"It Didn't Go So"

"It didn't go so," she said under her breath. —Erna Brodber, Myal, p.84.

Finding and using community resources - 30 Sep 2014 06:11

Tags: how-to resource

When someone is having a hard time, friends or family sometimes say, "You need help" or "You need professional help." But all people actually have the same basic needs — enough to eat, a safe and restful place to sleep, supportive community, meaningful work, dignity, and persona growth. "Help" isn't a need, but a way to decide and get what you need!

Deciding who to call

When you decide to reach out to community resources, you have to decide who to call. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you calling for yourself? Are you calling for someone else? Is someone else making the call for you? The person who wants support should make her own decisions, even if she doesn't make the call herself.
  • What do you want? Often people think of an institution or program before they think of their wants or needs. For instance, if you are thinking of going to an emergency room, what do you actually want? Would a free clinic, a mental health crisis line, or a friend be better or worse options?
  • What obstacles might you encounter? It is important to plan for obstacles, understand how programs work, and learn how to get what you actually want. For instance, some programs only accept people who can prove they are homeless. Other programs only accept people who can prove they have a legal address. Are you prepared to prove homelessness or residency?

Make a list of who you want to call and any questions you have. It can also help to write down what you want, and how you think each call might help you get it.

Tips for health promoters

Call all numbers on your referral list except 911 before you have to use them. Tell the operators that you don't need their services right now, then ask about what services they provide and how to access each service. Visit places you might send people so you can give good directions.

Some helplines and advocate lines require you to leave a name and number and be called back within ten minutes. Calling all the numbers on your list helps you learn how each service operates.

If you're building a resource list

Be sure to include resources from these categories:

  • Financial assistance and free care
  • Mental health services
  • Substance abuse services
  • Sexual assault and domestic violence advocate services
  • Disability rights and resources
  • Services for undocumented immigrants
  • Sexual health promotion and pregnancy options
  • Non-emergency basic needs - Comments: 0

Street medic stories - 24 Sep 2014 01:03

Tags: history protest

Excerpt from the introduction of my new book North American Street Medic History 1999—2004, due out this week from Katuah Medics Collective.

“I think we told too many stories. Although some of them helped to illustrate points in a way that straight lecture could not, some others were unnecessary… A couple of comments in the evaluations are in this same vein, although one person also listed 'Doc's anecdotes' as their favorite portion of the training.” — from critique of 2004 medic training by the co-trainer, Soph.[Bibliography item soph04 not found.]

Despite silences in our public history, medics are not known for our silence. We speak up in trainings and evaluations. We give testimony to hold public officials accountable. We produce widely-read hand-outs and public health messages. We question, critique, and debrief, and can't resist weaving yarns of the things we've witnessed. Medics tell stories.

Our best stories add intimacy to big events in history. Hundreds walked on the Selma to Montgomery marches which led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Only medics tell the story of caring for the feet of 600 people walking 60 miles in their Sunday best shoes — feet that ached, blistered, and were rubbed raw but kept walking. Stories in this book restore the physicality of sweat and bruises to civil unrest in our time.

Our most useful stories tell how things were done. All the protests in this book predate universal adoption of cell phones. You'd better believe we told stories about fundraising thousands to rent UHF radios and trunk repeaters, confusion over radio protocols (what the heck is a 10-9?), and cops jamming our signals. In this book you'll find stories about practical things like organizing a field clinic, caring for injuries from impact munitions, and reconciling after conflict.

Our worst stories are contemptuous stories we tell about being better than someone else. We sometimes let contempt for each other breed from the results of bad decisions or differences in protocols. There's credible evidence that at least one of our schisms was deliberately created by the FBI. That's not who I work for, so this book won't rehash medic drama. It will share some of our process of getting past it.

This book documents the social process of street medics emerging as an independent subculture, distinct from the campaigns we support. In the process, we learned from EMTs to be contemptuous of some of the protesters we turn out to support. This book encourages medics to foster closer ties with other protest organizations and healthcare professionals by showing how we are them, and they take risks for us.

I hope this book invites you into greater intimacy with people in moments of social unrest and equips you with greater preparedness for social upheaval. All medic methods of self-organization and protocols became convention because someone did something different in the past, it worked, and it entered our stories. These are some of the stories that built our flexibility, curiosity, and toolbox of practical skills. This book widens the audience.


[[/bibliography]] - Comments: 0

Packing your first aid kit - 08 Sep 2014 00:28

Tags: first-aid how-to

New medics usually don't pack their kits well. You might identify medical supplies with social status and hoard unnecessary or rarely useful supplies, or supplies you don't know how to use. If you have a chaotic bag, you forget basics or lose them in your bag.


The only essential basic supplies are those you use to protect yourself (from weather, bodily fluids, etc.). If you have exam gloves, proper clothing for the weather, a change of socks for yourself in a ziploc bag, and a bottle full of your personal drinking water, you can improvise or quickly source much of the rest.

  • Ask businesses for trash bags. Rip or cut arm and head holes in them. Hand out homemade ponchos.
  • Grab free packets of honey from a Starbucks and use them for wound ointment.
  • Ask a bar or restaurant for lemon or lime wedges for cold-fighting vitamin C.
  • Ask a pizzeria for cayenne pepper flakes for keeping toes toasty.


These supplies are difficult to improvise when you need them, so keep them handy.

  • 15 pairs of nitrile or vinyl gloves that fit you (they come in s, m, l, and xl), packed in ziploc bags (2-3 pairs per bag). Keep a couple pairs in a ziploc in your pocket in case you lose your pack.
  • 30 nonsterile 2x2 gauze squares packed in ziploc bags.
  • 5 sterile 2x2 gauze squares packed in a ziploc bag (one of these plus tape equals a band-aid).
  • 5 sterile 4x4 gauze squares packed in a ziploc bag (one of these these plus wound ointment and roller gauze equals a dressing change).
  • 5 gauze bandage rolls.
  • 2 ACE-type compression wraps
  • 1 roll of 1 inch medical tape (micropore, transpore, or silk tape).
  • Some duct tape (less than 1 roll, wrapped around your pen or something)
  • 1 unit of wound ointment or wound salve (like ching wan hung burn ointment, honey, or a salve recommended by your local herbalist).
  • 1 liter of water in a sports-top bottle you don't drink from (for washing wounds, hands, etc.).
  • 1 small bottle of liquid soap packed in a ziploc bag in case it leaks, or individually-packed castile soap towelettes (for washing wounds and hands).
  • 1 bag of cough drops, slippery elm lozenges, or slippery elm bark.
  • Trauma shears.
  • A change of socks.
  • Lightweight high energy food (like energy bars, nuts, or dried fruit).
  • Pen and paper.
  • A handbook (like Buck Tilton's Backcountry First Aid and Extended Care, or bookmark one of the first aid guides on this page in your phone).

Pack your kit in a few quart-sized ziploc bags to shield it from leaks, weather, and contamination. Put the ziploc bags in a convenient location — a fanny pack, fishing vest, small backpack, or shoulder bag.

Additional items

The kit lists below should get you thinking about how important the basics are in all kinds of situations. If members of your group are trained to manage these situations, you may carry some of these supplies, stockpile them in a bin, toolbox, or locker at your housing site, or keep them in your car. If you carry them, pack them underneath the basics, so you can get your most important supplies easily.

Most medics pack only for the situations they see most often. If you find yourself in a situation unprepared, be safe, support the person's dignity, use community resources, and collect the supplies to be prepared the next time.

Cold weather care

These items are useful for cold-weather care.

  • Personal preparation, including a buddy, so you do not become a casualty.
  • Hats and dry socks packed in ziploc bags; emergency ponchos.
  • Water; especially hot water in thermoses with refill options and disposable cups. Instant hot chocolate, instant miso soup, instant hot cider, ginger tea with honey, or Jell-o (with sugar) for the hot water; something to stir with.
  • Candied ginger and other snacks.
  • Instant handwarmers or a microwavable rice bag handwarmer.
  • Talcum powder.
  • Cayenne powder or flakes.
  • Mylar emergency blankets and other insulating materials.

Do not dispense or administer any pharmaceuticals. If the person wants Burow's solution/Domeboro from the pharmacy for a foot soak, give her directions to the nearest pharmacy. When she returns, draw the water and let her mix the remedy into the foot soak basin.

Care of infected wounds

These items are useful to have on hand for dressing change and care of infected wounds.

  • Plenty of nitrile or vinyl gloves that fit you (packed in small ziploc bags for your carry kit).
  • Plenty of clean sterile or nonsterile gauze squares packed in small ziploc bags (2x2, 3x3, or 4x4 are good sizes).
  • Soap, water, and a basin or sink.
  • A way to heat water for a wound soak or compress (an insulated container to carry hot water from a nearby friendly business; a cookpot and stove, hotplate, can of sterno with rocks or bricks to elevate your pot, camp stove, etc. Don't forget a lighter or matches if you will need it and fire safety equipment like a fire extinguisher, wool blanket, or bucket of wet sand).
  • A big container of table salt (poured into a labeled ziploc bag) and (optional) a small container of bleach.
  • Cling wrap or a clean plastic bag.
  • Individual packets of honey, a tub of drawing salve, or a tube of ching wan hung ointment.
  • Sterile gauze squares (3x3 or 4x4), preferably Telfa non-stick dressings.
  • Roller gauze, silk tape, and a permanent marker (for labeling dressings).
  • Biohazard trash bags.
  • Antiseptic surface cleaner and paper towels or antiseptic surface wipes.

Acquiring supplies

The most expensive place to get supplies is at a pharmacy. Good local medical supply companies are much better, and you can put in a big order then pick it up. Internet ordering is also a good idea. Try boundtree.com, amazon.com, and eBay, or call manufacturers and ask for factory seconds or overstock as a donation. If you have a nonprofit sponsor it can be tax-deductible for the donor.

Consider keeping a supply dump somewhere for your group with an inventory person who keeps everything organized so medics can resupply on the fly, and replenishes the supply dump when anything gets low.

Another perspective

If you're browsing galls.com and very tempted by that $200 pre-packed kit, please read this blog post about first aid kits by my old friend Anne before you buy anything. The take-home message? One size never fits all, and training is way more important than ownership. - Comments: 0

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License