When I was traveling through the Caribbean on my solo sea kayak journey of 1988-90, I met a young man in the town of Samana, in the Dominican Republic, who had suffered just such a horrible wound at the hands of a jealous husband wielding a machete. He was lucky to have survived, as the attacker meant to split his skull with it. Using his forearm to block the vicious strike, he almost lost the arm, but absorbed most of the force before it hit his face. Far more stitches than I could count encircled the forearm that was slashed to the bone and another row extended from the top of his scalp all the way across his forehead, eyebrow, bridge of his nose and cheekbone. All this just from one strike. While it is certain he would have been killed instantly if he had not sacrificed his arm to block the blow, if he had been in a situation where he could not get quick medical attention, he probably would have bled out from the cut artery in his arm anyway.
So what would you do in a case like that if you couldn't get outside help? I was thinking about this a lot over the last two days as I worked on a scene in my current book project (the post-apocalyptic novel I'm now writing) in which one of the characters is cut almost the same way. Getting to a hospital or calling for an ambulance is out of the question, so what choices does the person attending the victim have? Stopping the flow of blood is obviously the first priority, and depending on the severity and location of the wound, you may have only minutes to do so. Applying a tourniquet used to be the accepted wisdom, but it is now known that doing so almost guarantees the loss of the limb. Applying direct pressure is much safer, and can be just as effective. As it happens, just as I was sorting through various references on the correct way to do this, a message came through on my Twitter account informing me of a new follow by James Hubberd@thesurvivalMD, and the timing could not have been better.
I followed the link back to his website: The Survival Doctor, and found an excellent resource on just the kind of trauma first aid information I was looking for. Dr. Hubberd's blog posts only go back to September, but all of them are informative, with illustrations and videos that show and explain in simple terms how to deal with some pretty severe medical emergencies in the field. Dr. Hubberd is a family M.D. with 30 years of experience in the field. What's interesting about his approach, is that as his site title suggests, he's writing this for those interested in medical preparedness in the event of a disaster, social upheaval or other situation where you're isolated and "help is not on the way." I think this site is going to be a useful resource for all of us and I've added The Survival Doctor to my blogroll so we can all look forward to learning something new from Dr. Hubberd's updates. And thanks to the quick-thinking actions of his brother who knew just the right thing to do because of this new site, my badly-slashed character will not only live, but may even regain full use of his right arm again.