Be Healthy, Be Prepared

I previously shared my personal story regarding my diagnosis with Sickle Cell. With that in mind, I thought I would discuss the things I learned from that experience. What can we do to take control of our health to live our best lives and be prepared for any emergency situation? Clearly, there is nothing I could have done to avoid having Sickle Cell Disease, but there are things that I realize I didn’t do that would have given me more control over my health and the care I was receiving. Looking back on the experience, I was a backseat passenger regarding my own health. I was unaware of my most basic health information, which left me at the mercy of the doctors and nurses at the hospital who were unfamiliar with me or my medical history. I think a good portion of my ignorance regarding my own health and medical history stems from not being involved as a child, even into my teen years. I went to the doctor when my mother told me to, did what the doctor said and that was it. Even into my teenage years, I didn’t get any information about my health or have conversations with my parents about it.

As someone who believes in preparedness (general and emergency), here are some things I learned to do:

Get Familiar With Your Doctor

Finding a doctor can be very difficult. There are many factors that go into finding a doctor – what insurance you have, what area you live in versus where the doctor’s office is located, and the doctor’s credentials, among other things. When researching a doctor, be sure to gather some information about the doctor to determine whether he or she is a good fit for you before scheduling an appointment. You shouldn’t just know your doctor’s name and office address. Do you know what they specialize in, are they Board Certified? Having this basic background information will help you decide whether you are seeing the right doctor for your needs. Once you find a doctor, you have to assess whether the doctor’s bedside manner is a good fit for you. My experience has taught me that the relationship you have with your doctor is very important. Being able to discuss one of the most personal aspects of your life – your health – is very important. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your health with a particular doctor, it is important that you find a doctor who you can work with to take care of your health. Not being able to talk to your doctor only hurts you. This is not to say that you have to invite your doctor to Thanksgiving dinner but you should be able to truthfully discuss any and all health issues you may be experiencing.

Understand Your Diagnoses and Treatments

When initially diagnosed with Sickle Cell I didn’t ask any questions. I wasn’t sure what it meant to have Sickle Cell Disease and I’ve never heard of what they said I had, but yet I said nothing. I did do a little research at home but I didn’t question the doctors at all. I didn’t look into what the side effects of the medications were or how they might impact my health. When visiting your doctor and receiving a diagnosis, make sure you understand what it means. Ask questions. Conduct your own research. It is great to have a knowledgeable doctor but in what other area of your life do you just take someone’s word for it? This is your health, your body, make sure you understand what the diagnosis means and what the treatment means for your everyday life. After you have done your own research, discuss your findings with your doctor, see what he or she thinks and recommends. If you notice that your doctor is unwilling to discuss these things with you and/or tries to discourage you from looking into your condition on your own, that may not be the doctor for you. At the same time, be respectful of your doctor’s time, don’t go into the office with 100 pages of medical research and expect him or her to go through it line by line.

Understand Prescriptions

This goes hand-in-hand with understanding Diagnosis and Treatment. Ask questions about the side effects of any medications that are prescribed. As it turns out, my initial diagnosis was incorrect and I didn’t need to be on the steroids prescribed. But I only learned that after I had been on them for a while and suffered some of the side effects. One side effect that I deal with to date is hypertension. The steroids themselves didn’t cause the hypertension but they did lead to an increase in my weight, which ultimately led me to be overweight and then obese. The hypertension was not far behind. You can discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor and pharmacist. Also, don’t forget to ask about how the new medications will interact with medications you are currently on. Your doctor and pharmacist are human beings and they can make a mistake. Asking will prompt them to take a second look. Pay attention to how you feel when you begin taking any new medications and discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Keep a Medical File

Before my health incident, I did not keep a copy of my records or know what was in them. Now, I keep a folder at home with copies of my medical records and test results. I also keep any medical articles that I have found that pertain to any conditions I have or want to speak to my doctor about. It is also a good idea to have one of these files for each family member. This also helps in the event you need to get a second opinion or if something happens and you need to refer to your records.

Use Your Knowledge to Stay Prepared

All of these things help us to be our best selves and to be prepared for any occurrence. We should always strive to be as healthy as we can, not only as an emergency preparedness strategy but also to live our best lives. The healthier you are the more of life you can enjoy. Stay healthy, be prepared.

Having Sickle Cell, I realized that I had to live my life differently than I was. I can’t eat huge amounts of junk food, I have to stay hydrated and I have to make sure I don’t get too cold or too hot, which can be tricky. Also, I’ve learned how to walk the tightrope of being physically active without over-exerting myself. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I must take control of my health and be as informed as possible. It’s never a good idea to be a back seat passenger when it comes to your health. By following these steps, we can use our knowledge to stay prepared.


Twitter: @preptobismom

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Freddie Gray’s Knife: Switchblade or Assisted?

Smith & Wesson SWMP5L

Smith & Wesson SWMP5L w/MAGIC Assist (Spring-assisted opening). Possible type of knife Freddie Gray had.

What happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD was tragic and further emphasizes the growing erosion of rights in the United States. However you may feel about what happened during the aftermath of his death, closer attention should be paid to his arrest and the reason behind it. What happened to Freddie Gray is very important to all preppers, but more so for black preppers. A black person is almost twice as likely to be arrested than their white counterpart for the same offense. If he didn’t die, this story wouldn’t have made national or even local headlines and would have just been another day, another arrest.

The backstory, based on the information that was released, was that Freddie Gray made eye contact with police officers and, “unprovoked,” ran from them. The officers gave chase, subdued him and noticed he had a knife clipped to his pants. He was then arrested for having a switchblade. He was handcuffed and placed in the police van, but not safely restrained in the seat, all the while asking for medical attention. The van stopped and then the officers shackled his feet, but again, he wasn’t restrained in the seat. Because he was not secured, the van’s movements caused him to be thrown around resulting in severe spinal injuries that ultimately led to his death.

The knife Freddie Gray was carrying, according to the prosecutor, was not a switchblade and not illegal. Pictures or a complete description of the actual knife still haven’t been released. These kinds of knives are categorized as spring-assisted opening and are not considered switchblades. Federal law has explicitly separated spring-assisted opening knives and switchblades. Many preppers carry these types of knives as part of their everyday carry (EDC) because of the form factor and the ease of operation. What makes these knives popular is they can be operated with one hand and that is important for self-defense weapons. By it being spring-assisted, there is no need to fiddle with the screw connecting the blade to the handle in order to flick the knife open.

If Freddie Gray wasn’t injured in the police van, he may have been prosecuted for possession of an illegal knife even though it’s not illegal. Depending on the trial, plea deal or even his lawyer, he may have been convicted and sentenced to jail or probation for doing nothing wrong. This should cause us to be very concerned. With the ever increasing “quality of life” stops by the police, which are unconstitutional, carrying a legal knife may lead to an arrest if it’s intentionally, or even unintentionally, misclassified. We see this with thousands of convictions in New York City for misclassified switchblades and gravity knives.

In New York City, plumbers, maintenance and construction workers are being arrested for possessing these knives that they use for work. Police officers there are told to target people with knives clipped to their pockets. According to their own report, 80% of the weapons found during the unconstitutional and racially biased “stop and frisk” searches are knives. Most of those folding knives are misclassified as gravity knives (which are illegal) because they can theoretically, with enough force, be flicked open. They have the highest prosecution rate for misclassified “gravity knives,” based on a vaguely worded law and officer discretion, than anywhere outside of the city, even in other parts of the state.

SWMP5L pocket clipAlthough it’s how I carry my knife, I’m not a fan of the visible pocket carry. Having the knife clipped to my pocket draws attention to it and to me. Whether it’s from a possible assailant or law enforcement, it makes me a target. It can also cause me to be turned away from a venue or it can be confiscated. This has never happened to me, but there’s always that possibility. As preppers, we try to be prepared for many situations. Some of those situations may require a knife, that’s why it’s important to always have one. It’s also important to understand the environment where we live and travel. If you think there may be a problem with the knife you carry, don’t clip it to the pocket and keep it completely inside the pocket. It may also be a good idea to get a fixed blade knife instead if you live in NYC.

Sickle Cell: The Diagnosis

sickle cell word cloud“You have Sickle/Beta-plus Thalassemia. I am going to write you a prescription for folic acid.”

Over the years, I have learned that taking care of your health is a big part of being a prepper. It is important to be in the best shape possible, both physically and mentally should an emergency situation arise. It is important to be knowledgeable about any health conditions you may have and how to treat them.

I didn’t learn I had sickle cell until I was 23 years old and only after having a major crisis.

After months of hospitalization, doctors’ visits, daily blood tests, and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, I finally knew what was wrong with me. Looking back on occurrences in my life, it all made sense. Always having aches and pains, especially when I didn’t drink enough water. I have sickle cell and I found out after having a crisis that nearly ended my life.

I came home from work with a pain in my knee. As the night went on, the pain became worse. My mother suggested I go take a hot bath in an attempt to ease the pain. As I sat in the hot water, I felt the pain radiate from my knee down my leg and then the other leg began to have pain. Before long, the pain was intolerable and I could no longer stand. My family helped me get dressed, carried me to the car and took me to the emergency room. At the emergency room triage area they took my information and began asking questions about the pain I was having. Shortly after that I passed out. When I woke up it was a day or two later.

During the time I was unconscious, my mother says I was given tests and blood transfusions. But even after all of that, there still was not a diagnosis for what happened to me or what was wrong. At one point, the CDC was called in and I remember being quarantined.

At one point, they wanted to perform a bone marrow biopsy. The initial attempt at this procedure was unsuccessful. Apparently, the doctor thought he would be able to shove the biopsy needle in my back with ease without having to use anesthesia or anything else. My cries of pain and disgust made him unable to complete the biopsy at that time. After I was discharged, I went back in for the procedure as an outpatient. At that time, anesthesia was given and the biopsy was performed. The results of the biopsy puzzle me to this day. I often wonder, given the events taken together, if perhaps the biopsy was done improperly, but at this point, no one will ever know. The results showed that I had “crystals” in my bone marrow. The doctor, when discussing the results with me, asked if I had ever injected anything into my bone marrow. I said “no”, internally outraged, but realizing that sometimes people do strange things so perhaps it was not out of the realm of possibility that someone might inject something into their bones. I also began to have little legions/rash spots on my body (mostly my arms and abdominal area.) Subsequent tests and biopsies of the spots were inconclusive. No one was ever able to figure out what was causing the rashes. I am not sure if it was even caused by what would become my initial diagnosis but no one seemed to know what was happening.

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Phone Distraction is Unsafe Beyond Driving

Copyright © 2015 Black Prepper

Black Prepper © Copyright 2015

One of the most dangerous and among the biggest threats to personal safety is something almost everyone has and many hold dear. The smartphone. Ironically, many people would say they have these devices for emergencies and they help them feel safe, but their use is often a distraction and a security threat. Distracted driving deaths has, in some areas, surpassed those from drunk driving, but distracted driving is only a fraction of how smartphone distraction is dangerous. While operating a vehicle or even walking while looking at these devices may result in an accident, the scope of the danger is much wider. Be aware that some states will give you a ticket for distracted driving even if you’re stopped, but still in traffic. (Crossing the Line: Knowing State Law)

Now if you’re parked in a parking spot, you’re free to use your phone as much as you want. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The same idea behind distracted driving being a problem still holds true when parked; being unaware of the surroundings. Of course it’s highly unlikely to cause an accident while parked, but what about that robber or deranged person sneaking up on you? You didn’t see them coming because you were looking at your phone.

With your head down and being totally immersed in the text conversation or social media, you are a target. The car you’re driving may be the prize for the criminal; it could also be your phone or even your life. By being distracted, you’re giving them the upper hand; you’ll never see it coming. Why should you worry, you’re in a 2,000+ pound vehicle with the doors locked and glass to protect you? Are your doors really locked or did they unlock when you put the car in park, a passenger opened a door or you turned off the engine? Being in a heavy metal car is meaningless when it’s surrounded by thin glass. Cars aren’t designed to keep you safe from a determined intruder trying to get in and they are remarkable easy to break into.

All too often we hear on the news of someone getting their phone snatched out of their hands, being held up at gun point or being assaulted and the thief running off with their phone. Recently, a woman walking with her 3-month-old child strapped to her chest in a baby carrier was kicked to the ground from behind and had her phone stolen. The video showed that when her assailant passed her, he noticed her phone and that prompted him to attack. We have to be aware of what is going on around us, especially when walking. We should not be consumed with the distraction. Many times I’ve had to suddenly stop my car because a pedestrian walked into the street without looking because they’re distracted by their phone.

There’s also an indirect casualty of smartphone distraction. The eyewitness. Although eyewitnesses are often unreliable, they help with understanding what transpired. With so many people being distracted, the number of eyewitnesses has diminished. Have you ever looked into a car driving next to you and see most of the occupants looking down at their phones? None of them would know what hit them in an accident. The same is true for other public places especially where there’s a waiting area. To pass the time, many people pull out their smartphones and tune out their surroundings, oblivious to any situation that may be developing. Sometimes looking at someone before they commit a crime may deter them.

We are living in dangerous times and should always keep our heads on a swivel. Criminals often try to employ distractions to catch their victims off-guard, but people are now providing their own distractions, making the criminals’ job easier. I don’t advocate giving up smartphones, I have one and it’s incredibly useful, but we shouldn’t become so immersed in them that we don’t know what’s going on around us. I don’t do anything too attention consuming on my phone while sitting in a parked car, and every few seconds, I scan the area. If it’s night, I don’t look at my phone at all. The glow is a giveaway and it’s much harder to see in the dark especially when your eyes have to readjust from looking at the backlit phone. Next time you’re in a public place and are looking at your phone, be aware that it’s a distraction and look around. Sometimes it’s best to just put the phone down, it may save your life.

Crossing the Line: Knowing State Law

It’s very important to know your state’s laws and the laws of states where you may plan to travel. Never assume that neighboring states have the same laws or that law enforcement is going to let an infraction slide because you were unaware of the law. Recently, a woman from Pennsylvania, with a permit to carry a gun, traveled to New Jersey with a legally owned gun, loaded with hollow point bullets. During a traffic stop, she informed the police officer she had a gun in the car, which is what you should do under normal circumstances. However, New Jersey doesn’t recognize the carry permits of other states. She was arrested, charged with possession of a firearm and faced 3 years in jail. Had she not mentioned the gun, she may have just received a traffic ticket. Not knowing the laws of the state she traveled to, she provided information that caused her arrest. Luckily, due to public outcry and actions by the Acting Attorney General, she was accepted into a pretrial intervention program. Once completed, her criminal record will be cleared. A situation like this could be avoided by knowing the laws of states you visit. This is especially important when you are carrying a firearm or any weapon. In knowing the law, if you realize you are breaking it, you may not want to divulge too much information.

About two months ago I was looking at stun guns on the Amazon app. About an hour after looking at the stun guns I noticed an email from Amazon thanking me for my order.  The problem is, I didn’t order it. I believe one of my kids got to my phone and inadvertently clicked the buy with one-click button since I hadn’t closed the app. It was purchased and it would arrive in two days. I could still cancel it, but I was probably going to buy it anyway so I left it alone. But wait, it’s important to know your state’s laws. The next day I decided to check how my state feels about stun guns and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a felony to knowingly possess one. The thing about felonies, they make you a felon and felons can’t own firearms, plus it’s public record so it will show up in any background check. Not really worth it for a stun gun. Even if no one knows I bought it, I can’t use it. Using it means I have it and having it is a felony. I contacted Amazon immediately and canceled the order and refused delivery the next day.

Knowing the law not only helps to keep you out of trouble, it also helps to keep the government from taking advantage of you. Municipalities with a revenue problem will come up with ways to get your money. The easiest targets are people who don’t know the laws, particularly motorists. We see this with the shortening of the yellow light at intersections with red light cameras. Fighting a red light camera ticket with a shortened yellow light will often result in the ticket being dismissed. Recently, a town in New York was ticketing drivers for speeding in school zones on school days. The problem with this was that schools were closed for summer vacation so they weren’t actually school days. Many drivers paid these tickets, but were eventually given a refund after community outrage and media exposure. Knowing the law allows you to challenge them when they are being applied incorrectly or unfairly.

But knowing and following the law doesn’t guarantee you won’t get into trouble. Texas has a castle doctrine, which means that if an intruder enters your home, you have no duty to retreat. If you have reason to believe the intruder will harm you, you are justified in using deadly force. Many states have similar laws, so check yours and be sure you understand what it means. I mentioned Texas’ castle doctrine because in early 2014, Marvin Louis Guy and his wife woke up at 5:30 a.m. to armed men attempting to enter their home through a window. Guy retrieved his firearm and opened fire, killing one, injuring another and hitting two others who received minor injuries because they were wearing body armor. Those intruders turned out to be police officers serving a “no knock” drug search warrant based on an informant “witnessing” cocaine being transported to the home. The officers didn’t identify themselves when attempting to enter the home, leaving Guy unaware of their identities when he opened fire. No drugs or traces of drug distribution were found, but Guy was arrested and charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder of the police officers. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out.

A mistake people often make is assuming they know what the law says by hearsay. I’ve heard a number of times that New Jersey law requires residents to retreat during a home invasion and only if they’re unable to, that is when they can confront the intruder. This is incorrect as New Jersey has a castle doctrine that states the residents or someone acting to protect the residents in a dwelling have no duty to retreat and can use force or deadly force against an intruder. When we hear many people “quoting” a law, we believe it must be true, but it’s best to read the laws yourself rather than base your knowledge on someone else’s understanding or misunderstanding.

Do you know where to find your state’s laws? Start with the state’s website and look for legislation or statues in the menu. Or google “[your state] laws” and look for the website with “state.[xx].us” (xx is your state’s two letter abbreviation) in the address. From there you get the actually legislation and not someone’s copy or interpretation.

Cold Weather Safety: Family Fall & Winter Prep

It’s that time of year again. It seems to have come a little earlier this year. It’s time to prepare yourself and your family for winter. Cold weather can be deadly. It is important to be prepared before you get a winter storm warning and before the temperature plummets.

Exposure to cold can lead to frostbite, hypothermia and death. It is important to be prepared for situations where you may become trapped in your home, stranded outside your home or without electricity and/or heat during a winter storm.

Do you and your family have a plan of communication should you be separated during a winter storm? Communication plans are important. Everyone should know who to call or where to meet should you become separated. Set up a plan to meet somewhere once the storm conditions calm down or have a number or email address that everyone knows so that you can check in should you become separated.

Be sure to stay abreast of the weather on a daily basis and pay attention to weather advisories. Become familiar with weather advisory vocabulary. It is important to know the difference between a winter storm advisory, which is winter weather that presents a hazard, as opposed to a winter storm warning, which means a storm is occurring or will occur within 36 hours.

Some things to consider when making winter preparations: Continue reading