In February 1994, Gloria Ramirez was admitted to a hospital in Riverside, California, with late stage cervical cancer. Little did her attending doctors and nurses know she was a human toxicity bomb. After some basic treatment and blood work, a strange odor emerged from where the syringe had pricked her and hospital staff began getting sick fast. Disease outbreaks, or something like a disease at any rate, spread throughout the hospital, with 23 people experiencing symptoms and some requiring weeks of hospitalization. For months, newspapers were fascinated by the story of a woman who contaminated an entire hospital wing.
Today, there is still a lot of speculation about the Gloria Ramirez case. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that a chain chemical reaction occurred in her body because of medication she was taking. This might account for the release of poisonous gas. However, some scientists find this theory too unprovable. While it's likely we'll never know exactly what happened with Gloria Ramirez the case remains fascinating. Here's all the strange details of this unsolved medical mystery.
She Arrived At The ER Displaying Odd Symptoms
Gloria Ramirez was taken to the emergency room in Riverside, California, on February 19th, 1994, with advanced cervical cancer. Ramirez was disoriented, short of breath, and had a rapid heartbeat. She also displayed unusual symptoms not typically associated with cervical cancer. She had oily skin and a fruity, garlic-like odor coming from her mouth. When a nurse injected her with an IV to draw blood the smell of ammonia filled the room.
After Her Blood Was Drawn Medical Staff Got Sick Almost Instantly
Shortly after a nurse drew blood from Ramirez, those in the emergency room began experiencing odd symptoms themselves. The nurse who drew the blood collapsed near the door of the ER and said she felt a burning sensation in her face. A medical resident also collapsed and experienced shakiness and shortness of breath.
Other medical professionals attending to Ramirez experienced similar symptoms. A respiratory therapist fainted and lost control of her limbs. Several other staff members began getting sick as well and an internal emergency was declared at the hospital. All emergency room patients were quickly evacuated to prevent the illness from spreading further.
A Chain Of Chemical Reactions May Have Caused The Poisoning
One of the most widely accepted theories about the event centers around the medications Ramirez was on and how they may have led to chain reactions resulting in poisonous gas. It is theorized that Ramirez was using the drug dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to treat a variety of aches and pains related to her cancer. This is because dimethyl sulfone was found in her system, which is the metabolized form of DMSO. The DMSO may have metabolized when paramedics administered oxygen.
When blood was drawn in the emergency room, this caused a sharp drop in the temperature of her blood. This caused the dimethyl sulfone to convert to the deadly chemical compound dimethyl sulfate, which was then released into the air. The symptoms the exposed people experienced, such as shortness of breath, are common signs of dimethyl sulfate poisoning.
The Toxic Gas Caused Long Lasting Illnesses For Some
The aftermath of Ramirez’s visit to the ER left 23 out of the 37 staff members experiencing at least one symptom of poisoning. Luckily, most people’s symptoms were minimal. However, some staff members required extra care.
Nurse Sally Bolderas had to be hospitalized for 10 days due to sleep apnea. Medical resident Julie Gorchynski was the most severely damaged. She remained hospitalized for two weeks with hepatitis, pancreatitis, and a condition that causes bone tissue to deteriorate. She was restricted to crutches for months in the aftermath of the Ramirez incident. This indicates that whatever the toxin released by Ramirez, it was quite potent.