Medical Mysteries: The Curious Case Of Gloria Ramirez

Doctors and nurses in hospital emergency rooms deal with a myriad of conditions on a day to day basis. After a while most things become run of the mill, but sometimes someone walks through those doors with a condition that no one – regardless of their medical knowledge – can diagnose or treat.

Gloria Ramirez is one of the best examples of this kind of someone to date. Here’s her story:

At 31, a terminally ill Gloria Ramirez shows up in an emergency room, about to become one of the craziest medical mysteries of all time

She was admitted in the final stages of cervical cancer and was acting a little strange. Nurses rushed to her side and discovered that she was incoherent and presenting with a heart rate that was so elevated it was preventing her heart’s chambers from filling with blood. This condition is fairly common in the elderly, but no one could explain why Ramirez – even with her diagnosis – was experiencing these symptoms.

Susan Kane does her best to try and figure out what the heck is going on

As one of the three nurses on duty that night, Susan Kane was one of the people tasked with trying to save Gloria’s life that evening. While doing her assessment, it was Susan who noticed that Ramirez had an oily sheen covering her entire body. When Kane drew a routine blood sample, it was anything but routine – The sample smelled of ammonia and had some kind of strange white particles floating around in it.

Almost immediately after making these observations, Susan begins to feel lightheaded and passes out. One of the other nurses quickly follows suit and the third almost immediately begins to lose control of her extremities. Kane said that the last thing she remembers before hitting the floor is the sound of screaming.

The reaction seems to spread at a remarkable pace

There were 37 people working in the emergency room that night. Counting the three nurses who initially experienced the strange reaction, 23 staff members began to develop bizarre symptoms. Figuring that it’s better to be safe than sorry, the staff and patients in the ward are evacuated to the parking lot.

A small team of doctors does hang out and try to save Gloria, but it’s an unsuccessful effort – She died of kidney failure not long after the whole thing started.

Stumped and concerned, they bring in a hazmat team

They wanted to make sure that it was okay to bring people back in, so the hospital requested that a hazmat team go in and make sure that the air didn’t have any dangerous substances floating around in it. The search revealed that Ramirez was using dimethyl sulfoxide as a painkiller alternative, which explained both the oily substance and the floating bits in her blood (a crystallized form of the drug).

That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that no one can seem to explain how the dimethyl sulfoxide was able to affect so many other people, some of whom hadn’t even come in contact with Ramirez that night. Most scientists agree that the crazy events were nothing more than a case of mass hysteria, but nurse Susan Kane disagrees. She thinks that the dimethyl sulfoxide reacted to something and turned into dimethyl sulfide, a poisonous gas.

We may never have a definitive explanation for what happened on that fateful night, but one thing is for sure – This is one of those medical mysteries that people are going to be talking about for a while. What’s the craziest emergency room story you’ve ever heard?

What do you think?

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Written by Shanda de Vries


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