The Premise: Most of the tactical and wilderness medical training we’ve grown accustomed to is geared toward stabilizing a patient until we can get them to a professional. This is great, until we consider the question of what to do if there were no 911 and hospitals left to visit. What if, in the darkest of all dark SHTF scenarios, medical treatment as we know it no longer exists? Then what?
The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joe Alton, MD and Amy Alton, considers this scenario and attempts to teach would-be practitioners how best to attempt medical treatment in a world where 19th-century technology is suddenly and quite literally the latest-and-greatest available. Joe is a retired obstetrician and surgeon, and Amy is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP). Together, they instruct survivalists through a combination of YouTube videos and podcasts. Their mission, as they state it, is simple: “To put a medically prepared person in every family.”
The 411: Primarily intended for non-medical professionals, the book is (thankfully) written in plain English. It breaks down what could be complex theories into digestible chunks of information that most readers should be able to grasp. The authors have also included a healthy dose of realism as it relates to what’s truly possible with limited resources and incomplete training. As stated in the introduction, “It’s difficult for people to believe that a head injury or a gunshot wound to the chest may not be survivable…but we must face the hard truth that there are circumstances where we may be able to comfort but not to save.”
Considering the list price of almost $40, we expected a lot of book — we weren’t disappointed. Clocking in at more than 600 pages, the amount of information inside the chapters is more than a little daunting, but the sections are broken down so that each individual unit or treatment plan is rarely more than two or three pages. We read one small section a day, either before bed or first thing in the morning, and made a lot of headway through what would otherwise be a serious slog. Our only complaint is that we would’ve loved to have the illustrations and photos in color, although that would boost the price of an already not-inexpensive written resource.
We like how the handbook goes far beyond treatment of injuries and illnesses. The authors devoted considerable space to maintenance of health and hygiene in a potentially dirty and dangerous new world, including survival essentials like water purification and how to deal with sewage issues where large camps of people congregate. After all, it’s easier to prevent disease than to treat it. In addition, there was a great introduction to natural remedies and how to grow a medicinal herb garden to supplement our supplies.
Perhaps understandable considering the authors own an online survival gear store (www.doomandbloom.net), nearly 20 pages of the book discuss how to begin acquiring a medical kit, from developing a personal medic bag and IFAK kit, to a family stash, up through developing a working field hospital. However, as much as they extol the benefits of purchasing gear, they’re just as quick to suggest improvised alternatives, also reminding the reader that advanced gear is useless without good training to know how to use it.
After reading all the way through, it’s evident that although it’s called The Survival Medicine Handbook, it really seems like a combination of three books in one: how to respond to natural or manmade disasters, how to start life over and build a community with what’s left, and lastly, survival medicine. The authors have really thought this through, and they speak to the reader without talking down or over-simplifying complex subjects.
The Verdict: Compared to similar books we’ve read, we appreciated the in-depth knowledge and explanations of not just the how, but also the why, of treatment. The book balances providing lots of great detail while still remaining accessible to medical laypeople.
Even if we’re never forced to become doctors and nurses in a world where hospitals as we know it are no more, much of the information in this book is useful for everyday practical medicine. For example, removing a fish hook, putting together a winter survival car kit, burn remedies, and even treatment of acid reflux disease or choking. The list price may be high for some, but if the money spent helps prevent even one wound or ailment from getting worse, it’ll have been well worth it.
Book & Author
The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is NOT on the Way (Third Edition)
Joseph Alton, MD and Amy Alton, ARNP
Doom and Bloom, LLC