How to Deal With a Medical Emergency Like a Doctor | The Survival Doctorby James Hubbard, MD, MPH

“You’re starting a campfire. Suddenly there’s an explosion and your pant leg is on fire—the searing pain, the burning flesh yours. What do you do?”

That’s the first line from my new book, Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid. What would you do? In real life?

For most of us, the answer is panic, if only for a few seconds. From the book:

We might run, or try to pat out the fire with our hands. Who knows? For a fraction of time we stop thinking rationally, and those around us do too. Fortunately, one of us typically gathers our senses quickly and smothers the fire with water or a blanket or a roll on the ground.

People sometimes tell me they’re afraid they won’t be able to function in a medical emergency; the panic will take over. But you can prepare for panic and by doing so combat it. I teach how in my book, which goes beyond basic first aid and gives information on how to survive for hours, even days, if no emergency help is available.

Today, I’m sharing with you some of its advice on how to deal with a medical emergency. This is the first public excerpt from the book. It’s from the introduction.

Living Ready Pocket Manual: First AidExcerpt from Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid:

Preparing for Medical Emergencies

So, how do you prepare for the unexpected? What can you do to regain your focus and make smart, lifesaving decisions as quickly as possible in an emergency? I propose you prepare in the same way medical doctors prepare, by following these two steps.

1. Memorize the basics of first aid.

There are a few basic first aid procedures and principles doctors memorize early in their training. The point is to make these lifesaving skills their natural reaction to a medical emergency.

Memorize steps for how to handle a few common problems—learn how to administer CPR, how to help someone who’s choking and how to treat a cut, a burn and a broken bone. Much of this information is covered in this little book, and I’ve highlighted the important steps you need to memorize. Don’t worry, each step is not more than a line or two.

Following these basic procedures will buy you time in an emergency and help improve the odds of survival if you face a medical emergency. Many of the basic treatments for the most common injuries are not that difficult to perform, and you can learn to do them very well. Knowing one or two basic treatments and performing them in an emergency can change an injured person’s status from dying to serious but stable.

2. Know where to find trusted information.

After a doctor or other medical personnel has taken care of the most immediate health threats, she can step back, take a deep breath, gather her wits and start thinking of the next steps. You can do the same thing. If this book is handy (carry it with you in your pack or first aid kit), you’ll want to consult it to see what to do next. Doctors consult sources all the time—books, online articles and colleagues.

No matter how smart a doctor is, it’s impossible to know every detail of what to do in every emergency situation. But a doctor does know the basics, has read about most of the rest and knows where to find the information if he needs to refresh his memory. Take this same approach to learning and practicing first aid.

Don’t be intimidated by the wealth of information available about medical emergencies. Find books, hands-on courses, webinars and websites you can trust. Read, watch, listen and do. You can’t possibly memorize all the specifics, but the general knowledge will be in the back of your mind. And you’ll know the resources to consult when you need to check the details.

Then, keep this book handy. Know where it is. Pack it on your trips. Maybe you’ll want to get an extra copy to keep in your cabin or RV.


Simple, isn’t it? There’s no magic to dealing with panic. It’s about ensuring that certain basic steps are like reflexes so you don’t have to think about them, and then knowing where to find further information. Your mind may go blank, but you can look up what you need.

What about you? Have you ever had to deal with a medical emergency? Did you know it was coming? Other than call 911, did you know what to do?

Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid makes a great gift! Preorder it now, and print out a gift certificate telling the recipient it’ll be on its way as soon as it’s published (December 31).