Code Yellow. The words penetrated the 10 p.m. din of a hospital in motion.
The code itself, so rare that even the most senior among us flipped her badge to read the meaning.
How does a person process, emotionally, two matter-of-fact words spoken from the public address system? The long, windy and deserted corridor I treaded suddenly seemed a degree darker, a degree colder. Yet curiosity spawns energy. Energy enflames excitement.
In Maine’s largest city, years before its major population boom, what could cause a disaster when the majority of residents were home in bed?
The answer soon followed. Chemical explosion at a supermarket.
My department set to work. We moved stable antepartums to the prenatal unit. Fresh deliveries were hastened to postpartum. In essence, we created space – the space needed to treat a pregnant grocery shopper in need of care.
As we worked, the disaster report downgraded to a chemical explosion in a back room of a supermarket.
We placated those women who’d been enjoying their private rooms, only to be thrust into shared quarters. We stripped the beds, disinfected the surfaces, and prettied the rooms.
No one came to us, though several shoppers were seen in the ED for headaches and ill sensations.
In the end, the initial report was reduced further.
But a good show we put on. The lesson learned was higher up. Protocol required each department to call the house supervisor, should a Code Yellow arise. Because of that, the supervisor was unable to get any work accomplished. Every few minutes the phone would ring again, another unit coordinator calling for no reason other than protocol required it.
Ten years later, Code Yellow means something else.
But I’ve got my disaster story.
Other people have plane crashes or pile-ups.
I’ve got some bad air in the circulation system.