True Horror: The Toxic Lady

On February 19th, 1994, a woman suffering from advanced cervical cancer was brought into an emergency room at Riverside General Hospital. She was suffering from tachycardia (abnormal heart rhythm) and was having trouble breathing. She was given several medications to attempt to sedate her. It soon became apparent that she wasn’t responding to the treatment so the doctors tried to shock her heart back into a normal rhythm to stop the tachycardia.

It was around this time that several of the doctors and nurses noticed a weird kind of oily residue coming from the woman’s body. Some of them noticed a fruity and garlic-like odor and believed that it was coming from her mouth. A nurse attempted to draw blood from the woman and noticed an ammonia smell coming from the tube. She gave the syringe to another nurse who noticed weird white flecks in the blood. It was at this point that the nurse who had drawn the blood fainted and had to be removed from the room. It was only a short time later when the second nurse became nauseated and had to leave the room. She went to sit down at a desk outside of the trauma room and when another staff member asked her what was wrong she fainted.

Another woman inside of the trauma room passed out and that was when the staff was ordered to evacuate all of the emergency room patients to the parking lot outside. That day 23 people became ill and 5 were hospitalized due to the effects of the toxic patient. A skeleton crew stayed behind to stabilize the woman but after 45 minutes of CPR and other life-saving measures, she was pronounced dead due to kidney failure related to her cancer.

Who was The Toxic Lady?

gloriaThough she is often referred to as “The Toxic Lady” her name is Gloria Ramirez. She was born on January 11th, 1963 and died that day at the hospital from the effects of cervical cancer. Though there are many theories as to what caused her death and what caused the effects on several of the people around her, there isn’t anything concrete.

What Are The Theories?

One of the theories is mass hysteria. That the odd situation and smells caused other people to believe they were feeling the effects of Gloria’s blood. This may actually explain why 23 people became ill in some way but it wouldn’t explain the 5 directly connected with Gloria in that room and the effects they felt. Nor would it explain their hospitalization.

The first nurse, the one who originally noticed the smell and drew the blood, denied the possibility of mass hysteria (or her reaction being due to the hysteria). After the exposure, she spent two weeks in the ICU with breathing problems. She contracted hepatitis and avascular necrosis in her knees. These were physical effects from the exposure that were documented and couldn’t exactly be denied either.

A coroner from the Riverside office was contacted to investigate the incident. He theorized that Gloria had been using DMSO, which is a solvent used as a degreaser, as a home remedy for pain from the cancer.  Users of this substance report that it has a “garlic-like taste”. It’s sold in gel form at hardware stores and could also explain the greasy like substance that the nurses and doctors noticed on Gloria’s skin. The theory goes on to conclude that the substance may have built up in Gloria’s body and caused her urinary blockage which then led to the kidney failure.

The oxygen given to her by the paramedics combined with DMSO would have formed another substance which crystallizes at room temperature. This is DMSO2. It would explain why the second nurse observed the weird flecks in the blood because she would have been noticing the crystals left behind. The shocks given to Gloria to attempt to regulate her heart could have also possibly produced another substance to make DMSO4. This would have created a poisonous gas and would explain the respiratory symptoms that the rest of the staff experienced.


Two months after Gloria died her body was released for an independent autopsy and burial. The coroner’s conclusion and theory about the DSMO was determined to be the most likely cause of the hospital workers’ symptoms. The problem was that the pathologist was unable to determine the actual cause of death because Gloria’s heart was missing and her other organs were cross contaminated with fecal matter. Despite attempting to learn what happened via autopsy the body was just too badly decomposed to figure it out. Ten weeks after she died she was buried in Olivewood Memorial Park.

This story gets passed around here and there, especially on YouTube where the videos will claim there “no one knows what this was or why it happened”. However, Occam’s Razor does state that the most likely thing is the most probable thing. Given all of the scientific information on the use of DSMO and the other potential issues it could cause (as well is it being the most likely explanation for the symptoms of the hospital staff) it is more than likely this is what happened. Though it is a bizarre situation, it is explainable, and though this isn’t 100% it is right there on the border. Still, the idea that this could happen and there is some 1% margin of error out there that could render all of these theories completely incorrect is creepy enough, isn’t it?


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