Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Secret Codes

The back of the identification badge at the hospital where I work lists different hospital-wide emergency announcements as “codes.” Some of these are familiar, such as Code Blue for a cardiac arrest. (I’m not sure why it’s called a Code Blue, other than presumably when you go into cardiac arrest, your color is your code.) Some codes are intuitive, like Code Red for fires. Others take a bit more imagination, but still make sense. For example, Code Pink is an infant abduction, and pink is a baby-type color.

(Speaking of abductions and other criminal activity, about two months ago there was a robbery at a bank within walking distance of the hospital. There was a rumor that the villian had been wearing medical garb and had run onto hospital property in order to hide. About the same time I’m hearing this, Sean, one of our ED techs, comes whizzing through the back of the ED. Sean is usually a pretty controlled guy, so when he runs it usually means that he was in triage and found a patient who is seriously ill or injured and needed to be seen yesterday. But this time there was no wheelchair holding a body in front of him, so I jumped in front of him in full flight.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“Man, you heard about the robbery right?”

“Yeah, I did.”

He sidestepped me and kept on moving. “In my neighborhood, they’re always looking for the black man first.”

Oh, and just for the record, Sean and I are also trying to work out some kind of specific race-baiting incident so we can get invited to the White House to have a beer with President Obama and Vice-President Biden. We’re both leaning towards imports.)

Sometimes, however, the folks who designate the codes might want to talk to those of us on the street. Code Brown is used to represent a weather-related emergency. But in the ED, Code Brown is called when a patient unexpectedly releases intestinal contents within the exam room. So if you ever walk into an ED and notice a strong aroma of coffee, you can be sure there’s been a recent Code Brown. That’s because a filter full of moist ground coffee soaks up the smell. We’ll be talking to Heloise about this.

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