California housewife Gloria Ramirez had been sick, she was dying of cervical cancer. Just after 8 pm on February 19th of 1994, EMS was summoned to take Gloria to the ER at Riverside General Hospital. She’d been suffering from terrible chest pain as well as trouble breathing. Gloria was given multiple meds such as Xanax immediately in order to sedate the poor lady. Gloria’s condition quickly grew worse; within an hour she’d passed of kidney failure.
Staff has taken note that Gloria’s skin was so greasy, and her breath had smelled like a pungent mixture garlic and fruit. The doctor on staff ordered blood work, which is often routine. When the nurse by the name of Susan Kane came in to take her blood, she noted that it smelled like ammonia; there were also tiny particles seen floating in Gloria’s blood specimen. Everyone on duty at the hospital was stumped, they’d never heard of anything like this!
Then the nurses began fainting, right there on the floor! It was obvious that whatever in the world was was going on here was very dangerous; the entire ER was evacuated immediately. Sadly they hadn’t evacuated quickly enough as 23 people became ill – 5 more had to be hospitalized. Nurse Susan’s hospital stay lasted 10 days! A hazmat team was brought in to decontaminate the ER.
This is one of most interesting medical deaths in recent history, in my opinion, and there are quite a few different theories as to what happened here. At first it was believed that, since the nurses who were passing out were women, that this was a simple case of (Eye roll) mass hysteria. Probably the most popular conclusion is that that Gloria, in a severe amount of pain, had been using a powerful degreasing gel, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) for pain relief. Apparently this is a thing- Athletes have been known to use it for achy muscles. Some users have complained of breath smelling of garlic. It’s known to turn to crystals at room temp, that could be the cause of the particles floating in her blood. This product would probably explain why her skin was so greasy, and a common side effect of using this is kidney failure. What this doesn’t explain is how she would be toxic to those around her. It’s hypothesized this chemical in Gloria’s blood mixed with the oxygen she was on and that when Nurse Susan drew Gloria’s blood, this released those toxic fumes into the air.
So, Mystery Solved? Maybe. The one thing we can take to the bank was that, whatever happened, it was not just mass hysteria!
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