Lesson in survival and dying



I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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I work in medical field and last week we had emergency that reminded me of something I first learned in my SHTF time. It is lesson in survival even if it helps also with dying.

So during my SHTF time. The night this happened started normal. I left my house right after dark. That night shelling was a lot. I had bad feeling, I remember that. Not that it was not normal to have bad feeling going out but this night I remember was worse.

Before shell hits, depending on shell, you have a bit time to hide. Not much, seconds at best. So you hide to stay not seen and when you hear sound of artillery you try to make yourself even smaller. Usually jump behind next pile of rubble or whatever is there.

Early that night I came to bigger street and some shells came down in front of me. I was still in ruined building hiding so no problem. I made it over street a bit later and then saw the mess. Woman, I do not know age had caught shrapnel to her body and face.

She somehow got in entrance of house and was lying there in shock. It looked bad. I did not know what to do. She tried to touch her face but there was not much left. She keep on saying she can not see. I told her to be calm and that help comes. It did not but I did not know what else to say. There was nobody to help and hospital with few doctors and few medication was in different part of city.

Then I took her hand that she stop touching her face. She became more quiet, almost relaxed. So I sit there, hold hand and she start talking about how nice place was before war. We sit and talk maybe twenty minutes, not sure if she really heard me and then she was gone.

I thought that holding hands has helped her to take last journey more relaxed.

I saw many people dying in my time in war and always try to give them gentle touch if they want. It usually has same effect. They get more relaxed and peaceful. Some want to roll up and left alone too but many more do not want to be alone.

Now when I work in emergency service I know how important that is. Last week we had emergency car accident with older married couple involved. Man ended up dead right away, woman survived. I hold her hand on way to hospital and few days later she remembered and thanked me for that.

This is not only for woman but for man too. If you still see and under shock you might feel like in bad dream, someone holding your hand can help you bring you closer to normal.

So if you can do anything to help do it, if you know first aid and nobody else already doing it, do it. Other than that show that they are not alone. Holding hand can work wonders. They are scared and do not want to be left alone.

This can make big differnce for someone even if it is in last minutes of life.

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35 Responses

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and I shared it in Google+. I believe that all people should read it. Very timely! Thank you very much for you have written, despite the sadness of having it lived.
    Sorry for my poor English.

    1. @Robin Warren
      No, in most of the cases.
      I do not think that people had enough time and will to explain some things to kids, most of the people did not do that i guess because much more things on their mind, more troubles.
      I am not saying that was good practice. Because lot of troubled people grow up from those kids later. People with problems.

  2. I can absolutely concur with the thoughts and feelings expressed in this post. I have never experienced living/survival in a combat situation, I have been in emergency services since 1978 and have seen first hand just how much a soothing voice and a touch can do in the care and comfort of those around us who are ill or injured. The fact that death is inevitable should not be a force to deter you from giving the gift of physical contact and comfort whenever you can.

  3. I agree 100% Selco, when I work with the elderly as a nursing aide, the best thing to do to give comfort is touch and listening particularly if you know there is no more that can be done, for a man or woman, older or not..

  4. Thank you for these thoughts Selco. I too have held the hand of the dying as they slipped away, though certainly not under such circumstances. A comforting touch helps ease passage into the next world, wherever and whenever the circumstances may be.

    ~ Sandy Taylor

  5. Thank you Selco – not everyone has seen someone die and they will be as scared as the dying person – you are an amazing man, thank you for your generosity to us.

  6. I hope you can see that woman again one day on the other side so she can properly thank you. So many in the medical field work so hard at preserving life that they don’t know how to comfort the dying and in fact sometimes treat them worse, as if they are offended that someone had the nerve to die on them despite their hardest efforts.

    Remember, folks, what you say around people who look unconscious can be life or death for them, because the last thing to go is hearing. Even if you think they’re out cold, your actions and words matter and can give them comfort in their final death or that energy to hang on and pull through impossible odds. Don’t let your words and actions be what makes them despair and let go with their mind full of your crass words.

    Well done, Selco. Well done sir.

    1. @Steven Farley You are absolutely right. I have been the patient in that situation … being able to hear but not able to show them that I could hear because I had been given two paralytics. Saying the wrong things can send a patient into shock. Saying and doing the right thinks can bring them out of shock. Shock is one of the three killers along with compromised airway and severe blood loss.

      Thank you for this post Selco. SHTFschool is a great resource and has been very helpful to me. I wish I could have read it long ago. Just curious, when you were holding that lady’s hand, did you have your gloves on? I think people might be tempted to take them off in that situation. What do you recommend that we do when we are in the first responder’s shoes?

      1. @Cache Valley Prepper

        No, I did not had gloves, sometimes human touch means much more then care about personal protection, BSI and that stuff. Hard to give recommendations on this subject, but I assure you you will know what to do when you come in that situation.

        @Steven Farley

        Yes, very important. Hearing is last thing to go when man is dying, so when you care for dying man, you may think he is gone, but in most of the cases he still can hear you, so you need to watch what you are talking.

  7. l work as a dialysis tech, people who are new to it or are just having a bad treatment can be made to feel much better with kind words and a gentle touch.
    Thank you your continued insite Selco, it is invaluable to know that even when SHTF people are still compassionate.

  8. Thank you for a very edifying post. I have a sister that is a retired Army nurse and she told me that this practice is called ‘touch therapy’ and how important it is. She said she often used it when soldiers were in the recovery room after surgery. They would use touch along with words to explain to the soldier where they were and what had just happened – that they were going to be ok. The patients would very quickly relax. Thanks again.

    1. I’ve heard that same term, the people who work in hospice and hospitals surely have some memories they would rather forget. Comforting the people who are about to slip behind the veil – blessings on them. I don’t know anyone who would prefer dying by themselves, even if a total stranger.

  9. I experienced it in a medical procedure. I was raised up on a table while they did a painful biopsy. I was disconnected to the earth and felt as if I was being probed by aliens.I asked the nurse to put her hand on the small of my back, and she started patting me there. I said no, just place it there. It made all the difference, I was reconnected and could hold perfectly still while enduring an excruciating and fearful few minutes.

  10. Touching story or how simple human contact can comfort even the most horrific situations. You were her guide out of this world. . . manyy thanks to your humanity and kindness. love & peace

  11. On the other hand….I have a good , kind friend, a Black man, when working as a phlebotomist and dealing with an older, frightened, white woman, touched her to help her be less frightened…….she was insulted that he would do that and reported it as a assault……he was subsequently fired…..what a waste…….

    1. That’s messed up. You have to touch people as a phlebotomist. I hopes he finds new work. It’s sad to say, but sometimes lawsuits are the only way to teach companies like that a lesson.

  12. Thank you for this wonderful piece. I know how much human compassion and touch can mean to someone who is in the final moments.
    I remember when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was speaking about a beggar who was dying on the streets, people avoiding coming near him, and the Sisters carried him into their Home for the Sick and Dying. They knew he would not last long, some of his flesh had rotted off and they had to clean maggots off of him. They cleaned him and put him in a clean bed with sheets, and a Sister held his hand for several hours. Just before he died, he smile and said in a weak voice, “I have lived in Hell, but now, I die like an angel with an angel to hold my hand.” then he was gone.
    If we can give a few minutes comfort to another person at such a time, we have done a wonderful thing and given them a gift from our heart.

  13. Damn Selco, you really hit home with this one. Thank you for sharing this. I too have comforted someone as they left this world for the next. I’m afraid that it will not be the last time either. You have done many of a great service with the experiences you have shared. God bless you and yours, always.

  14. I wept.
    It’s easy for me to see it all, through your words.
    An innocent life, so unnecessary.
    It’s great to see the compassion you had for her, probably never knew her name.

    It is so sad to see the big bad military using guns against regular people.
    The snipers shooting at people, like as if those people did something wrong.
    Like shooing ducks in a pond.

    I’m almost 60. I know what the future holds for this country, (USA) people will be crazy in a lot of places. But a few places,… people will be like this, willing, to hold the hand of another, if only for the last few minutes of life.

    Maybe we should be holding the hand of another while they are still living….
    Maybe we don’t hold their hand, but an encouraging nod of acceptance, a meaningful touch, a pat on the shoulder; some communication that says, “You have worth in my eyes.”

    1. Thank you @Jack, profound comment. Love is a verb. It’s not just a feeling that you experience. It’s something that you do. If you willfully perform acts of service for someone, you will grow to love them, like parents love their children when they willingly sacrifice for them. We should all be holding hands of those near to us while they still live.

  15. Having worked on an ambulance for many years I can attest to the fact that sometimes holding someones hand is the best medicine you can give them. Funny how they don’t teach that in medic school…….

  16. This is a very good and human advise! To help if possible – even holding a hand is a big help sometimes…
    What do we have left if not humanity….i do not want to live in a world without it!

  17. Great article, can you share any stories of those with cronic diseases, insulin dependent diabetes, thyroid, etc. how id they survive or not?

  18. Selco, you hit the nail on the head with your comments about how helpful human touch can be. I was an 18 year old male who was badly injured in a car accident and having a male EMT hold my hand on the way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance meant so much to me. The thought of it still makes me cry 20 years later. Few people know the type of pain that will want to make you take your own life and I hope they never do. Thank you for sharing, caring and doing what you do in your line of work. I remember thanking the EMT that held my hand when I was better but it’s just impossible to put into words what a simple of act of human kindness and touch can do to someone who is going through hell.

  19. I have some training, First Aid, etc. We (carpool) were going to work one morning, and a car was stopped to make a turn. 23 y.o. girl driving. She was rear ended by a full size Dodge truck, hit so hard her car was propelled maybe 75 yards down the road. (Her foot may have hit the gas?!?) My friends started directing traffic, checking on the truck and I went to the front car. The young lady had lost her flip flops and needed her shoes, I found them and helped her get them on, and in the course of all this she was rather frantic and disoriented. I took her pulse (rapid) and as I did this she grabbed my hand, and did not let go for about 5 minutes. As this seemed to calm her down, I held on. Within about 10 more minutes we had her jacket on her, she was much more calm and even laughing a bit at things I said.
    You are 1000% right, Selco. It Helps…
    I waited until paramedics arrived and took over. She thanked me and said goodbye as they were helping her. Nice girl

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