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MIND PORTAL

A COLLECTION OF SPECULATIVE FICTION STORIES

 

Amit Savjani is a student when he learns that he has a special mental ability. He can transmit his thoughts and ideas into the minds of others. He uses this skill to avoid being bullied on the playground. Later, he finds out that he can not only influence people, but that he can implant ideas into people’s minds even after they are dead, chanigng their behavior when they were alive thereby altering the future.

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES

MIND PORTAL is a collection of speculative fiction stories.
Below you'll find brief summaries explaining each story.

  • Biocide

    A scientist and author is a crusader for the environment. Her ecology effort stimulates the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but her life is cut short from breast cancer. Amit helps her survive her disease and she becomes instrumental in the removal of a modern day herbicide.

  • He Has Not Left the Building

    An international known star of popular music wants to meet with the President of the U.S. to combat the nation’s drug abuse problem. He is battling his own prescription drug addiction. Amit helps him overcome his problem and in doing so, the star comes to the aid of many other celebrities who are suffering from similar issues.

  • iBrain

    A brilliant electronics and computer entrepreneur develops novel products that transform the lives of millions on the planet. He suffers from pancreatic cancer and is dying. Amit enters the mind of the visionary himself in order to convince him that his form of cancer is treatable without using unapproved experimental treatment. He survives and years later, and he develops new and even more revolutionary products.

  • TBI

    An athletic and virile young King of England participates in jousting when he is struck on the head with a lance, but luckily he survives. Over time, his personality changes from happy-go- lucky and amorous to tyrannical and evil. Amit convinces him to end his jousting career, thus avoiding traumatic brain injury. This leads to significant changes for his country and the western world as we know it today.

  • Sweat Shop

    A young woman is fighting for women’s rights at the turn of the 20th century. She visits a factory that makes clothing and she is horrified at the working conditions for the employees. Unexplainably, her health begins to decline. Amit knows she has a vitamin deficiency and convinces her to change her diet. The woman regains her health. She is successful in improving working conditions in the factories. A fire breaks out and the workers are able to escape.

  • Wall of Stone

    A bold General of the Confederate Army is shot by friendly fire. He is taken to a field hospital where his left arm is amputated. His doctor tells him he must rest in bed. Amit recognizes that this is not the best approach for the General’s recovery and convinces his doctor to have him get out of bed and walk around. The General makes a full recovery and is around to lead his troops into a critical battle against Union forces during the Civil War.

  • Ashwood

    Two African American men reach top of their chosen sports in tennis and football and become friends. After their athletic careers end, the tennis player develops AIDS from a blood transfusion. Amit tells him to have the surgery at a hospital where they are screening the blood supply for the virus. The football player is divorced and has visitation rights to his kids. One day, when he goes to pick up his kids at his ex-wife’s house, he sees that she has been with a younger man and he is enraged.

  • Point-of-Care

    An African American athlete becomes the first of his race to play in a professional league. After 10 years, he has the earliest signs of diabetes and he retires. At the same time, a scientist is developing an at-home glucose test to monitor diabetes. With Amit’s help, the athlete turned politician is among the first to use this technology, thereby slowing the onset of diabetic complications. The athlete turns to politics and achieves another first for his race of people.

  • Bladder Control

    Hubert Humphrey barely lost to Nixon in the 1968 presidential election because he didn’t distance himself from President’s Johnson Viet Nam War policies. A year earlier, Humphrey produced bloody urine but there was no cause found. Ten years later, Humphrey died of bladder cancer. In 1994, scientists re-examined his biopsy with new tests to show that he had cancer in 1968. Amit helps doctors make an early diagnosis of cancer while Humphrey is running for office.

  • The First Lady is pregnant with her fourth child. Immediately after birth, the infant boy struggles to breathe. A few miles up the road, a young pediatrician discovers a test that can be used to diagnose this respiratory condition before the baby is born. Amit brings the pediatrician together with the pregnant woman’s obstetrician to prolong her labor and saves the boy.

  • George’s Last Legacy

    The country’s first President falls ill and is treated by his doctor through blood-letting, the practice of removing large volumes of blood. Amit convinces the doctors that this is not a prudent practice, and the former commander-in-chief survives. The former general is consulted by the current President in the country’s next war with Britain.

  • Purple Reign

    King George III ruled England during the Revolutionary War. Centuries later, medical scientists concluded that he may have been psychotic because of porphyria, a genetic disease that affects hemoglobin production and produces a bluish-purple urine. Amit makes lab tests and treatments available to treat the King for porphyria at a time when the colonists are revolting.

  • Cursed

    A woman who could be the next Queen of England is trying to get pregnant and deliver a healthy child in order for her family to continue ruling the Empire. Amit shows a young doctor how he can diagnose the woman revealing a clotting disorder that can be treated with the bark of a willow tree. The doctor is successful and the future Queen has children, changing her country’s fortune.

  • Libertadore del Liberador!

    A visionary revolutionist ignites colonists to gain independence from Spain and they form a large country in the northern half of the South American continent. After a decade of rule, dissidents try to break up this new country into several smaller ones. They hire assassins to initiate the dissolution but their efforts are repeatedly thwarted by the man’s mistress and Amit’s mind portal.

  • Behind Every Important Man

    This is a story about a scientist, a politician, and their wives. The scientist’s wife is instrumental in helping her husband discover a clinical laboratory test for cervical cancer. The wife of the politician becomes more popular than the leader of this South American country. Amit alters the medical history of the politician’s wife thereby changing the history of the country her husband serves.

  • Purged

    A revolutionary overthrows the Russian Imperial government in favor of one that is ruled by the people. But within a few years of taking over the government he suffers a stroke and dies. Amit reverses this man’s medical history by convincing his doctors to prescribe a drug that was new in their time. The man survives, continues to rule, and in doing so, he saves millions of Russian lives that would have been lost had he died.

  • Atomic Barré

    The President suffers from polio before his political career has taken off. Amit suspects the man actually has Guillian Barré, a different disease with similar symptoms. He convinces the future President’s doctors to perform a critical laboratory test that correctly determines his diagnosis. In the ensuing years, treatment for Guillian Barré is developed to help the now Commander-in-Chief prolonging his life for several more years with significant consequences to world history.

  • The Collaborator

    Brothers take different career paths in 1890. Martin becomes a military leader and Hans a professor of microbiology. When World War I breaks out in Europe, each play a vital role for Germany. Martin leads men into battle while Hans develops a lab test for influenza. Toward the end of the war, the flu becomes pandemic killing soldiers on both sides. Amit helps Hans and Martin change world history by introducing a lab test.

  • Skyweb

    A gifted mathematician helps the Allies crack the secret code used by Nazi Germany and in so doing, helps their side win the Second World War. A few years later, he is beginning his work on artificial intelligence when he is arrested for public indecency. He is given a choice between taking hormone injections, or serving time in prison. Amit convinces him to select prison time which eliminates the man’s thoughts of suicide. The mathematician goes on to help create a new world.

  • Amit’s Alternate World

    After entering his mind portal to help the mathematician, Amit wakes up and finds his current world being attacked by robot being. Can he survive these changes? Can he bring it all back to normal? This is an epilogue of all the changes he has made to the world by entering his mind portal, which leads to a dramatic conclusion to his story and of ours.

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS AND ADULTERANTS:

THE HIDDEN ASSASSIN II

A rogue chemist creates an empire to support the needs of illegal drug users consisting of athletes seeking to enhance performance, women trying to stay young, men trying to stay virile, and drug addicts trying to avoid detection. This is an eye opening revelation about the world of drugs and hormones. Ripped from headline news, these stories document how illegal substances affect the lives of many individuals wanting to get an edge.

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS AND ADULTERANTS is a collection of short stories based on real medical and forensic cases. Below you'll find brief summaries explaining each story.

  • Urine Luck

    This is a reproduction of the story originally printed in my book, “Toxicology! Because What You Don’t Know Can Kill You.” It is about Calvin, a lab technologist who is trying to catch Jaco, a bus driver who is adulterating his urine so that he can pass his drug test. Calvin’s failure to catch Jaco’s practices leads to a catastrophic event.

  • Accident Aftermath

    Disillusioned about what has happened, Calvin leaves the profession and meets a man of questionable reputation. With his financial backing, they form a company designed to legally defraud the drug testing industry and to produce performance enhancing drugs, chemicals and hormones. The products his company makes affect the lives of many individuals.

  • Mask

    A research technician uses a masking agent to hide his drug addiction. One day, while hallucinogenic, he is careless in handling a very dangerous reagent in an experiment he is conducting. Later, his boss is accidently and unknowingly exposed to this chemical.

  • The Prosthetic

    A professional football player subjected to random urine drug testing hides his abuse of anabolic steroids through the purchase of a prosthetic penis. There he is able to donate someone else’s drug free urine. His continued steroid abuse leads to a bad outcome.

  • Whippet

    Members of a rock band regularly inhale a gas contained within a small canister in order to enhance their sexual experience. After a concert, one of the singers meets a fan in their hotel room. The girl has never tried this inhalant but is willing and able. Unfortunately, her body does not react to the presence of this gas in the expected manner.

  • Bagel

    A pregnant school teacher delivers an underweight baby. The hospital doctors order a drug test and find opiates in the child's urine. Child Protective Services removes the baby from the family pending an investigation of the woman’s prenatal drug history. How does she prove her innocence?

  • Flush

    An Asian graduate student attends a party at a fraternity. Normally, she cannot drink a lot of alcohol because it produces a rash and a flushing reaction. On this day, she is given a drink laced with a drug that renders her semi-unconscious. She is sexually assaulted without her knowledge. The next day, she reports her assault to the University who conducts a criminal investigation.

  • The Beta Blocker Assassin

    A spy is assigned the assassination of a prominent businessman. He is an accomplished biathlete in cross country skiing and rifle shooting. The agent uses a pre-Olympic biathlon event to accomplish his job.

  • The Fountain of Youth

    Athletes are using human growth hormone or hGH to increase muscle mass. An aging actress believes that injections of hGH will keep her young looking and attractive. She ignores the warning that these supplements may be dangerous.

  • The Dope

    The son of a blood bank director learns about blood doping. He gains access to his own blood for the purposes of improving his bicycling performance. Later he abuses red-cell producing hormones. He becomes an elite cyclist but eventually gets caught by the International Cycling Organization.

  • Footlights

    A promising high school basketball player takes an herbal supplement thinking that it is safe and that it will improve his breathing and athletic performance on the court. He suffers a cardiac arrest after a strenuous workout which permanently damages his heart. He has to retire from the sport and becomes a taxi driver.

  • Gonadal Blues

    A baseball player is taking testosterone supplements to improve his hitting power because his natural testosterone levels are low. He learns that taking human choriogonadotropin or hCG, a female hormone produced during pregnancy, can restore his production of epitestosterone, important in enabling him to escape detection of hCG use.

  • Uneven Bars

    A young girl is obsessed in excelling in gymnastics. She is competing against a childhood friend. In order to maintain a body that is more conducive to this sport, she takes hormones that delay her puberty.

  • Too Tall For Comfort

    A very tall woman becomes an accomplished volleyball player. She helps the US National Team achieve Olympic success. During an intense match, she collapses on the court. An investigation is conducted to determine what happened.

  • Crescentoid Blood

    An African American woman takes up competitive tennis. Based on early success, she is offered an athletic scholarship. The NCAA requires that she be tested for the presence of sickle cell disease or trait. The test has an inherent flaw and an erroneous result is produced on the tennis star.

  • To ECG or Not To ECG

    Over 25 years ago, a college basketball star collapses on the court after a difficult game. Doctors determine that he has a genetic heart defect that was unknown to him, his family, and coaches. While a screening test is available today to detect this condition, it is not being used on elite athletes.

  • Skater

    A world-class speed skater suffers from seizures and her father gives her meldonium, a drug that is not approved for use in the U.S. A few months before the Olympic Trials, the father learns that the drug is now listed as a banned substance and her father takes her off this drug in favor of another that is not on the restricted list. While her performance is maintained, she suffers and adverse reaction.

  • Billy Gene

    A international acclaimed singer is on a world tour and has insomnia. His personal doctor gives him a powerful sleep inducing drug. The drug is not tolerated and the singer is found dead the next morning. The doctor is put on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Laboratory testing is conducted to determine if the singer had a genetic predisposition towards this particular medication.

  • Revenge

    Jaco, the man who adulterated his urine, was sentenced to a prison term for his deeds. He is out on parole for good behavior. Calvin has never forgiven Jaco for his actions and is dismayed at his early release. As a chemist, he has the means and knowledge to get revenge.

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Microbiology!

BECAUSE WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW WILL KILL YOU. STORIES BASED ON REAL MEDICAL AND FORENSIC CASES

 

We all know about the dangers of living a modern life. There are risks when we get behind the wheel of a car or when we meet a stranger on the street. We can reduce these foreseen risks if we practice defensive driving or avoid contact with suspicious individuals. There are hundreds of unforeseen risk that we face every day. The world of microbiology falls under this latter category. “Microbiology! Because What You Don’t Know Will Kill You,” is about everyday people who encounter harmful organisms that we cannot see with the naked eye, yet they cause death or serious medical harm to an individual, group or even an entire population. We cannot avoid all of these risks, but with knowledge of their existence, we can better our odds.

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES

Microbiology! Because What You Don’t Know Will Kill You. is a collection of short stories based on real medical and forensic cases. Below you'll find brief summaries explaining each story.

  • Pipetteman

    Early in my career as a clinical scientist, a former doctor from Eastern Europe comes to America and works for me as a laboratory technician. While performing testing, he has a bad habit of aspirating patient sera into a tube pipette using mouth suction. On day, he is distracted and he becomes one of the first patients to be infected with this new unknown virus.

  • The Livermore

    During the early 1900s, an orphan boy’s face is disfigured as a youth and he is ostracized. He lives stows away on a cruise ship for many years without the knowledge by anyone on the ship. The now grown man meets a girl who is part of the ship’s musical entertainment for passengers. He falls in love with her but must compete for her hand with an attractive younger man who is also part of the show.

  • Antiseptic

    A surgeon tells his students that hospital-acquired infections of drug resistant bacterial are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the hospital. He explains that exposure of these microorganisms to widespread antibiotics stimulates mutation enabling them to be resistant. He learns about a new laboratory test that can be used to reduce the incidence of antibiotic use but is frustrated by the lack of interest for adoption of this test.

  • Twin Infections

    Identical twins attend a going-away party for their parents, just before the two boys leave for separate colleges. One of their classmates is also attending the party having just returned from China. She inadvertently infects both boys with the Asian flu. Now at their individual colleges, one boy is diagnosed and treated effectively while the other is not.

  • Mysophobia

    A local comedienne who is a self-described “germaphobe” gets her big break on a national late night television show. Later, she auditions and becomes the host of a TV game show. Then one day while playing soccer, she skins her knee during a game. This results in an infection that scars her face and skin. Although she recovers, her TV show is cancelled by the network.

  • It’s not this or that

    A college woman is seriously injured in a bus accident. She is hospitalized and requires numerous blood transfusions. In order to prevent transmission of viruses from an infected donor to the recipient, the blood bank tests all units for the viruses that are known at that time of donation. But a new virus that attacks the liver is present in the donated blood, but there is no way to screen for its presence.

  • Holy Shit!

    An executive rises up the corporate ladder at the expense of her personal life. When she retires, she is single and alone. She breaks a hip and needs a replacement. She develops an infection and needs therapy. When none of the common antibiotics are effective, her doctor asks for her permission to treat her using a radically different approach.

  • Bugs in Space

    A microbiologist is working with Salmonella with the hopes of developing a vaccine. He believes that he will learn more if he can conduct studies in microgravity. An astronaut is assigned to perform the scientist’s experiments in space while on board the International Space Station. A small meteorite hits the Station while he is working causing a small leak in the seal of the hood he is working in.

  • Feline Folly

    An ardent animal lover becomes sick while pregnant. An investigator from the Department of Public Health goes to their home to investigate the possible cause of her sickness. She is distressed to learn that it may have been caused by a pet. Her illness has medical consequences when her child is born.

  • Black Tar

    A teenager produces heroin in his garage from an internet recipe. The procedure calls for diluting the preparation with dirt and coffee grounds. A woman who is addicted to heroin is treated with methadone, which blocks heroin from its pharmacologic effects. Unfortunately, she relapses and returns to her life of abuse. This time, she develops an infection from the street drug made from the teenager.

  • Sweet Flies

    An army veteran suffers depression upon his return from the middle east. He becomes homeless and develops diabetes. He is admitted on to several occasions due a diabetic ketoacidosis. During his second visit, the emergency department staff notices strange movement inside his nose. The doctor removes the organisms from the patients nose and sends them to the clinical laboratory for analysis.

  • Gone Batty

    A mentally challenged boy relocates with his family to Monrovia, Africa because his father is a missionary. His school takes his the class on a field trip to the zoo. There, he and a companion break away from the other students to visit the bat pavilion. The boy tries to attract the attention of the sleeping bats using food without success. He later becomes very ill.

  • Wanderer

    A boy living in a commune is gathering fruits in the woods. He gets bit by a tick and becomes sick. He is sent to a local doctor but lab tests are negative for the common bacteria and viruses and he is sent back to his community. When he develops Bell’s palsy, he is sent to the General where his diagnosis is finally established.

  • Wet Mount

    A medical technologist is asked to review stool samples from a college student who spent a semester abroad in a remote village in the Philippines. He had been swimming in a polluted lake. She was amazed when she saw that sample contained live organisms.

  • Because She Was Not There

    A science teacher stimulates a shy student to excel. The student enters a science fair and the proud teacher offers him a ride to the event. The teacher contracts tuberculosis and is quarantined. So the student has to catch a city bus and waits at the bus stop to get to the fair. There he is confronted by some gang members and he gets into a fight with gang’s leader.

  • The Kiss of Death

    A college student volunteers to build houses in a rural South American village. He befriends a boy in the neighborhood and is invited to the child’s home for dinner. Instead of returning to his dorm, he stays overnight with the family, and while asleep, a bug bites his face infecting him with a virus. When he returns to the U.S., he donates blood which results in a transfusion-related infection of a child.

  • M*A*S*H

    A young entrepreneur develops new clinical laboratory technology. The military contacts the company to use this instrument for army hospital units in the field. The device has unrecognized faults and mistakes in lab diagnoses are made from the blood of injured soldiers. The company, now disgraced changes its focus towards helping third world countries with diagnoses of infectious diseases.

  • Special Sauce

    A graduate student from Viet Nam loses her his girlfriend during the 9-11 attacks. He is doing research on viral diseases. In the freezer in at his research lab, he has vials of anthrax. Shortly after 9-11, there were attacks on U.S. citizens when terrorists send sent anthrax through the mail. He is asked to destroy his supply of the bacterium, but secretly retains one vial for his research work.

  • Residency Termination

    Upon graduation from medical school, a smart but arrogant student enters a residency program in laboratory medicine. He selects a professor of clinical microbiology to conduct medical research while still a student. The study goes awry and he presents falsified data at a national meeting. His advisor uncovers the fraud and confronts the student.

  • Consent

    A student asks about the history of the “informed consent” process in order for patients to participate in medical research studies. I describe the Tuskegee Syphilis Trial that took place in the 1930’s and enrolled subjects without consent and without their knowledge. When antibiotics become available, treatment is withheld. The rights of patients were violated in the name of medical science.

  • Bad Breath

    An ambitious ad executive develops stomach ulcers. He is treated with antacids but his condition does not improve and he is instructed to reduce his work hours. Meanwhile, a scientist in Australia are is working on a radically different theory as to how ulcers are formed. The medical community debunk his theory, leading him to take drastic measures to prove himself his theory.

THE HIDDEN ASSASSIN

When clinical lab tests go awry

The Hidden Assassin. When Clinical Lab Tests Go Awry contains stories that involve testing from the general clinical laboratory, not just toxicology. Find out what happens to a healthy woman when she finds out she is very likely to get breast cancer, how a blood test catches a terrorist, or how a modern lab test if it were available in 1968 for Hubert Humphrey could have changed the course of American history.

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES

THE HIDDEN ASSASSIN is a collection of short stories based on real medical and forensic cases. Below you'll find brief summaries explaining each story.

  • Clinical Lab Test Gone Awry

    A diabetic woman develops pelvic inflammatory disease and undergoes surgery to remove adhesions around her small bowel. While in the recovery room, her blood glucose levels are regulated to within tight limits by insulin. Glucose testing is performed at bedside, but an interferrent in her blood produces an erroneous result by the device.

  • Absence of Malice

    A grandmother spends a quiet day with her grandchildren. She is experiencing chest pain but doesn't tell her son until later. When he finds out, she is sent to the ER, where doctors order tests from my lab to see if she had a heart attack. The test for troponin comes out marginally positive but she is inappropriately sent home.

  • Fatal Dedication

    A young woman donates her life savings to join a religious cult. A few years later, she becomes ill while living under their care. The cult does not believe in drugs and withholds treatment until just prior to her death. The District Attorney accuses the cult of medical negligence based on a single abnormal test result from the autopsy.

  • Tree Trunks

    An obese woman undergoes a magnetic resonance imaging test because of a blood clot. A blood test is performed to determine if she is eligible for the dye used in the procedure to visualize her blood vessels. The test is performed by an inexperienced doctor on a device that was not functioning. The botched result leads to untoward consequences for the woman.

  • Taking Its Toll

    A pregnant woman works two jobs as a cashier and toll booth ticket taker. She is exposed daily to chemicals present in the thermal paper used for receipts. This results in birth defects when her child is born. In utero exposure to these toxins may have also permanently altered his personality which is evident as he grows up.

  • The Phantom Pregnancy

    A couple tried unsuccessfully for years to conceive. When she finally becomes pregnant, the couple is overjoyed; but the happiness is short-lived. Instead of being pregnant, the obstetrician tells the woman that she has a life-threatening tumor and is treated a total hysterectomy and chemotherapy. But a mistake was made.

  • In God's Hands

    An older pregnant woman undergoes prenatal care including hCG testing, a pregnancy-associated hormone. When the levels decline unexpectedly, her doctor concluded that the fetus will be non-viable and recommends a chemical abortion. The abortion procedure is initiated but the fetus remains viable.

  • Missing Lights

    A hotel maid is raped while at work by a famous hotel guest. So she decides to have the baby. During the prenatal period, all laboratory tests appeared normal and she is promised to have a healthy child. The woman develops early contractions and delivers a premature infant. The child is sent home with the mother too soon.

  • Veteran Stones

    A civil war veteran returns to his farm after the war. Years later, he suddenly develops abdominal cramps, dies from the illness, and is buried on his farm. One hundred fifty years later, a real estate developer makes an offer for the land to the veteran's descendants requiring a relocation of the veteran's remains. His cause of death is finally discovered.

  • Explosive Blood

    A foreign student gets a chemistry degree in the US but is unable to find a job, so he works for his father's rug import business. During a soccer game, he passes out and is sent to the ER, and is diagnosed with methemoglobinemia, a condition that reduces oxygen delivery to his body. As drugs and chemicals can cause this, we found something in his blood that has national security implications.

  • A Fib about Afib

    A real estate agent is diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. She is put on a blood thinner to prevent a stroke and a heart attack. She suffers bleeding from the brain due to an overdose of the drug within the first few weeks of dosage. Her doctors were unaware of a lab test that could have optimized her drug dosage to avoid the stroke.

  • Less-phine

    A pharmaceutical sales representative is the driver of a fatal pedestrian-car accident. He was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter due to his self-prescribed use of codeine. My laboratory underwent an investigation involving his genetics, and proved that he was in full control of his faculties.

  • Ibuprofen Preemption

    A college student takes ibuprofen for muscle aches after a sorority retreat. She suffers adverse reactions resulting in liver and kidney disease. We determine she had a genetic predisposition that caused this reaction. The family sues the pharmaceutical company who produced a generic version of the drug. Is the secondary drug company libel for not providing a warning to consumers? This case reaches the US Supreme Court.

  • Bottom Up

    Pharmacy students are offered a genetic testing as part of their class on genetic predisposition towards drugs. The test results for one student could influence the treatment of her father who suffers a heart attack. He is given a standard prescription of an anti-clotting drug instead of a higher dose that might have been better in protecting him against another attack.

  • Moyamoya

    A Japanese-American boy has a congenital defect in his brain which caused his blood vessels to be unusually thin. After a long day of skiing with his friends, he returns to the chalet and collapses. Earlier in the day one of his friends gave him a drug that was synthesized in a garage laboratory from an internet recipe. What did he take and why did it cause a problem for him?

  • Breast Report

    A young woman's mother develops breast cancer and has a mastectomy. Fearing that she is also at risk, the daughter has her DNA tested for genetic variances. The test is performed and results are reported electronically to the doctor. The girl sees the result through the internet first, because the oncologist is on vacation. There is no opportunity for the doctor to discuss the significance of the findings.

  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

    A mother pushes her daughter to compete in beauty contests. Just before an important pageant, the teenage girl arrives at a beauty salon to add some highlights to her hair. The stylist is distracted while working on the young girl's hair. Chemicals used to dye her hair are left on the girl's head too long.

  • Mr. Potato Head

    A man has a fetish with eating potatoes. His obsession began in childhood, but now as an introverted adult, his diet consists almost exclusively of raw green tubers. Then his health begins to decline as a result. His doctor contacted me to see if there are toxins in his blood from the potatoes that could cause his current illness.

  • Seafood

    A boy wants to following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to become a deep-sea fisherman. His older sister is concerned that he is overexposed to mercury through his diet that is rich in game fish. She takes her brother to a doctor who documents high mercury levels in his urine and prescribes chelation therapy to remove the poison.

  • Not Mine

    A legal aid is tested for drugs as part of a workplace program at her law firm. Her urine is positive for marijuana. She denies use and demands a DNA test of the positive urine sample to prove that there was a specimen mix-up. The results of the tested urine initially suggest her innocence as it contains more than 2 genotypes, to suggest contamination. But the truth lies in an alternative explanation……

  • Fat Rescue

    A patient undergoes an elective surgery and is given standard anesthesia. The operation is stopped because she develops a seizure during the procedure. She is treated with a fat emulsion that was recently discovered to be useful in drug overdoses, and she is saved. We perform a research study to determine how this miracle substance works.

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TOXICOLOGY!

Because what you don't know can kill you.

We all wish we had more power. The power to turn back time, to re-write history and make better decisions, but most importantly, the power to save a life. It may appear that we are on our own to battle uncertain destiny. But what if I were to tell you there's more?

There's a way to change your fate, to hold more cards, and take not only your own life, but the lives of those you love into your hands. No, we cannot go back in time, but we can set forth ripples of change into the future that can alter our coexistence forever. Toxicology and clinical laboratory testing may be one of those portals.

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES

TOXICOLOGY Because What You Don't Know Can Kill You is a collection of short stories based on real medical and forensic cases. Below you'll find brief summaries explaining each story.

  • Max's Quiet-a-Time

    A nursing home resident is accidently overdosed with quietipine, an anti-psychotic medication. While the postmortem blood level of the medication is high, the autopsy pathologist discounts the results because of “postmortem redistribution” and rules that the death was due to old age. When a person dies, there is a leakage of drugs from the organs that falsely creates higher drug levels after death. The daughter of the deceased suspects foul play, because his nursing home medication records mysteriously vanish.

  • Second Chance

    After decades of living an irresponsible life with recreational drugs, a woman stops abusing drugs and lives a meaningful life. Unfortunately, before she gives up her reckless lifestyle, she contracts a chronic hepatitis C infection and now needs a life-saving liver transplant. She is denied this operation because her urine drug test comes up positive for methamphetamine use which she now denies. We attend a medical convention and learn new information that can save her.

  • Blood Beer Making

    An alcohol-intoxicated man causes a traffic accident that kills his childhood friend who was a passenger in his car. The driver is charged with vehicular manslaughter. The crime lab tests his blood for alcohol 3 days after his arrest. His clever defense attorney argues that alcohol was produced in his body by fermentation while it sat at room temperature in the lab. There is no other alcohol testing conducted to refute this claim. But is there other objective evidence that can be used to determine the truth?

  • Urine Luck

    A scientist works in my workplace drug testing lab. We conduct drug tests for employees in “safety-sensitive” occupations. The analyst suspects that one of the anonymous donors that we regularly test is secretly adulterating his urine sample to invalidate our lab test in order to mask his drug use. My technologist becomes obsessed with catching this donor and steps beyond the boundaries of his legal and moral responsibilities.

  • Sloe Gin

    A doctor admits to drinking wine the day before she arrives for work. She is subjected a breath alcohol test. The result suggests that she was drinking that morning. She tells the medical licensing board that she is a slow alcohol metabolizer and contracts my laboratory to prove it. Following controlled and witness drinking, we measure her alcohol breakdown rate and confirm her unusual metabolism. She is exonerated by the board. We realize later that she may have cheated.

  • Country Doctor

    An elderly physician practices in a small agricultural town. He is involved with the care of a 2-year old child who is seen in the hospital. He prescribes a cold medication and discharges the child to his parents. A few days later, the boy develops a high fever and he dies at home. How did this child die?

  • No Snack for Yew

    A mother's last child is mentally challenged. When the woman dies, the husband remarries and the step mother sends the boy to a home for developmentally disabled children. A few months later, he is found dead in the courtyard of the home. Just before he dies, he is seen eating leaves and berries from a flowering shrub in the backyard. What was the boy eating that caused his death?

  • Dumbing It Down

    A boy with a photographic memory and is brilliant in school is involved with a traffic accident which causes the death of his parents die. He suffers persistent migraine headaches. The medication he is taking causes him to lose concentration, memory and even speech. Was this due to his traumatic experience?

  • Stuffers and Packers

    A drug smuggler arrives at the international airport with his girlfriend. The man swallows dozens of small plastic containers of cocaine that were carefully packed to prevent leakage while in his body. However, he forgets to pack his recreational stash of cocaine and is fearful that the drug-sniffing dogs will detect his hidden supply. His tells his girlfriend to swallow a condom stuffed with the coke. She has a heart attack and recovers from the event but then dies unexpectedly.

  • Early Wakeup Call

    A young doctor is in his third year of residency in anesthesiology. During an open heart surgery procedure, he administers half the normal dosage to of fentanyl, a drug used to induce anesthesia. He is suspected of diverting some of the fentanyl for his own recreational drug use. My lab is challenged to find a way to catch him.

  • The Spice of Dyslife

    An actor is preparing for an audition and is very anxious. His agent gives the actor cookies laced with an unknown drug in hope of calming him down but instead, it causes him to hallucinate. After the agent leaves, the actor phones his roommate and explains to him that he wants to jump out of the window and fly away.

  • Rave Review

    A group of teenage girls attend a music festival. These festivals are also attended by drug dealers wishing to score big by selling to the eager youth. One dealer in particular is offering Ecstasy pills for free. All of the girls try it but one becomes seriously ill and dies. What were they taking and why did she die?

  • Pooper Scooper

    A sailor finds love in an overseas brothel and marries her upon his retirement. Now in the US, the wife becomes pregnant and delivers a small but otherwise healthy baby. The child's first poop was sent for toxicology testing. When the result comes out positive for cocaine, the child welfare department convenes and rules that the mother is unfit. The child is removed from the custody of his parents. The parents deny any drug use and need help from us.

  • Pressor Luck

    A nurse murders several hospitalized patients with adrenaline overdoses. The hospital suspects foul play because more than a normal amount of fatalities occur while this nurse is on duty. The DA orders the victims exhumed and tested for evidence of injections. As adrenaline is a natural compound, its presence is insufficient to verify poisonings. My lab performs research studies on animal models in hopes of proving her guilt.

  • The Vacationist Rapist

    A teenage boy from an affluent family is accused of raping a girl. He is arraigned, but flees the jurisdiction prior to trial, and lives in Europe as a fugitive for a decade. Authorities find and extradite him to the US, where he is tried for rape. The defense collects blood from the vehicle's rug and the victim's undergarments and concludes that the victim is taking drugs at the time of the encounter. Is it rape or consensual sex?

  • Mushroom Rage

    A boxer has an explosive encounter with his trainer weeks before a fight. The trainer introduces his client to a home-brewed concoction. The two are also high on methamphetamine. After they drink the beverage, the fighter suddenly becomes enraged and attacks the partner. He kills the trainer with his bare hands, and then proceeds to mutilate his lifeless body. Just what was in that beverage?

  • Slide Toxin

    An arriving international flight missed the runway and its tail crashes onto the tarmac. After the plane comes to rest, the doors are opened and the passengers are instructed to evacuate though emergency slides. One evacuation chute deploys inside the plane trapping a passenger underneath. When the unconscious victim is discovered, the slide was sliced open exposing him to the chemicals inside the bag used for its inflation. Could this have caused his illness?

  • Hospital Daycare

    A young mother attends my toxicology lecture and learns about poisons. She suffers from “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy,” a psychiatric disease whereby a mother causes harm to her kids. She uses information from a toxicology class that I teach to poison her son. She is tried and convicted of child endangerment and incarcerated. During one of the conjugal visits, she becomes impregnated by her husband and delivers a second child suffering from the same symptoms as her son. Was there a lab mistake made that resulted in her incarceration?

  • Duffer Dysfunction

    An aging pro-golfer finds success on the Senior PGA tour. An adoring female fan invites him to her hotel room after the first round of a tournament. Not wanting to disappoint her, he takes a double dose of an herbal medication marketed for erectile dysfunction (ED). After intercourse, the couple falls asleep in bed together. In the morning, the woman screams in horror to find that the golfer is lying dead next to her.

  • Toadstool Gourmand

    A Taiwanese grandmother picks poisonous mushrooms in California because they are identical in appearance to edible versions back home. She prepares the mushrooms for dinner one night. Shortly thereafter, she and her grandson both become violently ill. A liver specialist is consulted who knows of experimental treatment for mushroom poisonings. As this medication is not approved for use in the US, he places an emergency call to the FDA, and gets permission to have this medication flown from Germany overnight.

  • Jacked!

    A young soldier is a body builder and spends much of his free time in the gym lifting weights with his fellow recruits. The group ingests a supplement purchased from the Marine Corps store that will assist in their training. After a few months of ingesting this supplement, the young man suddenly dies of a heart attack. Such deaths are highly unusual for young individuals who are active and physically fit.

Alan Wu headshot

About The Author

Alan H.B. Wu was born in Doylestown Pennsylvania and spent his first years on a farm in New Jersey. In the mid 1950s, he moved with his family first to Chicago and then to Morton Grove. He attended Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois. Upon graduation, he entered Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and dual majored in chemistry and biology. Given his interest in clinical chemistry, his advisor Professor Harry Pardue, who was one of the first analytical chemists to train clinical chemists, suggested he attend the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana for graduate school. There he received his doctoral degree in Analytical Chemistry from the late Howard Malmstadt, a pioneer in automation for chemistry. Larry Faulkner, former President of the University of Texas in Austin was on his thesis committee.
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