Book Review: Beating the Reaper!

You and your spouse are attacked leaving a late movie. In a flurry of gunfire, you successfully kill one of the attackers and drive off the other.  However, you have taken a grievous wound to your leg. There is blood everywhere and you are getting lightheaded. 

The fight for your life is not yet over. Can you survive the five to ten minutes it will take for EMS to get to you?

Why Beating the Reaper?

Humans are both remarkably resilient and incredibly fragile. Sounds contradictory, but it is nonetheless true.  It is true that the human body is relatively soft and injury prone.  We do not have hard shells, plates or other natural armor to prevent being wounded by knives, bats and bullets.

Yet, people can survive and recover from seemingly non-survivable wounds. Generally, the key to surviving serious injury is rapid and appropriate medical intervention.  Many people assume that calling 911 is the best way to get rapid medical intervention for themselves or their loved one.

For a non-violent injury, such as falling off a ladder or a heart attack, EMS will respond directly to the scene and begin administering aid.  However, there are no guarantees when it comes to response time.  Five minutes might sound like an excellent response time, but if your spouse isn’t breathing, it could mean he or she will be dead before EMS arrives.

Moreover, the dirty little secret about injuries sustained in a violent encounter is paramedics will not respond until after police officers get on scene and ensure everything is safe. This will mean that professional medical treatment is more likely 10-15 minutes away. If there is still a threat present, say an active shooter on the loose, you are on your own until that threat is resolved.

If you’ve been shot, massive bleeding can cause death in as little as two minutes.  If your artery has  been clipped and you are waiting on paramedics to save you, expect to see St. Peter before you see them.

This is why Beating the Reaper! is so important; it is a book designed to teach the lay person the essential life saving skills that are most likely to be useable to prevent death from injuries sustained in self-defense.  Just because the shooting has stopped doesn’t mean the fight isn’t over.


Beating the Reaper! takes many of the hard-won lessons from military combat and adapts them to the “average Joe” who carries a firearm for self defense. While military combat and civilian self-defense are frequently very dissimilar, there is a great deal of value in the system of injury care currently used by the US military.

After the Battle of Mogadishu (1993), the US military took a hard look at its system of treating wounded soldiers.  The system that developed is called Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).
TCCC treats a wounded serviceman as part of the tactical problem. Taking medical actions that place the wounded soldier or rescuer into more danger is not good medicine. Hence firepower may be the best “medicine” to prevent a wounded person from being further hurt.

TCCC also seeks to rapidly treat the most common forms of preventable death: massive hemorrhaging in an extremity, penetrating chest wounds and obstructed airways. While these injuries are the most common forms of preventable death on the battlefield, one can see how they are also likely problems for the civilian in a self-defense encounter.
Down and Dirty

Beating the Reaper! is not a sterile medical textbook. It gives the reader a realistic view of a gunfight and the ugly injuries that are a foreseeable consequence of such action.

Beating the Reaper does a good job of breaking down the essential, life-saving information into easily digestible chunks. Yes, there are some medical terms, but not so many that the casual reader would be confused or turned off.  Sometimes jargon is necessary, but this book keeps it to a minimum.

This book is about action: action that can save your life, or the life of someone you care about. There is a distinct lack of fluff and filler, and the writing tastes of gritty experience, not academic pondering.

The book covers the most likely causes of preventable death including massive bleeding, airway obstruction, chest injuries and shock.  Additionally, the book covers musculoskeletal injuries.

Consider this fair warning: if you are squeamish, you will not like some of the photos used in the book as illustrations.  No matter how gruesome you may find the photos, you need to be exposed to the reality of wounds if you expect to respond appropriately in the event you are wounded in a violent encounter.

As a police officer I have been to many death and injury scenes: everything from massive trauma from motor vehicle accidents to close contact gunshot wounds to the head.  None of these scenes are pretty, but exposure to gruesome things creates a touch of numbness that allows me to respond to violent encounters in a more professional manner.  Think of the photos as a similar inoculation for you against a panicked response.

The book is co-authored by Dr. John Meade and Sua Sponte. Both authors have a great deal of real-life experience and training from which to draw. 

Meade is an emergency physician, EMS director, tactical medic on a SWAT team and Director of Tactical Medicine for Suarez International.  Sua Sponte is a fictitious name of a special operations medic who must maintain anonymity.

Final Thoughts

Beating the Reaper! is an excellent book and should be considered a “must buy” for anyone without prior training and experience in tactical medicine. If you do have prior training, such as the combat lifesaver course taught in the military, the book is a good review of those skills you have already learned.

The book is a quick read, but one I suggest you review frequently. At a little over 130 pages, it does not take long to physically read the material, but to really learn the life-saving information, you need to take notes and practice the techniques introduced. 

Hopefully, you will never need any of the information included in this book.  But, if you are ever faced with a life-threatening injury how much batter prepared will you be having read Beating the Reaper?