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Emergency Medicine News:
Second Opinion

If Coyotes Were as Big as Minivans

Leap, Edwin MD

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Dr. Leap is a member of Blue Ridge Emergency Physicians, an emergency physician at Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca, SC, and an op-ed columnist for the Greenville News. He welcomes comments about his observations, and readers may write to him at emn@lww.com. He is also the author of Working Knights, a collection of observations and insights about doctors, patients, and the practice of medicine. The book is available in soft cover ($13.95 + $4.95 shipping) and as an e-book ($10.95) at booklocker.com or through his web site at www.edwinleap.com.

Picture the scene: Rural Southern man with recent hand fracture, splint in place. He's sitting in our ersatz fast-track area, which consists of small cubicles separated by partial walls and curtains. He needs more pain medicine. His girlfriend loudly complains, “He can't even have sex, and I'm tired of doing it on top!”

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Every man who heard the story questioned his manhood. Let a broken hand keep a man from his eager trailer park princess? Disappointing, to say the least.

My friend Frank, emergency department nurse, former clown, former prison nurse, sage of sages, said quite matter of factly, “If coyotes were as big as minivans, we wouldn't have problems like that.”

Let it sink in for a minute. This is wisdom of the highest order. While at first it might seem like something Jim Morrison said while sitting around the campfire hitting the Peyote, this actually makes sense. For the concrete or politically correct, let me explain. Otherwise healthy young men wouldn't sit around acting mortally wounded and praying for disability if coyotes were as big as minivans. They would have to stay alert, keep moving, stay in shape. The implications are staggering.

Not long after Frank shared this with me, I was shopping, and on the sidewalk I saw an enormous woman on a battery-powered scooter. Its little motor was obviously straining under the load. Her ample frame spilled over the sides, a moving, lyrical poem dedicated to fast food and Little Debbie cakes. As she rolled along, looking in windows, smoke trailed from the cigarette burning in her hand. (Or the scooter motor was burning out.) No doubt if I had been seeing her as a patient, she would have complained of arthritis, degenerative disc disease, chronic back pain, emphysema, enlarged heart, fatigue, and peripheral edema. If coyotes were as big as minivans, well, let's just say that odds are the scooter would be empty, and it would be Happy Thanksgiving in the coyote den. “Tastes smoky, but the fat marbling is yummy!”

Much of our modern society suffers from, shall we say, a lack of incentive. Our biggest physical threats are the ones we face on video games. We scramble and struggle to get the latest releases at the video store. We fear that we forgot to set the TiVo to record “Lost,” “Survivor,” and “American Idol.”

We strain muscles walking up and down the bleachers at football games, carrying too much food and beer. We live our lives vicariously through entertainment and sports. We are not very healthy, and so physicians and nurses are plagued by people whose goal appears to be physical incapacity and untimely death. Too many of our patients push the envelope with morbid obesity as early as childhood with total inactivity, with criminal neglect of their bodies. The results are early heart disease, early cholecystectomies, early joint replacements, more extensive bypass (cardiac and gastric) surgeries, and all the rest. Bad health and the bad choices that lead to bad health are so common they seem almost intentional.

How much would be avoided if coyotes were as big as minivans? Admittedly, coyotes seem to be getting bigger. We have tons of the little guys in the rural South. A professor friend of my professor uncle said these neo-coyotes are crosses with wolves. I'm no expert in matters lupine, so it's difficult to say if it's true. But I like to think that if they were really, really big, people would rise to the challenge.

I like to think that men and women would spend a lot of time building safety measures, learning to run and hide, practicing coyote combat skills. I like to think that children would recognize that it was to their benefit to be in good shape, to run and jump, to climb and swim rather than simply accrue more points on the PlayStation or be the first on their block to watch Harry Potter 25 times.

I also think a lot of folks whose disability claims are, shall we say, spurious, might suddenly be seen sprinting across the hay fields in my county, coyotes in hot pursuit behind them. I suspect that they might then try the “emotional trauma from coyote attack” angle, but we'd all have a tough time with that one. “Are you kidding? One of the buggers ate my dogs just last night! I'm as freaked out as you are!”

Sure, there would be some dangers. Some who didn't deserve to be eaten might get eaten. As a society, we would have to come together and try to protect everyone against a very real threat. We could drop some of the in-fighting about politics. I feel certain that some concerns about gun control might become irrelevant while everyone armed themselves against the possibility of becoming breakfast.

And if we had jackals, lions, cobras, and scorpions as big as minivans and other enormous land predators all around the world keeping terrorists and other very real enemies too busy in their own countries to crash airplanes into buildings, then we could definitely save some defense dollars.

What red-blooded young Americans wouldn't want to join the Coyote Defense Corps? I know I would. Heck, I'd give up medicine, and become a game hunting guide. I could finally justify buying a double rifle, something in a man's caliber, like a .375 Holland and Holland, the kind elephant hunters used to use. I could creep through the South Carolina forests and thickets listening, waiting, smelling for the enormous beasts to attack. I could hope that, as an old man, I'd die in hand-to-hand combat with a giant canine creature the size of a Honda Odyssey. It would be a good death, as the narrator said of Brad Pitt's character Tristan, in “Legends of the Fall.”

I have to thank Frank for giving me something to think about. So many problems could be solved by such a simple solution. If coyotes were as big as minivans, the world might be a better place. It won't ever happen, but a guy can dream.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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