Never Run To A Code


I have mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again for anyone who doesn’t know; my wife Emily is an Intensive Care Pediatrician. When she is working in the PICU, one of the things she must always pay attention to is something called “code bells.”

Whenever there is a life-threatening event in the hospital, they broadcast an emergency tone over the PA system, after which they announce the type and location of the code.

Because she is the senior most pediatrician in the hospital when she is on, any time the code bells ring, she must stop what she is doing and listen to the information that follows. If it is a pediatric code, she is required to get to the stated location and see the situation through to its conclusion.

When she was in training years ago, we were sitting around one evening with several other doctors. The topic of codes came up and after a little discussion, one of the a young doctor named Lisa blurted out, “Never run to a code.”

Being the inherently logical person that I am, this made no sense to me. So, I quickly chimed in, “How can that be? I mean if a code is a life-threatening situation, wouldn’t you want to get there as fast as possible?”

Lisa was ready with her rationale saying, “Well, you’d think that wouldn’t you, but that is not the case. No matter how fast you run, you will only get to the code a few seconds faster than walking briskly. If you run, you will be out of breath at exactly the time everyone else at the code is expecting direction and guidance from you. Furthermore, the extra seconds that it takes to walk gives you a little more time to get your thoughts together and prepare to administer urgent medicine. An out of breath, unprepared doc is the last thing you need at a code.”

Once Lisa had made her proclamation, the rest of the group concurred, the issue was settled and the conversation moved on to another topic.


This year, our four children attended three different schools. Because of this, they have finished their respective years on different dates. The first to finish, were Lewis and Oliver, more than two weeks before the other two. Our summer babysitter was unable to start that early, so for two weeks the boys have been home.

I work from home, so this wasn’t really going to be a big deal,
or so I thought.


We set up a routine where every morning (after they’d dragged their lazy teenaged arses out of bed) I would assign a chore to each of them. This chore was the key to unlocking access to their iPods (60 min on sunny days and 90 min on rainy days).

With the lateness of their rising added to the chore and then the “screen time,” by the time they’d eaten some lunch this laissezfaire system kept them occupied (and out of my hair) until early afternoon every day.

It was the afternoons when the trouble would come.


The first week was without notable incident, but then their fifteen-year-old sister finished classes and was back and forth between taking and studying for finals. Adding a teenage girl to an otherwise stable system is never a good idea. In this case she didn’t do anything wrong herself, but her presence seemed to have an unsettling effect.

A few days into the second week, I was working quietly in my home office when I heard a scream from downstairs that went something like this:

Charlotte: Lewis, what are you doing?!?!

Lewis: Nothing!

Charlotte: Stop it!

[substantial thump, followed loud yelp from the dog]

[brief pause]

Oliver: [yelling up the stairs at me] Daaaaad… Lewis broke the dog!


After taking a deep breath and summoning the good-chi, I calmly walked downstairs to investigate.

My son Lewis, for some reason that even he could not identify, had decided to pick up the dog to give her a hug. Our dog is a thirty-eight-pound, slightly arthritic, nine-year-old, beagle/pointer mix named Nellie. Apart from when she was a three-pound puppy, Nellie has never enjoyed being picked up.

Lewis is 5’ 8” and once he had the dog hoisted up to his chest, she wriggled our of his arms falling to the ground and landing squarely on her left shoulder.

She immediately stopped using her left leg.


I have been down this road before and I know that an unscheduled vet visit on this scale carries a minimum price tag north of $200. The last time this happened, my daughter Charlotte was trying to teach the dog to jump rope (she couldn’t tell me why either) and I paid the vet hundreds of dollars to assure me that she’d be fine after a couple of days rest – the dog, not Charlotte.

I love my dog and I love my kids, but I’d rather not hand over a couple of Benjamins (or more) to the vet if I don’t really have to.


It was at this point I chose to not run to the code. Aside from taking the stance of a canine tripod, the dog seemed fine. She was going in and out of her dog door, ambling over to her bowl for water and lounging on her bed as normal. Within an hour of the “incident” she was confidently exhibiting the universal sign of dog happiness – vigorous tail wagging. This video was taken on the afternoon of day One.


I made a plan. I would see if there were any human pain killers that would be safe to give to a dog, we would keep a close eye on her and if in a day or two she wasn’t any better – then we would go to the vet.

My initial Google results on what human pills you could give to a dog were not encouraging. Pretty much every website (with advice from actual vets) said, “Don’t give human pills to a dog. You will kill it. Drop everything and go see your vet.” I get it, but we do have slightly more than an average amount of medical knowledge in our house, so I pressed on.

On page two of my search results I found a reasonable website where a vet admitted, that although some people medicines like Ibuprofen and Naproxin were potentially dangerous to dogs, good old fashioned aspirin was just fine in moderation. They even gave dosages, one 81mg baby aspirin per ~20lbs of dog.

So, we got some aspirin from the store for $2.39, shoved two of them into a piece of American cheese and gave it to the dog. We repeated this before bed, the next morning and again at noon on the second day.

You too can fix your dog for 99% of the cost of a visit to the vet.

You too can fix your dog for 99% of the cost of a visit to the vet.


By the end of the day one she was walking on her injured leg a little. By the end of day two, I saw her charge down the yard to bark at the passing UPS truck, leaning into her injured shoulder with the full weight of her body and rage.

Of course if the dog had been in constant pain or had exhibiting other, more concerning characteristics, I would have taken her to the vet, but after calm and patient consideration, none of that ended up being necessary.

When our normal routine is interrupted by some kind of “incident,” we tend to respond with every available resource, but much of the time most of what we bring to bear is unnecessary.

As humans (or at least Americans) we tend to respond to the initial drama of a situation before taking the time to really assess the facts.


This is as applicable in business as it is in your home. So, the next time you’re faced with a “panic situation,” take a deep breath, take your time, and DO NOT RUN TO THE CODE. You will find the ordeal is rarely as bad as it seems at first, and if you’re lucky, you can fix your dog with a few slices of cheese and $2.39.


 Copyright © 2015 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.

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One thought on “Never Run To A Code

  • That’s great advice for hospital medicine, and, apparently, for do-it-yourself veterinary work as well.

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