What Fuels Your Celebration?
Written By: Robb Stevens
Most people know April 1st as April Fool’s Day. Here at Med One, it’s also an important anniversary – that of our company’s founding. In 2021, Med One celebrates 30 years in business! Many holidays and important dates of remembrance are widely known and even listed on most of our calendars. Anniversaries though are more specific to the individuals and groups that have a reason to celebrate them. On an even more obscure level, seemingly every day of the year, there are things that have been designated to be remembered or celebrated. Some of these things are truly unique, and many are of little to no consequence. For example, did you know that January 25th is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day; World Foursquare Day is April 17th; Crayola Crayon Day is March 31st; April 30th is Hairball Awareness Day; July 12th is Etch A Sketch Day? Mind-blowing reasons for celebration – I know. On the other hand, there are plenty of other “remembrance” days that actually do have tremendous significance to individuals, communities, industries, nations, and even the world and are certainly worthy of our consideration. There are several such days that pertain to healthcare in specific and general ways. For Med One, these days are especially noteworthy since the services we provide are in the healthcare space. Here are a few examples that stand out to me:
- National Doctor’s Day March 30
- Nurse’s Week May 6
- World Cancer Day February 4
- World Health Day April 7
- World Hand Hygiene Day May 5
- National Healthcare Quality Week October 17-23
- Respiratory Care Week October 24-30
- Employee Health and Fitness Month May
- National Public Health Week April 1-7
- Patient Experience Week April 26-30
- World Immunization Week April 22-28
- Global Employee Health and Fitness Month May
- World Heart Day September 29
- National Hospital Week May 2-8
- Women’s Health Week May 10-16
- Men’s Health Week June 14-20
- World Petroleum Day August 27
Wait, what was that last one?
Yes - there is one day each year that actually celebrates petroleum. Why is this included on my list, you might ask? I will boldly suggest that without petroleum, many of the other things we celebrate would not even exist and definitely not in the form or function that we now know them. Indeed, a vast majority of the things Med One helps to make available to the healthcare world exist because of oil, so in a roundabout way, it is worth thinking about and understanding a bit better.
Petroleum is a broad category that includes crude oil and petroleum products. The terms oil and petroleum are generally used interchangeably. Petroleum is often ballyhooed, but it cannot be overstated just how essential an “ingredient” it actually is in so many of the products we rely on every day, the technologies that we take for granted, and of particular interest to our readers, how indispensable it is in the world of healthcare.
While it may be true that oil has been a cause of controversy and pollution of our planet, there is no disputing the fact that almost everything we do, everything we use, and the modern conveniences we enjoy depends upon its existence. To say life without petroleum would be different than we know would be a major understatement. Indeed, it would be a major struggle.
Most of us typically associate oil as a means of fueling our transportation. That is a fair and correct perception since roughly 46% of oil goes to making gasoline, but what makes up the other 54%? Some of the petroleum-based products we all use every day are found in cosmetics, plastics, synthetic rubber, cleaning products, the pavement for roads that we drive on, and of course, have huge prominence in healthcare as well. Some uses of oil are obvious, while others are subtle and even surprising.
Geopolitical expert Peter Zeihan shared the following in his book The Absent Superpower:
“Petroleum is a catch-all term for everything from crude oil to propane to natural gas. Petroleum is the fuel of modernity. It does more than keep the lights on and keep your car moving. Petroleum is an input in almost everything you have ever used or purchased. Without petroleum there is no Internet – and certainly no [mobile] phones. No petroleum means no Christmas ornaments (and for many of us, Christmas trees themselves), no kids’ toys, no clothes, no kitchen knives, no hunting rifles, no microwave dinners, no paper, no fire extinguishers, no bread bags, no perfume, no windows, no computers, no condoms, no chewing gum, no chap stick, no wall insulation, no paint, and so on. For those who are super technically minded, yes, you can make many of these items using non-petroleum substitutes – but only at an exorbitant cost. One of the many contributions of petroleum to civilization is to provide many of the perks of being a 17th century monarch to the average person. Think we have an issue with income inequality? Imagine a world in which only the 1% can have 90% of the things you have within 10 steps of you right now!
[Furthermore], without petroleum there would not be a meaningful agricultural industry – and in that I mean everything from the growing of crops to the harvesting of crops to the transport of foodstuffs from farm to table. Think organic food is petroleum-free? Think again – all going organic does is partially remove petroleum from one sub-step of the planting-fertilizing-harvesting-collecting-storing-transporting-packaging-distributing-retailing-pantrying process. Can you imagine electricity without petroleum? Keep in mind that in most places the time you need electricity the most is in the winter and at night (i.e. when the sun isn’t shining). Will we move beyond petroleum someday? Maybe. I sincerely hope so, but it will not be soon.” (Peter Zeihan, The Absent Superpower, 15-16)
The scale and entrenchment of petroleum dependency is quite staggering, actually. Peter’s list is fairly generalized yet covers so many things! Petroleum undeniably impacts every person in this country in ways large and small. But oil does much more than “fuel” our economy; it also keeps us alive and keeps us healthy. Go into a hospital or medical clinic, and you’ll instantly be surrounded by items that simply would not exist without petroleum.
“Petroleum is the fuel of modernity. It does more than keep the lights on and keep your car moving. Petroleum is an input in almost everything you have ever used or purchased.”
Here are some of the more obvious uses of petroleum in healthcare, and the accompanying graphic illustrates it as well: Manufacture of analgesics (aspirin), antihistamines, antibiotics, antibacterials, rectal suppositories, cough syrups, lubricants, creams, ointments, salves, and many gels. Processed plastics made with oil are used in heart valves and other specialized life-saving medical equipment like infusion pumps, patient monitors, ventilators, MRI’s, stethoscopes, eye-glasses, prosthetics, hearing aids, and surgical lighting. Petrochemicals are used in radiological dyes and films, IV tubing, syringes, and oxygen masks. In all but rare instances, fossil fuels heat and cool buildings and supply electricity. Ambulances and helicopter “life flights” depend on petroleum, as do personnel who travel to and from medical workplaces in motor vehicles. Supplies and equipment are shipped — often from overseas in petroleum-powered carriers.
In one specific example I read about, an orthopedist pointed out that setting fractured bones used to be done mostly by feel and knowing the mechanics of how fractures were created. The ability to utilize modern fluoroscope or X-ray – another advancement we can attribute, in part, to petroleum – has dramatically altered the ability of physicians to more effectively repair bone fractures and restore patients to original and normal bone and/or joint functionality.
Without oil, we would not only be left in the dark, but we would also be without so much of the life-saving and life-enhancing things we have come to depend on in our modern world. Energy In Depth created the included infographic showing how prevalent and important oil and natural gas are to health care products.
This year in which Med One remembers and celebrates its 30th anniversary, I find myself wondering what our business would look like without petroleum. Would the equipment we lease, rent, and sell even exist? If so, in what form? If our business – a service providing enterprise would cease to exist without petroleum, how many countless other businesses, products, and entire industries would not exist without it? Hopefully, as you look around and think about everything within 10 feet of where you may be reading this, you can now more fully recognize just how essential petroleum has become to us. Is it worth celebrating? I definitely think so.