First Aid First Priority

Reader Contribution by Erin C
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“You’re a nurse, why can’t you just pop a couple stitches in it?”

“Well, because usually I’m taking them out, not putting them in. I have never stitched anybody  in my life.”

This was the conversation my husband and I were having as he stood bleeding in the bathroom, me trying to clean up his cut.  We were butchering chickens that day and he plunged the end of a dull knife into the palm of his hand.  He needed stitches, that’s not what I was doubting; I didn’t want to be the one to do them. We have a pretty impressive first aid kit, and it includes sutures, but I really didn’t want to have to stitch him up.  I did it anyway.  For one thing, I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.  For another, it was gaping. So I put a butterfly closure on the bottom half, which stuck beautifully, and I put a single stitch in the top half because I couldn’t get a second butterfly closure to hold. That lasted most of the day until he decided to take out the stitch and see what happened.  It started to bleed again, but it had held together long enough so that the butterfly closure we slapped on it held. 

As I was digging through the first aid kit at the time, I realized that if we were more remote than we currently are, there are many times we would be in trouble. We are a five minute drive from the nearest emergency room at the moment, but when it comes time to purchase our forever property, we want to be far away from civilization. That week, we spent some money upgrading the first aid kit and added multiple suture kits, butterfly closures, steri-strips, and a lot of gauze. I already had multiple kinds of tape, Coban, Kerlix and other wound dressing items, but we needed the ability to do stitches quickly and correctly.  My husband makes knives, so he works with sharp blades, and some heavier tools.  Plus, he’s a little accident-prone. I also found a practice pad online for suturing different kinds of wounds.  I have been practicing my technique and can say the next time I have to stitch anybody, I’m ready. 

First aid is a priority on a homestead, with knowledge and supplies being equally important. And we not only have tools to work on the people who live here, we also have tools to work on the animals. If you can’t get to a doctor or a vet in a hurry, it’s imperative to have supplies on hand and some amount of know-how to respond to emergencies on your property.

I have an advantage, honestly, because I’m an registered nurse. I work in a hospital intensive care unit and have worked in the ER before.  I have helped work on gunshot wounds, all-terrain vehicle accidents, broken and dislocated bones, and cuts requiring multiple levels of stitches. But practice is important, and so is having a preparedness plan for emergencies. In my first aid kit, I have multiple sizes of gauze, numerous suture kits, different kinds of bandages, quick clot, and disinfectants such as alcohol, chlorhexidine, and iodine. I have Blue-Kote for the animals. I have saline to wash out wounds and Coban to hold bandages in place more securely. I also have different sizes of needles and syringes, either for giving medications or for puncturing an abscess. I have products such as iodoform for packing wounds and abscesses, and Xeroform for covering open areas.  We have Neosporin and Tylan and the vet told me where and how to give an injection to a chicken.

A couple of days after we added items for bleeding injuries to the kit, my husband was making dinner.  When I heard him start cursing and running water over his hand, all I could think was, “I don’t have anything for burns in my kit.”  Burn treatments are on the list.

Every home needs at least a rudimentary first aid kit, but if you live or work on a homestead, especially one that is fairly remote, that kit may need a boost. There are priorities for sure, and as such, we keep items to help control bleeding, splint a break or sprain, aspirin for chest pain, Tylenol for fever, and some way and form to get electrolytes into human or animal to stave off dehydration.  Personally, I would also suggest a CPR/first aid class. The Red Cross holds courses designed for non-first responders, etc., and most colleges or community colleges have CPR courses. Check the availability in your area. Being careful and aware are essential to preventing injuries and emergencies, but none of us live in a bubble, so the second best thing is keeping a well-stocked supply kit and knowing how to use the items. 

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