When Your Patient Uses 10 Codes

I am going to tell a story here. One of those “it happened on the ambulance” stories.

ambrushblurSo, while on a call of an assault I am treating this patient who was in a fight along with about 5 other people. She said she was jumped and that her assailants used pepper spray on her and she couldn’t see, although five seconds before she was waving at us as we pulled up to the scene.

So, I treat her as any patient I have, irrigating her eyes and making a general wet mess in the back of the ambulance. Now of course she is hysterical would not hold still on the stretcher and saying she couldn’t breath, that her heart stopped one time from not breathing and any number of complaints in her post assault/fight hysteria.

Yes she was breathing fine and her vitals where good and all that other stuff you might be wondering about that could fit her into a zebra category.

My main reason for sharing this rather basic story is that as soon as her eyes where irrigated enough so she could grab and use her cell phone she makes a call and says “Hey it’s me, Code 10, so and so just jumped us and tried to kill me, Code 10.”

At this me and my partner looked up at each other. Wondering just what a Code 10 was.

She said that to whoever she was calling about four times. “Code 10, code 10″

I wanted to ask what it was although I pretty much could guess what a Code 10 in ghetto call signs meant.

But did Code 10 mean;

Get here with fists and hair pulling
Knives and chains
Guns and …

No matter what it meant, I wanted to be away from the scene. I didn’t know how far away the Code 10 was, when it could happen and the added comment to me about how ” busy” I was going to get as per the patient made me want to be clear from the area as soon as I could.

Of course, she refused transport despite her breathing complaints and her easily stopping heart. Even with my encouragement to go to the hospital thinking maybe that would delay any Code 10 that was coming.

She signed any appropriate paperwork and even though recently blinded jumped off the ambulance without assistance. Leaving me anticipating the mysterious Code 10 for the rest of the evening.

I did go and tell the police officers at the scene about her phone call so perhaps any heads up they could have regarding the impending Code 10 might be beneficial.

Luckily no further events from that scene occurred that night. At least not that I know of.

But I took away from the call a reminder of the dangers that we as providers encounter each day. That a simple call with a secret Code could mean more danger, more patients and a scene that was safe becoming unsafe.

A reminder that we have to be alert to these phone calls and to always have that situational awareness. Especially with what in my opinion is a growing lack of hesitation to assault and involve EMS providers in violent encounters.

Stay safe



  1. Martha McCarty says:

    I agree 100%. Working an overnight shift, during times between calls, we post near respective hospitals. We spend early shift time at convenience stores. But as the night progresses, we generally move to a more “discreet” location that affords us a good view of surroundings, easy access and egress, and is less likely to put us in the path of a wanderer. This day and time, just being in a uniform can make you a potential target of violence. Staying alert and aware of surroundings and circumstances are at the top of priorities.

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