Patient Advocacy For Good Times and Bad

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: July 3, 2019
Patient Advocacy For Good Times and Bad

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Becoming medically prepared can be one of the most difficult aspects of prepping.  First, there is the unpredictable nature of medical emergencies themselves.  Then there is the prospect of inadequate medical training coupled with the lack of supplies and medicine.

Even during normal times, doing the right thing medically can have dire consequences.  Something you may not have considered is the need for patient advocacy, both now and in the future when the prospect of getting good proper medical care is not likely.

Dr. Joe Alton is back again with an all-new and all-important article of medical preparedness.

Patient Advocacy For Good Times and Bad | Backdoor Survival

Advocating for the Patient in Good or Bad Times

We spend a lot of time talking about medical issues in natural and man-made disasters. However, a calamity can also be very personal, such as when you or a loved one suffers a major medical emergency, whether in good or bad times.

In many instances, it is easy for someone like this to “fall through the cracks” of a huge medical establishment. I know this happens, as I saw the results of it as a resident in a large inner-city hospital. The lack of having an advocate, for example, in an epidemic setting can be very hazardous to your health.

A similar scenario that could have been fatal also happened to one of our sons, Daniel. Daniel is a 32-year-old who has had severe diabetes since he was nine years old. Due to his disease, he had developed kidney failure, partial blindness, circulatory problems, and had been on dialysis for more than a year. He had been on a transplant waiting list as well.

After a number of false alarms, a kidney and pancreas became available as a result of a drunk driver taking the life of a young father of two as he was riding his bicycle. Daniel underwent transplant surgery at a large city hospital, one of the few in the state that performed this type of procedure.

The good news is that the new organs functioned well from the very start, producing urine and lowering his blood sugars to almost normal levels within 24 hours. Several days after the operation, he was deemed fit enough to leave the Intensive Care Unit and go to a regular floor. This meant that, instead of having a nurse specifically for him, he shared a nurse with several other patients. This is standard operating procedure and usually, has no ominous implications.

However, when we went to see him the day of his transfer, he wasn’t looking well. He seemed pale and his abdomen seemed more distended that it did before. There was a drain coming out of his belly, and it was full of bright red blood.

As a surgeon, seeing a drain with some bloody fluid isn’t that unusual. But the sheer volume of blood draining out of his abdomen was concerning. Nurse Amy and I took it upon ourselves to check Daniel’s vital signs earlier than scheduled and found him to have a racing pulse and a dropping blood pressure. As we were unable to find medical staff, we emptied the bloody drain and watched it rapidly fill up again (and again) in short order. It was clear that he was bleeding internally.

This occurred in the wee hours of the morning after most visitors had left. Staffing was light, and it took some time to find his nurse, who was attending another patient. Our hackles were raised, and we’re not ashamed to admit that we raised a racket. An overworked resident came in to take a look at him. To her credit, she realized that something was wrong, and he returned to the operating room. They wound up removing 3 or 4 liters of free blood from his abdomen before the hemorrhage came under control.

Daniel recovered from this ordeal and, thankfully, his transplanted kidney and pancreas are still functioning. However, thinking about this episode, it was clear to us that it could have ended very badly. If not identified in time, it’s very likely that we would have received a call in the morning notifying us that Daniel had passed away during the night.

We tell you this story not to gain sympathy or a pat on the back, but to convince you of the importance of being a patient advocate. Our advice is not just for family members. If you are working to become a better medical asset to your people in hard times, then you must take patient advocacy as serious as learning first aid. You must walk a mile in the shoes of your patient.

You may already see yourself as an advocate for your patient. Indeed, most doctors today feel they know what’s best for their patients. I certainly hope it is this that guides them; that they would do for their patients as they would for a member of their family. As a medic in a disaster, however, you may be overworked and under stress.

This may make it difficult for you to see things from your patient’s perspective. Your patient may “fall through the cracks” if you’re not careful, simply due to the amount of pressure on you to care for a large survival community.

Consider appointing a family member or other individual to follow a sick patient with you, not necessarily to provide care but to provide support as an advocate. Allow your patient to participate in medical decisions regarding their health and never resent their questions. If they are too weak to do so, communicate your plan of action with their appointed advocate.

Three A’s of Patient Advocacy

Here are Alton’s Three A’s of Advocacy

1)            Accept the importance of a patient’s right to be informed and, if possible, participate in medical decision-making.

2)            Advise the patient so that they understand the medical issue in question and can be a full partner in the therapeutic process.

3)            Allow an advocate to be an intermediary if the patient is too weak to actively participate in their care.

Hard realities may make it difficult to provide quality, informed care in times of trouble. Unfortunately, medic, that is your duty; it’s a responsibility that’s as imperative in bad times as it is in good.

The Final Word

It is not difficult to imagine a time or a place when medical help may not be readily available.  The scenarios are many.  Following a catastrophic natural or manmade disaster, during a pandemic, or even a during a vacation to a remote location.  In each of these cases, you may have to take patient care under your own wing and do the best you can to ensure a good outcome.

In those circumstances, do the best you can, keeping in mind the Alton’s three A’s: Accept, Advice, and Allow.  As a matter of fact, start practicing them now.  They could be a game-changer.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Author Bio:  Joe and Amy Alton are the authors of the 3 category #1 Amazon Bestseller "The Survival Medicine Handbook".  See their articles in Backwoods Home, Survival Quarterly, and other great magazines as well as their website at The opinions voiced by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP. are their own and are not meant to take the place of seeking medical help from a qualified healthcare provider.

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to items that are first aid related and also to the use of Fish Antibiotics when traditional pharmacies and medical personnel are not available.  If you are interested in learning more, read Why Store Fish Antibiotics For Survival.

The SURVIVAL MEDICINE Handbook: Third Edition:  This book by Dr. Joe Alton is the definitive source of medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible not only for emergency medicine but for day to day ailments as well.

AMOXFIN (500mg/ 30Capsules):  Read the review and decide for yourself. This is 100% pure amoxicillin, designed to keep your fishies healthy.  There is also Fin Mox Forte (500mg/100 Capsules): but there are not as many reviews.

Thomas Labs Fish Mox Amoxicillin 100 Count 250mg Capsules:  The prices on fish antibiotics from Wal-Mart are some of the best out there.  500mg capsules are available here and shipping is free.

Stretch Bandage Wrap, 1” 30 rolls: I first learned about self-adhesive bandages when my dog came home from the vet such a bandage wrapped around his leg.  A light went off telling me I needed to add some to my first-aid kit.  And so I did.  This is a fantastic price and rivals the price at the farm supply.  I rarely use old-fashioned band aids any more. You are going to love this stuff.

Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: A must for any first aid or emergency kit, Quikclot Sport stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.

CELOX First Aid Temporary Traumatic Wound Treatment, 10-Pack: These small packets of granules will stop bleeding within 30 seconds. To use, pour directly on a wound and apply pressure; it won’t sting or burn. Also safe for pets.  I like that the small packets are portable.

Tincture of Benzoin: This is another one of those items I had never heard of.  Its purpose is to hold a bandage or dressing in place.

ProAdvantage Sterile Butterfly Closure Bandages:  I checked my first aid kit and only had a few of these so I ordered a new supply.  This box of 100 is about $6.

Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.

New-Skin Liquid Bandage, First Aid Liquid Antiseptic:  I have been using New Skin for years.  It is an antiseptic, invisible, flexible, and waterproof.  It works.

Spark Naturals Essential Oils: My first line of defense for minor ailments and illness is essential oils.A good option to start with is the “Health and Wellness” kit that comes  packaged in a tin and includes a brochure with suggested uses for each of the oils.  As kits, these oils are already discounted but as an added bonus, you get an additional 10% off with discount code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout.


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4 Responses to “Patient Advocacy For Good Times and Bad”

  1. Timely and critical article. We lost our mother in law last June. She had decided in February that she was no longer going to eat, and she didn’t. But she had been sick for years before that, and I acted as her advocate that entire time. There were so many instances when we went in to see her and she would be so totally drugged or out of it that I would start looking at what she was on and what had been given to her. She was especially prone to Urinary Tract Infections (which is what eventually killed her), and I could tell just by her smell and speech if she was infected. I think she was able to live longer and better because we never just dumped her in assisted living and ran away.

  2. Gaye, this is a vitally important article. My wife has been in and out of the hospital (mostly in) for the past 8 months with extreme Gastroparesis. She had colon abscesses as a result of diverticulitis and underwent a colostomy operation. Shortly thereafter the gastroparesis set in. Through all of this I have been at her side, helping as needed, advocating when required, handing out praise to some terrific nurses and escalating any problems as needed. Patients NEED an advocate, as many hospitals are understaffed and as you put it, some patients can slip through the cracks if there isn’t someone there to get a nurse or doctor’s attention when it is needed.

  3. It is important to be an advocate for another person. Our more elderly population “don’t want to be a bother” to a busy doctor & their office staff or hospital staff. So they may not share if they are in more pain or do not feel well at that given moment than they let on. Some patients may not be able to communicate their concerns. When we know our spouses, children, grandchildren, parents and friends well enough, we know when they aren’t their self or don’t look good that day. We need to look further and ask questions, help them to communicate, get answers to their questions, help them with medical care they may need. Learn the signs as Dr. Alton explained that there is a problem and do something, say something, whatever it takes. We all may be on our own one day and what little medical services we might have will certainly be stretched to the breaking point. For your family members, keep records of previous illnesses, medications they have taken or are currently on, any allergic reactions to certain medicine and topical products, bee stings or food allergies. Know some basic first aid to help while more experienced care can be found. Let the person understand that you are in their corner and are there to help them. For your own health care, step up and participate in any care you are currently receiving, don’t make it a last priority and don’t ignore it. We learn as we go and can always gain more knowledge for the next time it happens.

  4. My husband has chronic and acute pancreatitis. He has been hospitalized numerous times due to his pancreas filling up with fluids. I always go with him and stay with him. I have to be there with him. I try to be his advocate as well as his Mom’s. Which she is in hospital now, but I can’t stay with her at this time. She is in a Behavioral Health Unit. She’s been there 2 days so far.

    Thank you so much for this article.

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