* Originally by Uucp, 1:104/422 * Originally to Michael Corbin, 1:104/428 * Originally dat
* Originally by Uucp, 1:104/422
* Originally to Michael Corbin, 1:104/428
* Originally dated 24 Feb 1994, 15:26
Authorities Puzzled By Fumes
AP 02/23 03:37 EST V0692
Copyright 1994. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- While her remains lay in a sealed aluminum
coffin, Gloria Ramirez's family denied hotly that she had taken any
substance that would have made fumes pour from her body and sicken a
hospital emergency room staff.
Medical examiners were taking special precautions with Wednesday's
autopsy on the body of Ramirez. She died Saturday night of a heart attack
after six hospital workers who were treating her suddenly fell unconscious
from noxious fumes.
Relatives, upset at the notion she was somehow at fault for the mystery
illness, wondered why paramedics who took her to the hospital didn't get
"Whatever happened, happened in that emergency room," said nephew Louis
Huerta. "There's something wrong here, and we're going to find out. We
won't let this rest."
Authorities searched Ramirez's apartment for poison she may have
swallowed, but didn't find any, according to her father, Jesus Ramirez.
Coroner's officials told Jesus Ramirez that autopsy results probably
wouldn't be available until Friday.
Ramirez, who was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, complained of
pain Saturday night and was alert and vomiting when she arrived at the
hospital. Within moments, the 31-year-old woman was in full cardiac arrest.
A preliminary coronor's investigation suggested the fumes came from the
body of Ramirez. How poison got there remained a mystery.
"She had like this film on her body, like you see on the ground at a gas
station," nurse Sally Balderas, recovering at Parkview Community Hospital,
told The Press-Enterprise from her bed.
The staff was overcome after technicians began placing electrodes on her
body and someone drew blood samples, Balderas recounted.
"The nurses just started fainting. I was putting them on gurneys,
starting IVs and moving them to the parking lot. I also moved the victim
from the trauma room to the isolation room," said Balderas, who collapsed
15 minutes later.
Doctors rejected the idea that Ramirez' cancer medication was at fault,
and Ramirez' family said suicide by pesticide was out of the question.
"These stories on the news make her sound like an alien and a freak,"
said Melody Barnett, who is married to Ramirez' nephew. "She was a normal
person just like me and you."
Medical tests Tuesday indicated the sickened workers may have inhaled
some kind of organophosphate, a compound found in pesticides and military
That could account for some of the symptoms, including sweating,
vomiting and irregular heartbeat, but specialists said they don't usually
make people pass out immediately.
Some household products contain 1 percent to 2 percent organophosphates,
while agricultural pesticides have up to 40 or 50 percent.
"Not too many things can cause a first-whiff knockdown punch," said Dr.
Rick Dart, toxicology spokesman for the American College of Emergency
State agriculture officials, despite protests, last week sprayed a
solution of the pesticide malathion, an organophosphate, over the city of
Corona, about seven miles from the hospital, but there was no possible
connection, said Doug Hendricks, spokesman for the Cooperative Medfly
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