Further Reactions to the Turtle Code Controversy

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Florida_Box_Turtle I want to end this week with one more follow-up on last week’s revelation that the new set of federal insurance billing codes has some real gems in it, the most puzzling to me being the code for “struck by turtle.”

First, some reader reactions.

Some of you seemed quite disturbed by the apparent omission of codes for injury by “tortoise” and “terrapin,” which you pointed out are not the same thing as “turtles.” Technically, that’s true, but in common usage in the U.S. (for which these codes were created), “turtle” is generally used to refer to all three kinds of these little bastards. So it does make some sense (and I’m not saying that’s deliberate) that only “turtle” is used. You might want to spend your time puzzling over why there is a code for turtles at all when there is no code for bears. Which will eat you!

I was mainly looking for cases of “struck by turtle,” but a couple of readers offered stories of injuries caused by “other contact with turtle,” like this one from Florida:

A good sized alligator snapping turtle was in the middle of the road and my wife didn’t want to see it get crushed by a passing car. So she went to try to move it to the side of the road. Since alligator snapping turtles can do a lot of damage if they latch onto you with their mouth, she used a tool [that] is basically a long metal rod with a T handle. She used the T handle to try to push the turtle to the side but the turtle bit onto the T and wouldn’t let go. So she pushed the turtle with it holding onto the T. Because this turtle was heavy, she had to put a lot of energy into pushing it. She had just got it to the side of the road when the turtle decided to let go and down she fell, hitting the sidewalk causing a fractured toe and a bruised rib. 

The doctor wrote the cause of her injury as “turtle attack.”

In this tale, of course, there was no actual physical contact with the turtle, but I’d be willing to interpret “contact” to cover this kind of encounter. (“Attack” seems like an exaggeration.) With this next one, there is no question:

While on a trip to the Galapagos, a giant tortoise stepped on my mother’s foot. And by mean “stepped on,” I mean, it put its left front foot on top of her sneaker. [A Chelonoidis nigra can weigh up to 600 pounds.]

Then it moved its right rear foot forward…. Then its right front foot…. Then its left rear foot…. [They move at about 0.16 mph.] After several minutes, it got around to moving its left front foot forward and off her sneaker.

The process took several minutes, and the entire tour group she was with (and possibly others as well) took pictures of her pinned by the tortoise.  She suffered a good deal of embarrassment and some ribbing about it.

Is there a code for that?

Joyce, that would be a W5929XA.

Finally, I’ve also collected (some from readers and some from the Web) a few more examples of important and useful codes that you might want to make a note of:

  • W6133X  Pecked by chicken
  • W6161X  Bitten by duck
  • W5813X  Crushed by crocodile
  • J672        Bird fancier’s lung
  • W502XX  Accidental twist by another person
  • X7402X   Intentional self-harm by paintball gun
  • Y282XX   Contact with sword or dagger, undetermined intent
  • V9603X   Balloon collision
  • V9615X   Hang-glider explosion
  • V9733X   Sucked into jet engine
  • V00151   Fall from “heelies”
  • W051XX  Fall from non-moving nonmotorized scooter
  • V00381   Fall from other flat-bottomed pedestrian conveyance
  • F1290     Cannabis use, unspecified, uncomplicated

and, possibly most disturbing and inexplicable of all —

  • S3661X    Primary blast injury of rectum

What the hell are you people up to?