On Feb. 19, 1994, a woman named Gloria Ramirez was admitted to the Riverside General Hospital emergency room in Riverside, California, with symptoms of nausea, difficulty breathing, and an increased heart rate. What ensued was truly one of the stranger medical anomalies ever documented.
Before the hospital staff used a defibrillator on Gloria, they had noticed her body was covered in an "oily sheen" that had a "fruity, garlicky smell."
A nurse named Susan Kane drew blood from Gloria, but upon doing so, she noticed the blood had a chemical odor. The attending physician also noted there were strange manila-colored particles floating in the blood.
Shortly after taking her blood, Kane fainted and had to be rushed away. A domino effect followed, and several other staff members experienced fainting, shaking, and apnea (irregular breathing).
So many staff members began feeling sick that the hospital declared an internal emergency, and all other patients were evacuated to the parking lot.
At 8:50 p.m., Ramirez was pronounced dead. Her body was moved into an isolated room by two staff members. One of the staffers, Sally Balderas, started vomiting and feeling a burning sensation, and was hospitalized for 10 days after moving Ramirez's body.
Julie Gorchynski, a medical resident who was the second to become ill, had the most extreme symptoms and needed to stay in intensive care for two weeks.
Overall, a total of 23 out of 37 emergency room staff reported feeling ill. A hazmat team searched the hospital for two toxic chemicals that could have possibly caused such results, but neither were found.
A full two months after her death, Ramirez was finally buried in Riverside.
So what happened to Gloria Ramirez? And did something in her blood cause this domino-effect illness in the hospital? In her autopsy, the coroner cited "cardiac dysrhythmia" as her cause of death and detected no strange chemicals.
So, let's dive into a couple of theories about what might have happened to Ramirez. The first theory comes from the California Department of Health and Human Services, which concluded that the staff experienced mass hysteria, with no real medical cause. The department backed this by saying that the ambulance drivers who transported Ramirez didn't get sick, and no poison was found in her blood.
Julie Gorchynski, the medical resident who was admitted to intensive care after coming into contact with Ramirez, adamantly rejected this theory and actually filed a lawsuit against the hospital for $6 million.
The second theory comes from Livermore Laboratory. This lab hypothesized that a chemical reaction may have caused the mysterious sicknesses.
The lab theorized that Ramirez may have used DMSO gel to alleviate pain she was experiencing due to her cancer — which would explain the garlicky smell. DMSO, coincidentally, is only one oxygen atom away from dimethyl sulfone, a chemical compound that was found in excess in Gloria's body.
The dimethyl sulfone compound could have split apart after the electric shock she received, combining with naturally occurring sulfates to create dimethyl sulfate — a strong chemical that can damage the heart, liver, and kidneys, and cause paralysis, delirium, and convulsions.
However, other experts found several flaws in this theory and the lab itself never conducted testing that could prove it.
The third theory was that it was not Ramirez who caused the widespread symptoms, but the hospital itself. In fact, the hospital had a history of hazardous gas leaks:
People also wondered if the hospital was involved in the cover-up. This was supported by the fact that the coroner originally said Ramirez did NOT die from natural causes, but then flip-flopped and said she did.
Also, the lead investigator, Stephanie Albright, killed herself one month into the investigation. Her colleague admitted she had been under an incredible amount of pressure during the case.
And the blood that was taken from Ramirez? Well, that conveniently managed to disappear during the chaos.
Riverside County spokesperson Tom DeSantis also said that the hospital had thoroughly examined the hospital vents — however, they had been checked by "independent inspectors."
So what happened to Gloria? Her family believed something was being covered up, and as of now...the case remains unsolved.
vote votesIt was a hospital cover-up for sure.
vote votesIt was some freaky chemical reaction in her blood!
vote votesMass hysteria. The employees just freaked out.