Could You Survive the Hunger Games?

I’ve watched Catching Fire approximately 37 times since I purchased it two weeks ago, and that’s really not much of an exaggeration (if TLC ever decides to start a series called HELP: I’m Obsessed With Katniss Everdeen, I’ll nominate myself). This is not surprising, since my entire Netflix “Recently Watched” column reads like a list of post-apocalyptic sob stories, including the cheese-tastic remake of the classic Red Dawn (I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for those Hemsworth boys).

This got me wondering: we all love a good comeback story, a “good-versus-evil” triumph, a little bit lot of fantastic rebel-fighter, zombie hunter, utilitarian denim/khaki fashion. But why do we love it?

Is there a part of us that craves the danger only a life or death situation brings? Is it the adrenaline rush? Maybe we like to put ourselves in the protagonist’s shoes simply to gauge what we think we would do, given the same set of circumstances, to ask, “What would I do if there were zombies chasing me down this alley? If I’m stranded in the middle of a desert after an alien invasion wiped most of Earth’s population, how would I find water and where would I hide?”

So while watching Catching Fire for the 37th time, I was pushed to ask the hardest question of all: in a situation rife with not only threat from rival tributes but from the elements as well… could I actually survive the Hunger Games?

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not entirely certain I’d make it past the first day. If you aren’t sure just how long you’d last before the cannon sounded, take a look at these facts and ask yourself whether you really know how to deal or whether you’d be on Mother Nature’s shortlist for a quick trip upstairs:

  • Limbs deprived of oxygen suffer permanent damage or death after two short hours. So when Peeta’s leg was sliced open during his first Hunger Games, Katniss did the smart thing by not applying a tourniquet (since the blood loss has slowed already) and instead cleaning the wound and wrapping it with cotton. If you ever happen to accidentally cut a badger-sized hole in your thigh while running away from zombies or bears, you’ll thank me for this knowledge.
  • One lungful of air provides the average person with about two minutes of successful cognitive activity; After that, blood flow begins to re-route to the hypothalamus and away from the frontal cortex in a last-ditch effort to maintain basic life support, thereby kicking ashes all over the dying embers of the brain’s reasoning and logic center. Decisions and vital actions become nearly impossible and the body suffers knee-jerk reactions like swallowing a mouthful of sea-water or poisoned gas. After four minutes deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin to die. So… basically, if you’re ever thrown from a violently revolving cornucopia… stay calm, find your way to the surface and try not to open your mouth. That’s all I’ve got.
  • The human body can withstand a loss of 5% of its fluid before it goes into emergency mode and cognitive functions become impaired, stranding the kidneys and damaging the delicate lining of the lungs. Vision and balance are affected, followed by hearing loss and dried out, thickened blood pumping frantically through your veins before you eventually collapse from exhaustion and dehydration. Haymitch Abernathy, in this case, was a genius and a saint for sending his motley crew of tributes a lightweight spile to tap the trees for water so early in the game. Four for you, Haymitch, you go Haymitch.
  • When subjected to colder temperatures, the heart begins to compensate for the heat loss by pumping harder to send warm, oxygen-rich blood to the outer limbs and vital organs. This causes an increased metabolism and demands a higher caloric intake to fuel the fire. The human body often burns thousands of extra calories in cold-weather survival situations, so think twice about running off into the woods without grabbing some hunting gear or that survival pack at the cornucopia… PEETA.
  • After an extended period without food or fresh water, the body is often unprepared for a rapid bombardment of rations; if a person who has gone thirsty for too long is subjected to a large intake of water, their blood cells, often dehydrated and salty, will expand too rapidly causing major stress on the heart, which suddenly has to pump twice as hard. The same goes for food: too much, too soon may cause unintentional regurgitation which costs the victim precious fluids. For any of you out there who cringed when Haymitch sent Katniss and Peeta soup while they were stuck in that cave (“Seriously, he sent SOUP? Why not a cheeseburger?!”), he knew what was up. A sick tribute with a high fever cannot afford to vomit uncontrollably, thank you very much.
  • …And of course, the most important: when Haymitch told Katniss to “stay alive” and simultaneously “embrace the probability of your imminent death”, he wasn’t just being cheeky. Keeping moral up and trying to maintain a positive attitude can keep you going when you’d otherwise want to give up. By addressing negative emotions as well, it opens up creative channels in the brain which in turn allows for greater innovation in terms of survival skills.

How many of these did you already know? (This wasn’t a Facebook quiz, so tallying points will get you nowhere.) What other survival tips would you give out (or keep to yourself… this is the Hunger Games, after all)?

Featured image via Lionsgate

*Looking for additional “fun” survival facts? Learn more about what happens to the human body in survival scenarios by checking out Surviving the Extremes by Kenneth Kamler M.D.

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