Administration and Leadership, Cardiac & Resuscitation

EMS Experience Yin & Yang on Call

Issue 4 and Volume 37.

Have you ever showed up for your shift with the feeling that this particular day was going to be the day of the Big One—the call of all calls for which death and mayhem would rule the day—and then it actually happened? Me neither. Talk about your epi let down.

If you’re like me, the feelings and energy you built up ended up betraying you to the point of having zero, zip, nada for calls. And then there are those days you pray for the slowest shift ever. Your energy level equals the speed of Congress attempting to pass a bill, and you find yourself 12 hours later, 14 reports behind, just as you receive your third late call. ’Sup with that?

Maybe it comes down to that Yin and Yang thing. You know, that Asian philosophy of how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and how these complementary opposites give rise to each other within a greater whole as part of a dynamic system?

No? Geez! Must I plagiarize Wikipedia even further to make my point? We’re talking harmonizing contradictions here. For every high level of energy I emit, there’s an opposite rendering of that same corresponding energy and vice versa.

Light can’t exist without darkness; cold can’t exist without heat; water can’t exist without fire, and fire can’t exist without EMS. Thus, a balance of energy is maintained within a world of continual contradiction, collisions and too many Starbucks chains.

EMS is all about energy when you really think about it: human homeostatic energy gone awry, if you will. And even if you don’t want to think about it, I’m going to dwell on it anyway because I’m on a roll here. The deadline for this article was yesterday, and I currently have no energy to write about anything else, which by the way is a contradiction because energy is defined as the ability to do work. Are you getting a headache yet from all this Yinning and Yanging? Because I am.

There are all kinds of energy in this world—chemical, electrical, thermal, radiant, mechanical and nuclear. Energy can’t be destroyed (management excluded) or created, but it can be transformed into another source of energy.

Case in point, a defibrillator stores electrical energy until released as a kinetic barrage of electrons traveling down the cables to cardiovert your patient. The electrical energy is then transformed into sound energy as the patient screams because you forgot to sedate him before hitting him with 100 joules.

The sound energy is then transformed into mechanical energy as the patient strikes you in the face with their fist. I could go on, but due to limited article space, my personal knowledge base and my headache, I’ll focus on kinetic energy only and how this energy of motion affects our profession on a daily Yin-Yang basis.

I was working on a traffic collision recently when a stable patient I was immobilizing asked, to no one in particular, “How could this accident have happened?”

“Well,” I began, “There are more than one billion cars in the world and more than 195 million driver licenses issued within the U.S. alone. At the same time, there are 3,500 commercial flights flying overhead at any given moment mingling among 3.5 billion birds soaring within an atmosphere of colliding high- and low-pressure systems, along with cumulous clouds with opposing electrical charges capable of creating 16 million lightning storms each year with lightning reaching 1.5 million volts of electricity and temperatures of 54,000° F. As those birds try to catch and eat the 1.5 billion erratically mobile insects, there are more than 1 million vertebrates making perpendicular contact with vehicles, such as yours, every day over 56 million miles of U.S. paved roads.

“Above those aircraft traveling at 400 mph are large asteroids traveling 300 times that speed, capable of destroying all life on our planet every 100 million years. Below the asphalt of your crumbled vehicle are plates of our earth’s crust slamming into each other, just waiting to give way, capable of causing cataclysmic damage to our infrastructure.

“All the while your vehicle carries thousands of interdependent moving parts, operating under high pressure, temperatures and unceasing friction dependant on a volatile and explosive chemical substance costing $5 a gallon. According to Newton (not the fig), an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force to change that motion.
“With so much unfathomable and uncompromising linear movement acting independently of each other, it was just a matter of time, space and motion before your Yin eventually met your Yang. Accident? I think not. Accidents are defined as collisions that should have been avoided. Then again, your breath smells a heck of a lot more like Gin than Yin. Therefore, in keeping with universal harmony, let me introduce you to your Yin’s polar opposite—police officer Yang. Ommmmmmmm Humina Humina Humina Ommmmmmm.”

Until next time, may your mass and velocity always run parallel with life—kinetically speaking. JEMS

This article originally appeared in April 2012 JEMS as “Yin Yang: When world & things collide.”