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How to save your life when your doctor goes AWOL

 How to save your life when your doctor goes AWOL (Photo: iStock)

Many people are familiar with the acronym AWOL. It is the shortened form of ‘absent without official leave’ or just simply ‘absent without leave’. The acronym appears to have originated in the United States military, referring to soldiers who were absent from duty without having had proper authorization.

The acronym is however in common use, and can loosely be used to indicate the absence of an individual or other entity either deliberately or unexpectedly, or for a host of other excuses.

Every so often, your doctor may be AWOL for a variety of reasons. At other times, you may be caught out in situations where access to healthcare providers is limited, or completely non-existent. Such situations demand a certain level of self-help if a medical emergency ever arises.

The modern interconnected world means that such events are rather remote and unlikely. But you’ll be surprised at how often people get caught out with medical emergencies when healthcare providers are AWOL. This often mandates the affected individuals to spring into action and save themselves, or seek help from their kin.       

Every person should be conversant with first aid skills. It is self-explanatory. First aid skills allow you to act quickly and appropriately when a medical matter arises, thereby preventing deterioration of a condition or even death. Free publications and courses on first aid are aplenty. There is even a WHO manual called "Where There’s No Doctor" that comes in handy for practical actions that can help save lives.

But you can also turn to the web for help with practical medical skills wherever and whenever necessary. A quick online search when faced with acute symptoms will yield several hits that may be helpful. The fast-evolving artificial intelligence (AI) is another avenue that is increasingly capable of giving you step-by-step actions that you can take to remedy urgent medical events. All this is however only possible if what faces you is not a grave emergency that may be lethal if urgent actions aren’t instituted immediately.

You must always be aware of your limitations when medics are AWOL. Simple remedies will control, or even cure common and mundane ailments. First aid skills in emergencies will buy you some time. But beyond a certain point, you will still require the services of a trained healthcare provider.

Having a plan B always helps. If the doctor you always prefer is AWOL, accept to see the one who is immediately available. If you are out in the wilderness and alone, where medics are practically AWOL, you might be forced to summon a medical evacuation team. Or pray pretty to your gods, then just wait for the inevitable.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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