Monday, May 30, 2011

New Resource: The Writer's Forensic Blog

I've been following Dr. Lyle's blog for awhile and have found some of his posts pretty interesting. D.P. Lyle is a medical professional who also blogs about medical accuracy. He will tend to have more of a forensic focus and has published a couple of resources in this area.

Recently, someone posed a medical question I thought would be of interest to my historical authors. The question was: In 1863, could an autopsy accurately determine the cause of death?

Here's a link to the post:



Friday, May 27, 2011

Soderlund Drug Store Museum

Kathleen joins us again this Friday for an interesting piece on her trip to Soderlund Pharmacy Museum.
 A Charming Historical and Visual Resource for Writers
Writing about a character who’d been a pharmacist in 1901 small town America presented a challenge and sent me searching. After all, this gentleman was practicing his craft prior to the passing of the Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1907 and national legalized standards for the profession.
I happily stumbled upon the William and Joan Soderland Pharmacy Museum web site. The colorful photographs of show globes intrigued me. Just what are show globes? These were beautifully crafted glass jars filled with colored liquid. While legends abound as to their origin, including the use of red liquid to signify an epidemic in town or green to signal the all clear, the likely story is much simpler. Chemists, later called pharmacists, made many of their medical preparations from herbs. Since the historical pharmacist didn’t need a formal education or a license to practice until the 20th century, they demonstrated their prowess in making chemical compounds through the show globes, sometimes layering different density and color liquids for a striped effect.
There are several pages at the Soderlund Drug Store Museum web site, containing a plethora of trivia and useful information regarding the history of the American drug store and pharmaceutical companies prior to 1958. Colorful and historical photographs also abound.
I had the privilege of visiting the Soderlund Pharmacy Museum in quaint St. Peter, Minnesota last summer. Along most of the back wall stand cabinets filled with bottles, jars and boxes that once held patent medicines and individual ingredients, which are often herbs that you would recognize in any health food store today. It would take hours to study the many labels of the lotions and potions contained behind the glass. These donated items span decades of the apothecary's trade and include key ingredients, as well as once popular patent preparations such as Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription Tablets.
A 1920’s style soda fountain in the corner supplies complimentary glasses of locally brewed root beer, a refreshing treat on a hot summer day! A visit to the drugstore museum, housed within Soderlund Village Drug, returns visitors to the ambience of the typical Main Street pharmacy of yesteryear.
While it may not be possible for you to visit in person, their web site is worth your time, providing not only different aspects of history of the American drug store and pharmaceutical industry, but also many visuals that can be helpful for the writer. So pour yourself a glass of root beer, get cozy in your most comfortable chair and prepare for a journey back in time at
Kathleen lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 29 years. First, a wife and mother, she is “retired” after 20 years of home educating their three sons, who are all grown and have moved away.  
Since then, Kathleen returned to Oakland Community College to complete a Liberal Arts degree and a certificate of achievement in ophthalmic assisting. Last year the American Board of Opticianry certified her.
Kathleen has been published in Home School Digest and An Encouraging Word magazines. She writes regularly for the local women’s ministry “Sisters” newsletter. She also contributes articles and author interviews to, a blog devoted mostly to historical fiction. Read about her fiction writing endeavors at:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fractures: General Guidelines

Fiction, particularly the thriller genres, generally require a character to sustain an injury. These can run the gamut from minor to life-threatening.

Today, I'm going to focus on a couple of general guidelines if you injure a character with some type of fracture.

Remember, if you leave a comment this month, you'll be eligible to win a copy of Brandilyn Collins novel, Over the Edge.

Though it may be hard to break a bone, sometimes it seems the most minor accidents can cause a fracture. My mother once slipped off a small rock onto the side of her foot. Her foot was bruised and mildly swollen and in my nursing wisdom (I was only in nursing school at the time), I said, "There's no way you broke it slipping sideways off a rock." Needless to say I was wrong. Yes, broken foot.

Guideline #1: The amount of swelling is not indicative of fracture. Ankle injuries are classic for this. Patients come in with a horribly swollen ankle, convinced they broke it. My guess in the pediatric realm (up to age 21), the ankle is 95% of the time sprained and not broken. Arms that have an obvious deformity and you can see the limb is broken before you get an x-ray, have little swelling in comparison.

Guideline #2: If something is broken, generally the joint above and below will need to be immobilized (or very close to the next joint). Someone asked me once if a person broke one bone in their lower leg, could they drive? There are two bones in the lower leg: the tibula and the fibula. Depending on how close the fracture is to the knee, the ankle and knee will have to be immobilized. I don't know how many people can drive with a straight leg.

Guideline #3: Splints are placed first. It is rare to put a cast on in the emergency department. The reason splints are placed first is to allow for swelling to come and go. A splint is generally fiberglass sheets secured in place with an ace wrap. This allows for expansion during swelling. Then in 7-10 days, the patient is referred to an orthopedic doctor for cast placement.

Guideline #4: A good rule is that a cast will be in place for 6-8 weeks. Now, this is highly variable and if an author said the cast needed to stay in place for nine weeks, it probably wouldn't drive me nuts enough to go check it out. However, a cast on for two weeks is unlikely. You should consider this guideline because it will effect your character for that length of time and inhibit their mobility. Maybe, this is something you want as the author.

Guideline #5: My observation: these bones/joints have a higher incidence of requiring surgery: ankle, elbow, and femur. Now, you can make any fracture bad enough to require surgery but these ones can be more common to require the OR.

What other guidelines would you like to see?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Medical Question: Bleeding after Delivery

Don't forget, just a few days left to be eligible to win Brandilyn's book. Leave a comment this month for your chance to win Over the Edge.

Carol Asks: A woman has a baby in a major US city. Right now I've got her basically bleeding to death when they can't stop post partum hemorrage. I don't know why she's hemorraging [and in the text I've left it at 'we can't stop the bleeding'] and the doc takes her to have a hysterectomy [which her hubby is told will take a couple hours?]. She then dies in surgery. I've left it pretty vague because I can't find any stats or anything. I'm glad in one sense because that means it doesn't happen very often, but doesn't help me with research.

Do you have any suggestions? Or if I leave it vague [it's his memory - it's gonna be blurry at best] is that good enough?

Add caption
Jordyn Says: Carol, thanks so much for your question. I did some searching on Google under "causes of post-partum hemorrhage" because, medically this is what is happening to your character. Here are some of the causes:
1. Uterine atony: After a child is delivered, the uterus should contract down to "clamp off" all the blood vessels that are bleeding. This is what the OB nurse is checking for after delivery. The uterus should feel "hard as a rock". If it doesn't, it may feel boggy (mushy), and the OB nurse will massage it to get it to firm up. If the uterus won't firm up, clamp down on those blood vessels, the patient will continue to bleed.

2. Other causes: Retained placental tissue (where parts of the placenta stay inside the uterus), laceration of tissues or blood vessels in the pelvis and genital tract (a laceration would be a cut), and maternal coagulopathies (some sort of bleeding disorder in the mother where the blood is unable to clot). An additional, though uncommon, cause is inversion of the uterus during placental delivery (this is where the uterus would be turned inside out).

This is a good overview:

Photo from:

Hope this is helpful. What suggestions do you have for Carol? We'll have to see if Heidi is able to weigh in!


Carol Moncado lives with her husband in Southwest Missouri. When she isn’t writing Inspirational Romance or Romantic Suspense, she’s teaching American Government at a community college, hanging out with her four kids, reading, or watching NCIS. You can find her at:, , and her newest blog, Pentalk Community Blog, where she serves as editor-in-chief: .

Friday, May 20, 2011

Plants: Poisons, Palliatives and Panaceas

Plants: Poisons, Palliatives and Panaceas

Part II

Kathleen continues her four part Friday series. Today, she concludes this portion on plants. Next Friday will be her trip to Soderlund Pharmacy Museum.

Foxglove/Anne Burgess
From the Middle Ages onward, medicinal plants grown by wives and mothers for their families were referred to as “simples”. One of them, foxglove, had been used to treat many maladies, even tuberculosis. By itself, ingesting a single leaf of foxglove can cause immediate heart failure. But housewives learned how to use digitalis, the drug derived from foxglove, as a stimulant for the heart. By the late 18th century, an English doctor recorded that digitalis would strengthen an ailing heart. Today, digitalis is often prescribed to treat heart failure, regulating the heartbeat and strengthening the cardiac muscle.

Deadly Nightshade/David Hawgood

Another poisonous plant, deadly nightshade, grows berries that can be fatal if eaten. Larger pupils were considered more attractive during the Middle Ages, so drops of juice from this fruit were once used to dilate the pupils of young women. It was called “belladonna”, meaning “beautiful woman” in Italian. Today, atropine is produced from deadly nightshade, to dilate patients’ pupils, so eye care practitioners can further examine their eyes.

American frontier families carried dried simples, some of them familiar to us as food seasoning, such as marjoram or thyme. They believed tasty sassafras would purify or thin the blood.

A popular tonic once used by mothers and prescribed by doctors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was derived from the castor bean. A powerful laxative, castor oil cleansed the bowel, a treatment often used to cure whatever ailed you.

In ancient times Hippocrates warned against the use of opium, a painkiller made from the milky juice of poppies, because of its powerful addictive properties. This didn’t stop mankind from using it, whether to develop dangerous drugs such as heroin or pain relieving narcotics. In the 1660s, the English physician Thomas Sydenham produced laudanum from mixing opium with wine and saffron. This painkilling drug was used into the twentieth century. During the earlier 1800s, both the powerful narcotic morphine and the less potent codeine, were first made from opium extracts.

Willow Tree
As chemists learned how to extract and isolate chemicals in plants, they found just which components actually worked. German chemists were eventually able to analyze the bark of the willow tree. From ancient times extracts of willow bark had been used to reduce fever and relieve achiness, but not until 1899 was it known that the active ingredient was salicylic acid. Yet, decades passed before they figured out how this active ingredient, we know as aspirin, worked!

The shelves of our local health food stores are filled with herbs and ingredients made from many different plants. Some of these are based on folk remedies, proven successful throughout history, while others are yet unproven. Who doesn’t enjoy the soothing calm brought to one’s nerves through a cup of chamomile tea on a cold winter’s eve? Or settled an upset tummy with ginger ale or peppermint tea?  God knew what He was doing when He provided us with curative and nourishing plants—plants that we even derive many helpful and healing pharmaceuticals from today.


Court, William E. “Pharmacy from the Ancient World to 1100 A.D.
Making Medicines: A Brief History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals. Ed. Stuart Anderson. London, UK: Pharmaceutical Press, 2005. 21-36. Print.

Facklam, Howard and Margery. Healing Drugs: The History of Pharmacy. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992. Print.

Steele, Volney, M.D. Bleed, Blister and Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier. Missoula, MN: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2005. Print.


Kathleen lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 29 years. First, a wife and mother, she is “retired” after 20 years of home educating their three sons, who are all grown and have moved away.
Since then, Kathleen returned to Oakland Community College to complete a Liberal Arts degree and a certificate of achievement in ophthalmic assisting. Last year the American Board of Opticianry certified her.
Kathleen has been published in Home School Digest and An Encouraging Word magazines. She writes regularly for the local women’s ministry “Sisters” newsletter. She also contributes articles and author interviews to, a blog devoted mostly to historical fiction. Read about her fiction writing endeavors at:


Monday, May 16, 2011

Researching Burn Injures: Carrie Turansky

I'm please to host award-winning author Carrie Turansky today as she discusses how she researched burn injuries for her novel Surrendered Hearts. Welcome Carrie!

As I began brainstorming ideas for my novel, Surrendered Hearts, I read an article in my local newspaper about a gas pipeline explosion that destroyed several homes. The explosion and fire that followed injured many people. I decided this would be the difficult by perfect back-story for my heroine. I began researching the physical, emotional, and spiritual issues burn victims face during their healing process so I could accurately portray that in my novel. 

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors ( is a great organization that provides information and support for those who have burn injuries. I combed through their website as I created my heroine, Jennifer Evans. I soon realized her life would be completely changed by the loss her home, car, and beloved dog. She would also lose the ability to perform her job, and the scars that cover her arm, neck, and shoulder would damage her confidence and destroy many of her relationships.

I needed to understand the timeline for healing and learn the details about smoke inhalation and skin grafting so I could include those in the story. The Phoenix Society website provides links to other websites that gave me much of the information I was seeking. I was also very inspired by the articles I read in their newsletter, Burn Support News about burn survivors who overcame their injuries and rebuilt their lives.

Receiving support and acceptance from others is key to emotional healing for those with burn injuries, and that fit in perfectly with what I wanted to portray in my novel. My heroine had to come to a place where she was ready to stop hiding her scars and reveal them first to trusted friends and then to others. Understanding the pain and struggles a burn survivor goes through helped me show her character development in a realistic way.

I hope readers of Surrendered Hearts will think though the question - what makes a woman truly beautiful?  Along with my heroine, I’d like them to discover, “Beauty is more than perfect skin, or shiny hair, or a great figure. It comes from who you are inside, in your heart. It shines out through your eyes and your smile. And that’s what touches people and draws them to you.”

Collecting accurate information about medical conditions mentioned in your story is key to creating a realistic plot and characters. Mistakes can pull a reader out of the story and create doubt in their mind about your ability as an author to deliver an accurate and powerful story. So spend the time needed to research any medical conditions you decide to use in your novel.

If you enjoy contemporary inspirational romance, I hope you stop by my website and learn more about Surrendered Hearts. You can read the first chapter, see photos of the character and setting, and find links to order at


Carrie Turansky is the award-winning author of eight inspirational romance novels and novellas. She has been a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, The ACFW Genesis, and ACFW Carol Award and winner of the WRW Crystal Globe Award. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000.Her latest releases are Christmas Mail-Order Brides, Seeking His Love, Surrendered Hearts and A Man To Trust. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott, who is a pastor, author, speaker and counselor. They have five young adult children. Carrie and her family spent a year in Kenya as missionaries, giving them a passion for what God is doing around the world. Carrie leads women's ministry at her church, and when she is not writing she enjoys gardening, reading, flower arranging, and cooking for friends and Family. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Plants: Poisons, Palliatives and Panaceas

I’m very pleased to host Kathleen Rouser as she guest blogs over the next four Fridays about her research into historical pharmacy. She will begin this Friday and next with a series on plants and how they’ve been used throughout history to treat illness. This is excellent information for both the historical and contemporary writer. I know your plot wheels will turn with this information. Welcome, Kathleen!

Plants: Poisons, Palliatives and Panaceas

Part I

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Gen. 1:29 NIV

Shortly after the time Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden, because of their fall into sin, human beings most likely began looking for relief from pain and sickness. Perhaps by God’s guidance or by what seemed like coincidence, they found that there were certain plants that not only nourished, but also relieved symptoms or cured illnesses.

Throughout the ancient world healers emerged, whether as a medicine man, priest, wise woman or physician. They were brave enough to search by trial and error to find the right cure for each malady. These practitioners, whether spurred on by superstition or curiosity, had to figure out which plants healed... and which ones harmed. The line between healing and poisoning was often quite fine.

A few of the remedies the Sumerians used were made from licorice, myrrh, mustard and oleander. The Code of Hammurabi, originating during his reign (1795-1750 BC), regulated medical practice. There, apothecaries emerged, since the role of preparing medication was considered separate from that of the physician.

Poppy Plants
Around 1500 BC, the Egyptians wrote a dissertation on medicine and pharmaceuticals. Among many plant sources they derived their drugs from were castor seed, spices, poppy and acacia. They imported some ingredients due to the limitations of what they could grow. The Egyptians developed ways to dry, ground up and weigh these materials. Those that concocted medicines were called ‘pastophors’ and were members of a priestly profession.

Seventh century BC clay tablets have been discovered revealing that the Babylonians used many plants as pharmaceuticals including castor seed, thyme, peppermint, myrrh, poppy and licorice.

Various theories of diagnosis and treatment arose through the Greek and Roman civilizations. Pedanius Dioscorides, who lived from around 50-100 AD, wrote Materia Medica, which listed various materials with their medicinal uses and also Codex Aniciae Julianae. This text on herbals, listed many plants and how to prepare them through drying and extraction. Dioscorides, a surgeon to the Roman armies, shared a philosophy with another famous Roman medical man, Galen. They believed that each plant’s shape, color or other physical characteristics left a clue as to which body part or ailment it was meant to treat. By the 16th century, this was foundation to one Christian viewpoint, which had expanded upon the Doctrine of Signatures, stating that it was the Creator who had marked each of these plants for their use.

During the Dark Ages, the Arab world and the monasteries of Europe, with their healing gardens, preserved much pharmaceutical knowledge.

Throughout history, many folk remedies, based on superstition, were supplemented with chants and rituals. Most often they missed the mark, perhaps imparting comfort if nothing else, considering man’s need to feel as though he is doing something! But apart from that, many plants continued to be used for healing and a large proportion of modern day prescription drugs are rooted in their derivatives. Some emerged to the forefront.

Cinchona Tree
During the 1600s, European Jesuit missionaries in South America sent a powder back home, derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. They’d been surprised to find out that the Native Peruvians knew how to successfully treat malaria, an illness spread by mosquitoes that has killed so many. In 1820, when French chemists extracted a chemical compound from the powdered bark of the cinchona tree, they called it quinine, based on the Peruvian name for the tree, quinquina.

William Clark and Meriwether Lewis took cinchona bark with them on their westward expedition. Lewis’s mother was an herbalist of some renown and imparted some of her knowledge to her son. While the men did not wind up contracting malaria, they found the bark useful for lowering fevers and as ingredient in poultices.

Would you like to know what “simples” are? And what potentially poisonous plants are used in pharmaceuticals today? Come back for Part II and find out!


Kathleen lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 29 years. First, a wife and mother, she is “retired” after 20 years of home educating their three sons, who are all grown and have moved away. Since then, Kathleen returned to Oakland Community College to complete a Liberal Arts degree and a certificate of achievement in ophthalmic assisting. Last year the American Board of Opticianry certified her. Kathleen has been published in Home School Digest and An Encouraging Word magazines. She writes regularly for the local women’s ministry “Sisters” newsletter. She also contributes articles and author interviews to, a blog devoted mostly to historical fiction. Read about her fiction writing endeavors at:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heidi Creston: Infant Abduction

Heidi Creston, our nursing expert in the area of OB/neonatology, is back today to discuss the plausibility of kidnapping an infant from the hospital. This will increase the accuracy of any novel that takes on this source of high conflict. Don't forget, leave a comment this month and be eligible to win a book on June 1, 2011.

Kidnapping, with a special emphasis of snatching a newborn from the hospital, seem to be a high interest for writers.  After all who isn't captivated by the drama of a missing baby? Especially one taken straight from the hospital nursery?
There are two basic models for the design of maternity wards. The first is called LDRP. This is where the labor, delivery, recovery, and placement are all in the same room. Newborns stay in the room with their mothers unless otherwise indicated. Baths, weights, assessments, shots, hearing screens, are done in the room. Nursing staff strive to keep continuity of care, which means the family has the same nurses for her entire stay.
Nurses discuss safety and security measures with patients both prior to and after the baby is born.  These nurses have a specific color or design of uniform unique to their position. Their badges are also unique in color and have photo identification. Patients are forewarned that no one is allowed to take the baby from the room except their assigned nurse, and if someone other than their assigned nurse comes to take the baby to ring for their nurse.
 Please note:  Lab, housekeepers, even the pediatricians are not allowed to remove the infant from the patient’s room.
 Identification bracelets are placed on the wrist and ankle of the infant. Matching numbered bracelets are placed on the wrists of the mother and the designated support person. Electronic monitoring device is attached to the infant. This device will sound an alarm if manipulated. It will alarm if it comes within so many feet of the units locked doors. If an infant is discovered missing a special code is called, where all doors and elevators are locked. No one is permitted to exit the hospital until the code has been cleared.
The second model is where labor and delivery, nursery and post partum are separate units. The same safety and security measures remain in place, but there are more people involved in the care of the patient. Nurseries are always locked. Patients and family are not permitted to enter a nursery without an identification bracelet. Only nursery nurses are allowed to remove a baby from the nursery. The nursery is never left unattended, unless it has been closed by the nursing supervisor. Nurseries are laden with special mirrors and video surveillance.
Area hospitals have open communication, whenever a suspected abduction attempt has been reported. Pictures and descriptions of the perpetrator are released to all hospitals and staff are placed on full alert status. It is very difficult to simply walk in and steal a newborn from the maternity without a lot of preparation and research. In reality, if you are writing a piece about hospital abduction, taking the newborn from the pediatric office or the parking lot would be more believable.

Adelheideh Creston lives in New York. She is former military and married military as well. Her grandmother was a WAVE and inspired her to become a nurse. Heidi spent some time as a certified nursing assistant, then an LPN, working in geriatrics, med surge, psych, telemetry and orthopedics. She’s been an RN several years with a specialty in labor and delivery and neonatology. Her experience has primarily been with military medicine, but she has also worked in the civilian sector. Heidi is an avid reader. She loves Christian fiction mysteries and suspense. Though, don’t recommend the gory graphic stuff to her… please. She enjoys writing her own stories and is yet unpublished. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Haz-Mat Decontamination

Dianna's back for her monthly blog post. Today, she focuses on HazMat Decon (otherwise known as cleaning gross stuff off of you that could kill you). I particularly love the photos she included to help aid the writer with those accurate descriptive details. Don't forget, leave a comment this month and be eligible for Brandilyn Collin's book Over the Edge. Winner announced June 1, 2011.

This is amazing fodder for any author to add conflict and tension to a disaster situation. Decon can also be used on a very small scale as Dianna mentions. Possibly only one patient. Imagine a patient drenched in gasoline. Not only can the gas be caustic to the patient's skin, but if that patient is brought into the ED, the fumes will permeate the department. This can pose a risk to other patients, particularly those with respiratory complaints.

Welcome back, Dianna!

HAZ-MAT Decontamination

OSHA definition of decon: The removal of hazardous substances from employees and their equipment to the extent necessary to preclude foreseeable health effects. 

NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) definition: The physical and/or chemical process of reducing or preventing the spread of contamination from person and equipment.

Inclusive definition: The systematic process of removing or chemically changing a contaminant at the scene to prevent the spread of that contaminant from the scene and eliminate possible exposure to others.

Contaminants are any chemical or biological compounds or agents capable of causing harm to people, property, or the environment and includes:

1)      Bloodborne pathogens
2)      Common chemicals
3)      Warfare agents
4)      Etiological agents
5)      Radiological agents

Decon is located in the warm zone of an emergency incident, which is in between the cold zone and the hot zone. Once rescue personnel exit the hot zone, we must enter the warm zone and decon before entering the cold zone. Haz-mat trained and credentialed EMTs wear head-to-toe biohazard suits and enter haz-mat areas/situations to assess patients, give them medical care, and extricate them out of the hazardous hot zone to the decon area. There are five decon stations.

1)      Initial entry: I drop my loose (not attached to me) instruments and tools in buckets.
2)      Gross Rinse: While I’m still fully clothed in my bulky biohazard suit, another person thoroughly rinses me off (and everything on me) with a wand (think: high-powered spray hose). Rinsing off includes the bottom of my boots, my hooded head, my SCBA tank (self-contained breathing apparatus) etc. That person basically sprays me with water while I lift each foot one at a time, turn around, lift my arms, etc. 
3)      Wash and Rinse: I’m still in my suit when yet another person first thoroughly scrubs me with a brush wand filled with soapy water, then uses another wand containing water only.
4)      I remove my biohazard suit and SCBA tank, place both in large buckets.
5)      I remove my haz-mat gloves then my inner gloves (medical exam gloves) and place all in buckets.

      Each station is separated by wooden squares about the size of a washer/dryer unit and stands no higher than ten inches from the ground. Each square is lined with heavy polyethylene plastic (the wood is underneath the plastic), so the poly sheeting contains the run-off successfully.

Set-up crews arrange the five stations by first laying down thick polyethylene sheeting flat on the ground, then constructing the wooden dividers into position over the poly, then spreading a second poly sheet over all the dividers, then firmly stepping on every inch of the poly inside each square, form-fitting it into the square. Finally, heavy orange cones secure the poly in place. The stations are literally next to each other, so during the decon process all we do is simply step over the wooden divider and into the next station to be deconed.

The five stations – as well as the entry and exit of decon – are in open space; meaning, there’s no roof or ceiling above the decon area. All hazardous materials either successfully collect into the polyethylene sheeting (then both the poly and haz-mats are later properly disposed of), or they disintegrate harmlessly into the air, or a combination of the two. 

This decon system works well for any size situation from one emergency crew to large crowds of haz-mat exposed civilians (non-rescue personnel). In an Emergency MCD (Mass Casualty Decon) time is critical for several different reasons: health risks, scene control, perseverance of crime scene evidence, etc. so a structured decon is not possible. In those emergency situations, exposed emergency personnel and civilians are deconed as shown in the two photos.

Thank you in advance for reading and for your participation and comments. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. All the photos are courtesy of Brandon Gayle. 


After majoring in communications and enjoying a successful career as a travel agent, Dianna Torscher Benson left the travel industry to write novels and earn her EMS degree. An EMT and Haz-Mat Operative in Wake County, NC, Dianna loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need, often in their darkest time in life. Her suspense novels about characters who are ordinary people thrown into tremendous circumstances, provide readers with a similar kind of rush. Married to her best friend, Leo, she met her husband when they walked down the aisle as a bridesmaid and groomsmen at a wedding when she was eleven and he was thirteen. They live in North Carolina with their three children. Visit her website at 

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Crazy Lyfe: Kristen Gasser

As a writer, getting a feel for how people manage crisis is often best served by reading first hand accounts. After all, reading a diary by someone who lived during Civil War times will give a different insight than a history book written over a century later.

Earlier this week, I posted an interview with author Brandilyn Collins. Her novel, Over the Edge, centers around a woman who has been infected with Lyme Disease. Don't forget, leave a comment on this blog this month to be eligible to win a copy of this novel and another great surprise!

A good friend of mine has dealt with Lyme Disease for twenty years. Today, she posts a first hand account of what it's been like. Welcome, Kristen!

So, reality is, you don’t get superhuman powers when you’re bit by a tick. Instead, you get super crazy symptoms and doctors that don’t know what to think of you.

You tell them you are beyond tired and have major joint pain in your knees and hands, muscle weakness. They tell you to exercise more. You do. That makes you physically ill with vomiting and such. It makes the joint pain worse. You tell them exercise makes you sick and doesn’t help the tiredness. The doctor tells you you’re just depressed and prescribes something to help.

If you don’t take the prescribed pills, you’re told you’re rebellious. You look for a new doctor. The new doctor takes one look at you and says, “You look perfectly healthy, what are you doing here?” You reiterate your complaints as explained to the first doctor adding, “I’m having memory problems.”  He says, “Everyone forgets things, that’s normal.”

You know it’s beyond “normal”.

You tell him you have chest pain and were diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. He listens and muffles a laugh, saying he can’t hear anything and alludes that you’re a hypochondriac.

So, you go on about lyfe, as best you can… trying to live “as if” you’re healthy.

Finally, a doctor puts the pieces together. You were rock climbing in Wisconsin? The symptoms came on soon after? A tick bite? A test confirms it: Lyme disease.

But you were treated for what was assumed to be Rheumatic Fever. That should have taken care of the Lyme disease. We’ll just give you one more week of a more powerful antibiotic and consider you cured.

Then, one day, you’re in class and you just don’t feel right. You head to the bathroom, get very sick in every way possible, clean up, and everything goes fuzzy. You hear people talking, you can’t move, can’t talk. They put you on the stretcher and take you to the ER. In the end, they can’t figure out what’s going on, so they prescribe an antibiotic, they’re not even sure what it’s for.

It goes on like this for awhile. More symptoms that don’t make sense (digestive problems, bladder problems, eye problems, thyroid problems, back pain, canker sores, headaches, food allergies, anemia, dizziness, insomnia, heat sensitivity, brain fog, and that confounded fatigue).  You get tired of the doctors laughing at you, alluding that you’re a hypochondriac, acting arrogantly because you ask intelligent questions and hearing time after time, “Lyme Disease IS NOT a chronic illness, something else is causing your vast and varied symptoms, but we don’t know what.” 

You feel like you are supposed to try to go on and live lyfe “as if”…

So, you try the “natural” route: eating healthier, eating organic, supplements, herbs, juicing, cleanses, chiropractic visits. This seems to stay the symptoms at times, but there is something lurking underneath, literally… and nothing seems to really help.

For 20 years, (half of my life!) this has been my story. Well, the short version.
And I’m still trying to process the connection between Lyme Disease and all the other issues my body has. I guess it starts with thinking back to the beginning and feeling like something invaded my body and caused it to turn against itself. And there is the concern that even if I treat all of these symptoms, but the Lyme connection is ignored that it will find another part of my body to attack.

The initial blank stare I get from doctors and the feeling of every doctor wanting to ignore the diagnosis of Lyme disease makes me feel like everyone just thinks I’m crazy.

I do not want sympathy.

I do want support. Acknowledgment that I’m not crazy. Respect that I do know my body and knew 20 years ago that something wasn’t right. I want a doctor to take some time to look at the possibility that Lyme can trigger an autoimmune response in my body, that it can cause the joint pain, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

I feel alone in this when every doctor wants to ignore it. It is a very real part of my life. When they dismiss it, it hurts. It makes me feel belittled. The result is me trying to act “as if” I don’t have a chronic illness. It makes me afraid to talk about it. Makes me unsure of myself and my ability to communicate. And it makes me push myself beyond my limits, which makes the symptoms worse.

I haven’t even mentioned the emotional aspect to this. And I really try not to let on how scared I am at times. I joke about the weakness, the “having to go to the bathroom so often”, forgetting things, flipping words and letters around. It was difficult having doctors tell me I needed to be doing more, telling me I was depressed.

I did feel like a hypochondriac, still do at times. I felt like I had done something wrong to cause what was happening in my body, yet had no control over stopping it. I still feel this way.  I don’t know how to communicate about this illness, how to help doctors (and friends) understand that, while I don’t look ill, I am.

I have limits.

I have to have limits so I can keep pushing on without falling too hard while living “as if” in the reality of this crazy lyfe.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Lyme Wars: Part 2/2

We're concluding our interview with author Brandilyn Collins. Today, we focus on healing, what medical professionals can do to improve the care for those affected by chronic illness and what's next on Brandilyn's writing schedule. Remember, leave a comment this month on this blog and be eligible to win a free copy of her novel and another special surprise. Winner announced June 1, 2011.

Jordyn: You’ve been open about God healing you during your first Lyme infection. Did your feelings/attitude toward God change when you were re-infected? Are some of these attitudes reflected in Janessa’s attitude toward God as displayed in the novel?

Brandilyn: When I was reinfected with Lyme in 2009, I couldn’t believe it! I gave God a hard talking-to. What are you doing? We’ve been here, done this. And aren’t you worried about your reputation—so many people know you cured me once? What if they doubt you now? Well first, God informed me that He’d been dealing with the reputation thing since He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, so thank you very much, but He had that under control. Second, I can see now in hindsight that if I hadn’t experienced round number two of Lyme, I wouldn’t have written Over the Edge. As it turned out, six months of antibiotics cured me of that round.

Regarding Janessa, her spiritual journey is similar to mine. When I had Lyme the first time, I learned how to pray the psalms, both as petition and in praise—whether I felt like praising God or not. (Most of the time I didn’t.) It was a wonderful lesson that has changed me to this day.

Jordyn: Any words of wisdom for doctors/nurses in dealing with patients who have chronic pain/illness?

Brandilyn: Please, please don’t tell them it’s “all in their head” or some form thereof. Just because you can’t diagnose an illness—that doesn’t mean the patient simply wants attention or is a hypochondriac. It’s bad enough facing chronic illness. Worse still to be invalidated by the medical community. And please—educate yourself about Lyme. Admittedly, this is hard to do, because typical education would be in the form of reading published articles in esteemed medical journals. Unfortunately these articles are based on the old, wrong assumptions about Lyme (or the authors simply ignore other research altogether). Google “lyme wars” to start online research. And—I have to get in that plug—read Over the Edge. It will alert you to the symptoms and issues involved in the Lyme wars—and how those wars came about.

Secondly, I want to talk to you doctors/nurses who do know about Lyme but are afraid to diagnose it. I understand your dilemma. I understand you don’t want to get into a battle between treating a patient long-term as he or she needs and your medical board. The political climate for you regarding Lyme is very bad. But please don’t send that patient away, saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” At least admit to the patient that he may have Lyme and refer him to an organization that can help find a Lyme doctor. (Googling “find a Lyme literate doctor” is easy.) Leaving a possible Lyme patient completely in the dark opens him up to extended, further debilitating disease—if he does indeed have Lyme. I’ve seen this happen. I’ve seen Lyme patients lose all quality of life and become bedridden because their doctors didn’t want to admit Lyme, even when those doctors recognized the signs. I’ve even seen doctors refuse to test for Lyme when the patient requested it.

Jordyn: Any final thoughts? What’s next on your writing schedule?

Brandilyn: I’ve already turned in a book written after Over the Edge—another Seatbelt Suspense® titled Gone to Ground. (Serial killings in small-town Mississippi, in which three women know who the killer is and independent of each other, determine to bring him down—but they each suspect a different man.) I’m now writing the novel after that, titled Double Blind—about a brain chip clinical trial gone awry. As May 2011 rolls around I’ll be touring for Over the Edge. Currently planned stops/media appearances are in the areas of Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Please check the Appearances page on my web site for further details. I also have a Lyme page on my site for further information on the disease and the “Lyme wars.”

Good health and blessings to all. ~ Brandilyn

Thank you so much Brandilyn for your time. Blessings to you in your writing and to the success of Over the Edge.

Even in writing fiction, it's a must to be factual for the story to ring true. Brandilyn also started a web-site for Lyme patients to discuss their experiences as well as some additional education regarding Lyme disease. These are great resources for research. You can find those by following these links:


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Lyme Wars: Part 1/2

What do you do if your a novelist, infected with a potentially life-threatening illness (twice) and there are two camps of medical thought as to the diagnosis, seriousness and treatment of that illness?

How about... write a suspense novel.

This is the situation that best-selling author Brandilyn Collins found herself in. Over the Edge is a fiction novel based on her real life experience of battling the medical community in their current thought process concerning Lyme Disease. I have to confess, I learned a lot about Lyme while reading this engrossing suspense novel.

I'm honored to have the chance to interview Brandilyn for her thoughts on the Lyme Wars this week. Leave a comment this month on the blog to be eligible to win a copy of Over the Edge and a special surprise with it! Winner announced June 1, 2011.

Welcome to Redwood's Medical Edge, Brandilyn!

Jordyn: I was told once by an editor with a well-known publishing house that “issue-based novels don’t sell well.” Does this thinking concern you especially when writing this novel under a new publisher?

Brandilyn: First, thanks very much for our discussion today. I appreciate the opportunity.

As to your question—I never even considered it. A couple thoughts: One, it’s important that the novel first and foremost be about entertainment, not informing. If the author fails to keep readers turning pages, those readers will stop reading—and never “hear” the message. So when I sat down to write Over the Edge, topmost in my mind was meeting the four-point promise of my Seatbelt Suspense® brand: fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith. Two, once I’ve met my brand promise in Over the Edge, I then have thousands of potential new readers—those in the Lyme community, who will feel validated by the story. So in that case, an issue-based novel only helps in marketing. Further, I’m passionate about the subject, which can only help as I interview in various venues.

Jordyn: Redwood’s Medical Edge focuses on dispelling medical myths that are commonly perpetuated in writing. What do you consider to be the 3 most popular myths among the lay public concerning Lyme disease? Among medical professionals?

Brandilyn: Great question! Among medical professionals: (1) That Lyme disease can always be cured by a two- to four-week round of antibiotics. In truth, chronic Lyme can take months, even years, to treat with antibiotics. (2) That a patient must display the bulls-eye rash to have Lyme. Many patients never have the rash. Others may have a rash, but it doesn’t look like a bulls-eye. (3) That a negative test result means a patient doesn’t have Lyme. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) says on its web site that Lyme is a clinical diagnosis, meaning that the entire presentation of the patient is taken into account. In addition, tests for Lyme are notoriously unreliable, partly due to faulty criteria for certain tests, and partly due to the nature of the Borrelia (the bacteria that cause Lyme). Borrelia are a very formidable foe. They can hide from the body’s immune system by changing their outer protein coat, for instance. Since tests look for antibodies to the Borrelia, not the bacteria themselves, a true Lyme patient can test negative. Therefore symptoms of a patient can mean more to the Lyme-literate doctor than test results.

Myths among the lay public: (1) That doctors in general, or even specialists like Infectious Disease Specialists, know how to properly test and diagnose Lyme. Wrong—reference above. (2) That Lyme isn’t very widespread. In reality, the CDC has verified Lyme in all 50 states. What’s more, the cases of Lyme reported to and verified by the CDC is estimated to be only one-tenth of the actual number of cases. (3) That you’ll always know if you’ve been bitten by a tick. Nope. Many Lyme patients never knew they were bitten. The most likely stage for a Lyme-infested tick to transmit is during its nymph stage, in which it’s no bigger than the head of a pin. Very hard to spot on a body, especially after it’s half submerged under the skin.

Jordyn: You list several recommendations in the Author’s Note section to improve care for Lyme patients. If you could pick one for nationwide implementation, which do you think would have the most beneficial affect?

Brandilyn: The first step, even before redefining treatment, is to create better testing. Too many patients test negative for Lyme under the CDC criteria, then take years before they find a Lyme-literate doctor to administer more accurate tests, which show positive. Meanwhile the Borrelia have had time to spread throughout the body systems and burrow deep into body tissue, where they’re hard to eradicate. Lyme patients, therefore, face a double whammy. They’re first told they don’t have Lyme—when, if they’d been allowed to catch the disease early, it in fact is treatable with two to four weeks of antibiotics. Then when they’re finally diagnosed months to years later—when the disease will now take long-term antibiotics—they’re denied the long-term treatment.

Jordyn: Are you a proponent of a Lyme vaccine?

Brandilyn: The first Lyme vaccine was a major disaster and was soon pulled off the market. Of course I’d be in favor of a vaccine that really worked. But the medical profession has such a hard time even defining Lyme. It was defined far too narrowly the first time around and is still being too narrowly defined. Hard to create an effective vaccine under those conditions. However, researchers continue to work on it.

We'll continue this two-part interview on Wednesday. What's your Lyme IQ? The following are two resources for Lyme education. These were interesting to me after reading Brandilyn's book as some of the myths she is trying to expose are perpetuated in these clips. Can you find what they are?

Take the Lyme Disease Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ on