oatmeal juice.  I placed the warm oatmeal in a cheese cloth and applied it as a dressing, letting it set for 30 minutes.  After wards I would use the water to dab on the blisters (sometimes using vodka to dry them out).  I did the dressing twice a day (or more if the itching was really bad).

-Apple sauce for diarrhea and whole apples for constipation.  The apple sauce is high in pectin and helps with diarrhea.  The fiber from the raw apples help to facilitate digestion and bowel movements.

-Pitch from either the Douglas Fir or Sub-Alpine Fir for small cuts and abrasions.  I have also used the pitch to make an improvised splint with strips of cloth and a large amount of pitch.  The pitch hardened making support for the arch of my foot and the compounds in the pitch helped with the inflammation.  I do not recommend the Yellow Pine, Lodge pole, Juniper or Ponderosa as the pitch does not seem to harden (make sure to have a tree or plant guide to tell the difference).

Again, this is not a substitute for learning first aid on your own; this provides suggestions for handling some emergencies.

Educational Resources:

Wilderness Medicine, 5th: Beyond First Aid by William W Forgey M.D. (available at Amazon.com in paperback)

American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care by the American Medical Association (available at Amazon.com)

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag:  Your 72-hour Disaster Survival Kit by Creek Stewart (available at Amazon.com)

I Will Survive!

I remember back in the beginning when I was sick and still working. One of my co-workers sent me this video clip. I loved it and had saved it on my computer. Somewhere along the line it got deleted. I was thinking of it today and decided to search youtube for it. Whenever I was having a really bad day, I would sit at my desk and pull up the video and watch it.

I hope you enjoy it. We are all SURVIVORS. Our circumstances may be different but we have all survived something in our lives.

Catch Up Mondays: How Strong Are We? – revisited

This post was originally shared on November 27, 2012.  I continue to tell others that they are stronger than they ever could imagine. When faced with struggles, we can lie down and give up or we can choose to fight.  I have been a fighter from the beginning with this illness.  I fought through the depression and loneliness it caused, I fought for the courage to continue on when I wanted to give up and die, I fought for what was right in the workers’ compensation case, and I continue to advocate for others by sharing my experiences.  I wrote “Allergic to Life” to share my journey and let others know not to give up hope.  

I discovered Pinterest about a year ago and began collecting quotations.  I think this quote goes well with this post. We never know how strong someone is unless we can walk in their shoes.

Strength

Strength

A friend recently posted this quote on her Facebook page.  “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”  — unknown.

Isn’t this the truth.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I have been told so many times things like:  “I don’t know how you do it.”  “I don’t think I could deal with all that you deal with.”

Being strong is ultimately the only choice.  We push forward and do what is necessary despite discomfort, pain, lack of food choices, sleeping on cots, severe reactions, surgeries, grieving for our former lives, etc.  I believe that those who have said I don’t think I could deal with all that you deal with would find an inner strength that they didn’t know they had.  Sure there is depression (I have and do deal with it) but the strength to fight and the will to live has kept me pushing forward in the battle for survival, hope and courage.  I have written in my book about these types of comments.  In my book I quote from a journal entry of September 26, 2004.

“What makes them think I am coping?  What makes them think I am handling this?  They should just read from my journals and they will soon discover what life is like for me….I feel like a caged animal at the zoo, on display for the morbid curiosity of others.   Look at the crazy woman.  She can’t come around us.  She wears a funny mask!  Why did God keep me alive?  What purpose am I serving?”

I have decided that I have to stand strong.  I have to deal with this.  I have to make others aware of what mold does.  I have to offer whatever I have learned and share whatever I have done that helps me.  God kept me alive during reactions that I thought I surely would die from to be a spokesperson for others.

When you don’t feel that you are strong enough, dig deep within.  That strength is there despite your fears and pain.  God kept me alive for a reason and I believe he gave me the strength I didn’t know I had.

Indies Unlimited Book Brief

Today I am being featured on Indies Unlimited in their Book Brief Section.  Please check it out here.  Their post is becoming live at 1:00 p.m. PT  today.  I am away at my book signing.  I hope you are able to get to it through the link I provided.  I will check it again once I get home.

Homelessness Part 1 (Warning Graphic Language)

This is Part 1 of Vanessa’s posts on Planet Thrive related to living homeless.  Her bio and history were posted in my recent blog post:  Living the Homeless Life with MCS.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart, for obvious reasons.  Given the recent posts by fellow PT’rs (referring to Planet Thrive members)  I feel compelled to write about the realities of homelessness.

It is not an adventure.  Yes, sometimes people talk about it this way, including myself, but this is a defense mechanism to keep sane when your reality sucks.  You have to have a sense of morbid humor when you are forced to shit in a hole year round, pee along roadsides (in bushes) because the rest stops are too much to bear.  It is hard to laugh though when you become violently ill, by yourself, in the middle of nowhere and sometimes without cell coverage to call for help.  I have had full body neuralgia while lying in the front seat of my car and not able to move at all.  I have puked on myself (and yes, shit myself) when I had the stomach flu and no amenities.  All I could do was to clean myself in the break of the stormy weather as best I could with cold water and change my clothes.  These are just a few of the indignities I have endured.

I understand the fear and frustration that comes with facing the prospect of becoming homeless.  I remember clearly in May 2009 as I was coming to grips with my worst nightmare.  I could not sleep for days prior to leaving for the desert.  I finally sucked it up, left and never looked back.  I cried in my tent that night, alone and afraid of what was to come.  I still have moments when I try to envision my future as being healthy, independent and no longer homeless.  I envision myself working and supporting myself once more.  But then the grave reality of my present circumstance comes over me like a frigid tidal wave, dragging me back into the open sea of despair.

I can’t emphasize enough how deciding to live in your car, tent or whatever in the woods is dangerous.  I have read the statistics and the news regarding just how brutal people can be to a homeless person.  The psychology is that the homeless are perceived as weak and that they have no one who cares about their welfare, making them easy targets for harassment.  I have experienced firsthand the degradation of being talked down to by law enforcement.  I remember one officer contemptuously asking me if this was a “lifestyle”.  I simply replied saying “no” when I wanted to say “who the hell chooses to freeze their ass off as a lifestyle.  Get real.”

I could go on about the other perils of living/surviving this way.  This is no way to live and the fact that some people are forced into this standard of living is unconscionable in our nation.  Yes, there are those who really do choose to live homeless, but I think they are the minority.  Any sane, rational individual will not choose this for themselves, their families and friends.  Safe and affordable housing is a necessity, not a luxury, and is one of the pillars needed to facilitate healing.  To obtain and maintain good health the basics such as a safe home, clean water and clean food are essential.  Why this is so hard for some to grasp is beyond me.

I am going to list by category what is necessary to survive and give some resources on where to find supplies.  These things are imperative to survival.

1.  Shelter.  This is the first rule of survival.  You need a place to keep out of the elements.  Getting cold and wet can lead to hypothermia, even if you are in a car.  The car is the obvious shelter of choice, but sleeping in it constantly can lead to back problems (which I have found out the hard way).  You have to come to terms with the fact that sleeping in your car constantly will also ruin the interior making any chance of resale difficult.  There are many styles of tents and many pricing options.  I recommend middle of the road tents.  You don’t need an expedition style tent, but you shouldn’t go for the ones at Walmart either.  You need a tent that will stand up to high winds and the weight of snow.  Tents were also not designed as permanent shelters, they are recreational.  I have two, a one-man bivy tent and a two-man tent.  I wanted a backup for one or the other in case one got destroyed.  Each has its pros and cons.  One person tents are light and compact, however they do not have a lot of room for extra gear inside.  Two person tents are roomy, allows to stow stuff in there with you but are a little more bulky.  Look for the following qualities:

– What seasons are they for?  Are they three season or four?

-Material.  Most tents are made from waterproofed taffeta or nylon/polyester fabrics.  The floors are rubberized for waterproofing.  It took a few months to air out one of my tents.  For a while it smelled like jet fuel whenever it got hot in the sun.  With sufficient airing out, washing/rinsing and hanging in the sun (and rain if need be) it should off gas nicely. (but do not use soap, it will ruin the waterproofing).

-Tents that are for all seasons are more expensive than those used in just three seasons or for the summer.

-Durability.  Keep in mind you are living in this tent, not camping, and need to gauge on the description if it will hold up to the demands of being used constantly.

-Ease of set up.   You don’t want a bunch of pieces to put the tent together.  Keep it simple.

The tents I have are:  Mountain Hardware bivy/one person, three season tent and North Face two person tent, three season.  Places where you can get deals are Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, North Face website, Cabelas.  Campmor usually has some of the best deals.

In addition to a tent you will need at least two tarps, thick grade or “mil”.  The lower the “mil” the thicker the tarp material and vice versa.  I have a 20×20 and 8×10.  The large one I use as a shelter or privacy screen and the smaller one acts as a privacy screen and can be placed under the tent to keep the floor dry in heavy rains (but this can also be accomplished by using two large garbage bags as well).  Along with the tarps you will need at least two ropes, 50 ft  nylon and any longer length of 550lb parachute cord.  You will also need bungee cords (of various sizes) and metal stakes.  You will also need a hammer to drive the stakes into the ground.

2. Security.   You need to be prepared to defend yourself against any aggression whether it is from a person or an animal.  I have heard that some EIs travel with firearms.  I am totally against this not because I am anti-gun, but because I am for responsible gun ownership.  As an EI it is doubtful that the cleaning solvents and lubricants used to maintain a firearm will be tolerated.  To be proficient in the use of a weapon in self-defense, you need to practice with it.  If you don’t practice you might as well throw the cartridges at the aggressor because you’ll have a better chance of hitting them.  As a homeless person, there is no way of properly securing a firearm to prevent it from being stolen.  Hiding it somewhere in the car is not enough.  Any burglar can easily find it and you also don’t want it so well hidden that you can’t get to it in an emergency.  Some have commented that they feel the mere sight of a firearm will deter a criminal.  No it won’t.  It will only draw unwanted attention and create a dangerous situation.  Others have talked about having BB guns or toys as a means of self-defense.  Shooting a would be assailant with a BB gun is like swatting a bull with a fly swatter, you’ll only piss them off.  If you are serious about defense consider these:  Pepper spray or a Taser.  You need to make sure that whatever is coming at you gets no closer than 12 feet.  Pepper spray comes in 30 ft,  12ft and 8ft ranges.  I don’t know what the reach of a taser is, but it probably is less than 12 feet.  There are many places that sell these products.  I purchased my pepper spray kit (all three sizes) from Cabelas.  The manufacture is UDAP based out of Bozeman MT.

Know your territory.  Know where the party spots are and talk with the forest service about potential problems with drugs or drug manufacturing in the forest.  They will know the areas that are questionable.

Do not act like a victim.  Stand straight, look people in the eye, do not disclose too much information about yourself or your circumstances.  This is not the time to serve as an ambassador to spread the information about MCS/EI.

Anything can be used as a weapon.  Your hands, feet, knees, elbows, teeth.  You can pickup rocks, sticks, forks, knives, pots/pans, hot grease, hot water.  The combinations are endless.  You do not have to be trained in self-defense to defend yourself, you just need a good understanding of the human anatomy and the confidence of how to take advantage of it.  However, if you do ever get a chance to take a self-defense course I strongly recommend it.

I am going to stop here for now as this is getting pretty long.  The next segments I will cover are food, water, hygiene, clothing, survival gear, and first aid.