What do you think of when you hear “SHTF” or “TEOTWAWKI”? I’m willing to bet that something along the lines of a huge societal breakdown, catastrophic weather event, nuclear war, or other doomsday-type scenario pops into your head. And why shouldn’t it? When we make the decision to prepare for bad things, the worst of the bad things tends to be what we focus on, so we can tell ourselves we can handle most of anything that comes down the pike. However, some of these scenarios are so ingrained into our worldviews through popular accepted media portrayal, that they become almost stereotypical and tend to be what we focus 100% of our efforts on when we prep for emergencies. While it’s good that we’re prepping, sometimes we get caught off guard with immediate, personal catastrophes…ones maybe you didn’t see coming. That happened to me last week: the SHTF in my world, and not in a way that ever was expected. And let me tell you, it was worse that I ever could have imagined.
Worst Day Ever.
I’m going to give you guys a little glimpse into what happened to me, not because I’m looking for sympathy and a million comments of “I hope you/your wife/your baby are fine”, but because I’d like to open your eyes a bit. What happened was a vindication of some prepping, and a complete glaring lack of basic plans that should be absolute #1 priorities.
My wife is epileptic. She’s known this since she was 14, and takes medication for it to control seizures. The medicine she WAS on that worked for many years, very well, ended up being toxic to developing fetuses, with a huge rate of birth defects, so when we started planning for a baby over a year ago, switching medications was at the top of our list. After a couple trips to her neurologist, she was given a new medication for her epilepsy. It was much safer for fetuses, but it didn’t do as hot of a job at controlling her issues. Granted, she didn’t flop to the floor and start having crazy Grand Mal seizures, but she’d have sudden sharp intakes of breath, or her arms would jerk uncontrollably, or she’d have hand and finger shaking that was out of her control. Sometimes her balance would be bad and she’d fall for no reason. But, we put up with it, and in November, we had a beautiful little baby boy, who is the absolute light of my life. We were, and still are, both on cloud nine! She took 12 weeks off from work to be with the baby, and I had been back to work for a couple weeks. It was at work where I found myself when I got a rather cryptic email message from my wife.
“Call. Barb now”
I raced outdoors to try calling her. No answer. We have terrible cellphone reception at the house, so I wasn’t surprised. I tried calling Barb, our next-door neighbor. They weren’t home. Then I got two more emails:
I promptly called 911 and gave them the pertinent information, my heart racing. I ran inside, told my boss I had an emergency, and bolted out the door…I don’t even think I punched out. Follow-up emails didn’t get any responses. I kept telling myself to stay calm as I drove home – another accident wouldn’t help anything. But then I’d realized that if emergency services took her and/or my baby, I had no idea where they would actually bring them. By this time, I really had to fight to keep myself from panicking. Having no information as to what happened, knowing my family needed me and I wasn’t there, and not knowing what the end game was and where it would be was too much to process. I was about 10 minutes from home when the emergency dispatcher called me (thank God!) and let me know where they were taking my wife and child ( local hospital with a less than savory reputation). I asked if they were okay, and the dispatcher took a deep, foreboding breath, and said, “all I know is the mother was holding the baby when they got there. Good luck, sir.”
I turned the truck around, and bolted to the hospital dispatch mentioned. I got there early, and saw the ambulance come in, lights and siren blaring. Bad news. They opened the doors, and I saw my 5-week-old son strapped in his car seat to a gurney, his head swollen to unbelievable levels and my wife crying like I’d never seen. She was physically fine; it was clear the baby was not. My heart sank, and I about died inside, right then and there.
My wife had had a small seizure while at home alone with the baby. She was standing, holding him when it hit. Her arms jerked out uncontrollably, and my son fell onto the tile floor head-first. She fell backwards, bruised her backside and elbows, but the boy got pretty banged up. We ended up being rushed to a much better hospital with a stellar pediatrics ward, after the local hospital ham-fisted an MRI and a few other things, so my complete anguish. But the new hospital deals with stuff like this all the time, and after four days and a first-rate, amazing staff looking after my little guy, we returned home safe and sound, no lasting damage to the little guy, just mom dealing with guilt and dad reeling with everything. I’m happy to report that my son is awesome now, and follow-up checkups have shown an incredible recovery after skull fractures and brain bruising. It’s amazing what kids can bounce back from, I tell ya.
Unknown to us, though, (and just to illustrate the fact that there are things behind-the-scenes that you can NEVER see coming and will give you stress, making things worse) DHS and child protective services are all over us with investigations. We were told 80-90% of infant head trauma cases are abuse (can you BELIEVE that?!?) so we’re getting calls from them almost daily, scheduling visits, interviews, pulling my 13-year-old stepson out of class to interview him. It’s a clusterf*%k of the highest accord, and truly stressing us out and dragging things badly while we just want to recover and get over things.
So, after bearing through that little insight into my life, what can we learn? Some may not view this as a true “SHTF” event, but I can tell you this: I’d rather deal with a zombie apocalypse any day than re-live that short span of time from when I got the first email to the point where we were told our son would be OK. It was completely unplanned for, completely out of my control, and life-changing. That, to me, qualifies as a SHTF event.
-Have a plan: we were still so overjoyed and distracted with our little guy that we never made any emergency plans. Make a piece of paper with emergency contact info for close relatives, hospital choice(s), medications (if any) taken by each member of the family. Doctor names and numbers. Have a copy in each vehicle, and a couple at home so you can give the paramedics and doctors the info when you’re too stunned by events to think of these things, or worse yet, get them wrong. Give this info to any nearby relatives as well.
–Have supplies: we were in the hospital four days. As I said before, my wife takes medications for a couple issues, and she certainly didn’t think to bring any with her when she jumped into the ambulance with our injured infant. Luckily, my BOB was vindicated (and she ALWAYS gave me crap about dragging it around) when the weeks’ worth of her medications that I can stowed away in it meant that we could stay at the hospital and focus our attention on the issues at hand. Also, the spare clothes and basic hygiene items I had meant that we could be relatively comfortable – which doesn’t sound like much, but man, being able to brush my teeth and wash my face made the HUGEST difference.
–Have a network: be sure you have someone you can call who can take care of issues for you if you’re away from the house for an extended period of time. Thankfully, my father and my mother-in-law were able to take care of my 13-year-old stepson, and get to the house daily to let out my dog, feed the cats, etc. Not having to worry about these things will make one less thing to stress about. Also, having someone who can grab clean clothes, food, or any other needs will make a big difference.
–Stay calm. Being able to have at least one person in their right mind (or at least close to it) to be able to answer questions for doctors, police, paramedics etc., could be a literal lifesaver. If there are two of you, great! Take shifts dealing with emergency stuff while the other person has a bit of time to cope. It doesn’t take long to completely bug out in high-stress situations. Also, if you’re driving somewhere to meet them to help with a SHTF event, drive calmly, obey traffic laws. Driving through a red-light in a panic and getting T-boned will just add to anguish.
–Take care of yourself: My wife didn’t eat anything for quite some time, and when she went to stand up, she almost collapsed. Stay fed, stay hydrated. This will comfort you, and it will promote mental and physical well-being. If she’d passed out from hunger or exhaustion, it would have created just another problem for others to deal with. Rest up too, when the time presents itself – even if it’s just a 15-minute power nap. These little things make a huge difference.
-Have communications: we have dodgy cellphone service at our house and no land-line, which was a clincher in this situation. My wife didn’t even have the reception to call 911, and it freaked her out. Her hands were shaking so bad she almost couldn’t email me after she’d crawled across the floor with a screaming baby to her iPhone. Having a land line she could have just dialed 911 into would have saved a lot of time and possible injury. Needless to say, we now have a land-line.
Granted, these are all lessons that are kind of “DUH” items for anyone who can look over the whole situation, but sometimes we get distracted by life. Remember, things like when happened to me, terrible as it was, are far more likely than a nuclear war, EMP blast, or…? Being ready and prepared for possible every day problems will help us learn and keep us prepared mentally and physically, for when there IS a huge doomsday event.
Again, I’m not looking for a bunch of “I hope everyone is OK” comments – everyone IS OK (more or less)… but any questions or comments are more than welcome. I hope my little lesson will help others prepare for theirs.