I thought we were pretty well-prepared for emergencies: a little extra food in the pantry, some stored water, hand-crank flashlights and radio, solar oven and rocket stove for cooking, camping toilet, and so on. We don't take many OTC drugs, but I have a few bought on sale, with coupons, just in case - ibuprofen, some cough syrup, flu and cold medicine. You know, just the basics. I've also got books on natural and herbal remedies but haven't got the supplies on hand to make most of those.
My sweetie gets sick more often than I do because he is exposed to more people through his workplace. My exposure to people is generally limited to retail establishments (no, I don't spend all my time shopping) but I am very careful to always use the hand wipes now supplied by most stores to clean my hands and the bar on the grocery cart. In other locations without carts, I clean my hands once I return to my vehicle. It took a while, but I also successfully learned to avoid touching my face, especially my eyes, nose, or mouth, before washing my hands when out in public.
These habits have done a remarkable job of keeping me well for years. Being around someone who had a really bad cold, though, this year did me in and I finally succumbed. This was not an emergency and should not have been too difficult to deal with. Rest, keeping hydrated, and eating healthy food should have taken care of it.
The thing about emergencies, though, is that they are not predictable. How could I have known that when I finally did get sick, it would be at the same time the vehicle got a serious oil leak and was undriveable, that we'd have a broken pipe due to record cold temperatures and I'd be without water for 48 hours (and then laundry ability for another week), and that my husband would also be sick at the same time?
Theoretically, this is what emergency preps are supposed to address. Well, I found out ours were lacking. I've written about how we've successfully made it through a weekend with our water, electricity, and gas turned off (see posts under emergencies tag), so I knew we were perfectly capable of dealing with the lack of water. We have bikes and feet so dealing with no vehicle isn't the end of the world, although we've not been riding at our new home nearly as much as we did in town.
What I didn't take into account, however, is that being sick saps ALL your energy. I wasn't sick yet when the water was first turned off, but found I'd not thought about the use of stored water, either. We put a bit of bleach in the bottles to prevent algae from growing. Bleach tastes nasty! It's easy to deal with; just open the container and let it sit 24 to 48 hours - the chlorine will evaporate out. I had to scramble to find water bottles from the vehicle and packs for us to make it through this period, though.
With the lack of water impacting food preparation - not enough to wash many vegs or dishes - I turned towards my frozen food and easy meals off the shelf. Even though we got our water back relatively quickly, I was now sick and my sweetie had not recovered yet either. The need for easy food continued but my supplies were running low. Normally, if we were faced with this situation of both feeling like crap and not having easy food on hand, I'd run to the store for some frozen or prepared food. That wasn't an option with no car and no energy to bike.
I know, I know. You're thinking how hard could it be to boil water for pasta or cook some rice or something. Think back to the last time you were really sick. You simply don't have the energy to lift a pot of water for pasta or even measure out the rice. And the fuzzy brain that comes with illness doesn't help either. What we really needed was someone to go run errands for us, take care of us a little. Sadly, though, we don't know any of our neighbors that well here and we're now 25 miles out of town so it's hard to ask friends down there to come all the way up to drop stuff off (and risk getting sick).
Thanks to the whole not being able to think clearly issue, too, I forgot about two things that would have helped me get through the worst part of the cold faster - my neti pot and my steamer. I'm doing those now because I'm still not over this, but starting it a week ago probably would have helped a bit.
What have I learned from all this? I've learned I need to do some organizing and additional preparation for this possibility in the future. Rather than telling myself that my backpacker sample packs of dehydrated vegetables and beans will get me through any emergency, I need to take the time to assemble some of them into soup packs, and then store them in a convenient and accessible place in the pantry. I need to go ahead and stock some convenience foods we normally try to avoid, such as instant rice, ramen (or any quick-cooking) noodles, canned soups, and maybe more frozen food. I need to keep at least one large bottle of water in the house filled with fresh water, changing it regularly, so there is always something to drink.
I also need to finish organizing my medicine cabinet. I just tossed what I had on the shelves months ago and never finished organizing it. Grouping the items for colds together, including the neti pot, would have helped me see what we had. I need to stay on top of expiration dates (only loosely followed) and restock as necessary, and look into what natural and herbal remedies I could have on hand. Shelf-stability is obviously important since we don't get sick all that often.
And, of course, I need to get back in the habit of biking and walking frequently so we're able to deal better without a vehicle, although being sick would still put a real crimp on that. I am getting to know the neighbors better and have gotten a few phone numbers recently. I hope to network more in my community so that I have people to call on in a similar emergency.
Have you ever gotten to test your emergency preparations when sick? What worked and what didn't?
Oh, that reminds me of one additional thing on the list: replace the camping toilet. A leaking toilet when you have no running water and you are sick is NOT fun...