Medical Kits — one size does not fit

Been looking at medical kits a lot lately. Read about five papers (scholarly to self-promotion and all between). Read the horror stories…”there I was, the blood gushing, the bone grating…and only duct tape and diaper ointment.”

For a Live-aboard going  Coastal, the advice falls into a daisy-like Venn diagram. Every author has a few things they all agree upon in kind, if not in chemistry and dimension.

  • Each declares something useless or even harmful, that at least one other praises. In comparing two kits put together by these authors the correlation was only .75 for more or less identical purposes.
  • When it comes to antibiotics, one fellow says these four will get you to assistance, another says these eleven are essential to survival. It’s important for survival reasons but also because in the absence of a diagnosis, insurance does not cover any part of the purchase cost.

The kit builders appear to assume no one has a medicine cabinet on their boat full of the OTC meds and preparations that go with daily life. (I don’t want eight ibuprofen, I want a bottle).

  • Some seem to think you’ll be taking the whole shebang in the raft with you, some don’t.
  • Some kit it out to be worn in a belt pack, others put it in a plastic case an ambulance might have room for.
  • Some assume you will never be out of sight of land, most seem to put one east of Bermuda for days at a time. (The ISAF rules seem to have impacted this.)

All the kits I’ve seen are for four or more folks or two very accident, injury and illness prone people. Most seem to leave out the emergency medicine advances that have derived from military experience — leaving one to add them.

For us, the net of it seems to be:

  1. Buy the agreed upon (per above) core items with as little extra included prepackaged unless you know an EMT who can assemble them for you at their cost. We don’t.
  2. Buy the numerous peripheral items at a big box store (the membership cost for this one time expense may be worth it).
  3. Add the combat tested items.
  4. Get our antibiotics in generic form based on our personal physician’s assessment of need and risk and bite the cost bullet. Better than biting a pain (or worse) one later.
  5. Access to special/maintenance  meds based on our current health situation must be arranged for — a 90 day supply may not cut it.

It still isn’t clear what our kit will look like, but it is clear is won’t be entirely off the shelf which would have been nice given all else that requires our attention right now.

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