• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep. 10 The Toxic Lady a.k.a. My Stripper Name

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

Gloria Ramirez's case still baffles doctors and scientists even today. Her case remains unsolved; a mystery that has people speculating anything from airborne pathogens, to aliens. (Obviously you know our guess.)

Prepare to bathe in hand sanitizer and watch out for the men in black, as we delve into the strange medical case of The Toxic Lady. 

Mysterious Death of Gloria Ramirez AKA Toxic Lady

Do you think this is who Britney Spears was singing about in Toxic?

Today I’m going to tell you a story from the golden age of our lifetime The 1990’s. Aka the best decade to have ever existed.

Our story takes place in Riverside California in 1994, where a young woman named Gloria Ramirez was brought to the Emergency Room for apparent complications from late stage cervical cancer. She was extremely confused and had tachycardia, which means that her heart was beating too fast.

Side note, I had that once. Your heartbeat is supposed to be around 70 bpm and mine was like 130. They made me go to the emergency room, where a doctor told me that I might have meningitis. So that was fun. Though I will say, I really didn’t mind staying the night in the hospital. I got my own little alcove room, I watched tv, and I could just press a button whenever I needed anything. It was like a really restricted vacation.

So anyway, Gloria was confused and had a fast heartbeat. She also had Cheyne-Stokes respiration which is a type of abnormal breathing that results in apnea, or moments of stopped breathing. The doctors injected her with sedatives but she did not respond, so they defibrilated her. This is when the weird stuff really starts happening.

At this time, several people pointed out an oily sheen on her body as well as a strange odor that they described as a fruity garlic smell coming from her mouth. An RN named Susan Kane drew blood from Gloria’s arm and noticed a strange ammonia like smell coming from the tube. Even stranger, another nurse Julie Gorchynski noticed the blood had what was described as “manila colored particles” floating in it. Pretty sure you’re not supposed to have any kind of white particles floating around in your blood. So that’s weird.

At this point, Susan Kane faints and is removed from the room. Shortly after, Julie Gorchynski also started to feel strange; nauseous and lightheaded. So she leaves the room to sit at the nurses desk and calm down, but at this point she too faints. THEN, a third nurse, Maureen Welch, also faints.

Thinking there could be some kind of contaminant, the staff was ordered to evacuate all of the emergency room patients to the parking lot, while a small staff stayed behind to try to stabilize Gloria. Unfortunately, they were not successful, and Gloria Ramirez was pronounced dead after 45 minutes of CPR and defibrillation.

All in all, 23 people became ill, 5 of which had to be hospitalized.

What caused Gloria’s death?

Well, the official account by the county is that she died of heart failure to kidney failure brought on by late stage cervical cancer, but this cause of death took weeks and several autopsies to come up with. A hazmat team was brought in the night she died to properly handle the body and search the ER for any toxins or poison gasses. It wasn’t until almost a week later and in a special room where the first autopsy was conducted, still in hazmat suits. They took samples from her blood, tissue, and even the air surrounding her but found no definitive answers.

It wasn’t until a month had passed that the autopsy team finally started to draw some conclusions. The toxicology report said that Gloria had 3 times that normal amount of a compound called Dimethyl Sulfone in her body. This is a chemical that does not naturally occur in the human body. So how was it that she still had 3 times the normal amount in her body 6 weeks after her death? Scientists say that even with this elevated chemical, it wouldn’t have been enough to result in her death but we’ll come back to this when we start discussing theories.

All in all it took 2 months for her body to be released for fear of toxicity levels. By this point there had been so many people who had passed out when in her presence that the press had dubbed her “The Toxic Lady”.

What happened to the people who got sick?

Susan Kane fainted and said that her face felt like it was burning

Julie Gorchynski had lightheadedness, fainted, shook, and experienced apnea at first and then got worse and had to stay in the ICU where she experience avascular necrosis, a condition where bone tissue doesn’t receive enough blood and begins to die. She had to use crutches for months after hospitalization

Maureen Welch also collapsed and fainted, had no control over her limbs

Sally Balderas, a nurse, began to vomit, felt a burning sensation, experienced apnea, and ended up being hospitalized for 10 days


After Gloria’s death the county health department launched an investigation. 34 hospital staff members who had been working in the ER that night were interviewed, and it was found that the people who developed the most severe symptoms were the people who had worked within 2 feet of Gloria and had handled her IV lines. They also found that those inflicted were more women than men, and that they all had normal blood tests after the fact. So this didn’t quite line up with what they thought would happen from exposure to airborne fumes. So, the two scientists in charge, attributed the illness to mass hysteria. Mass hysteria usually has an environmental trigger that sets it all off. In this case, it was believed to be the strange smell. Also, there was no poison in Gloria or anyone else’s systems, and none of the paramedics that brought her in had any issues.

Julie Gorchynski disagreed with the mass hysteria theory. She was the most affected out of all, having spent 2 weeks in the ICU. She actually sued the coroners hospital. Maureen Welch also disagreed with the mass hysteria theory. Though, it’s hard to tell, considering that people suffering from mass hysteria may not realize it.

Another theory was brought up by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after being contacted by the Riverside Coroner’s Office to investigate. This theory has to do with a pain cream and good old fashioned chemistry. Gloria had been using a cream called DMSO to help with her daily pain associated with the cancer. It is an oily gel, and some users have said it has a garlicky smell. Which could easily explain the oily sheen to her body and the smell the ER staff reported smelling. Now are you ready for the chemistry lesson boys and girls?

DMSO is composed of a compound called Dimethyl Sulfoxide. It is thought that Gloria may have had a build up of this chemical due to her kidney failure. Basically, her kidneys couldn’t filter it out. Now, when the paramedics gave her oxygen, it could have combined with the DMSO to form DMSO2 or Dimethyl Sulfone. DMSO2 can crystallize at room temperature, thus accounting for the crystals the nurse saw in her blood. Further, the electric shocks from the defibrillator could have converted the DMSO2 to DMSO4 or Dimethyl Sulfate, which can cause damage to the heart liver and kidneys, paralysis, delirium, and convulsions. Symptoms which are similar to those experienced by the ER staff that night

Sounds pretty plausible, right?

Unfortunately they never actually tested this theory, only hypothesized. Moreover, other scientists have declared this series of events to be impossible. And, Gloria’s family denied that she even used DMSO. Which leads us into our next theory.

The 3rd theory involves a conspiracy, so I’m all in. The Ramirez family believes that it was the hospitals fault. They claim that there were hazardous condtions present at the hospital before Gloria was ever brought in and believed that if she had been brought to a different hospital she may have survived. The hospital did in fact have some shady incidents.

In 1991, 3 years before Gloria’s death, two employees had to received treatment after a sterilizer leaked poisonous gas. In 1993, sewer gas was found in the ER after an inspection.

There is some evidence to support the claim of cover up by the county. Firstly, after the original autopsy, the deputy coroner Dan Cupido said that Gloria had not died from natural causes, but after the county claimed their official conclusions, he flip flopped and said that she did die from natural causes.

Secondly, the original investigator from the coroners office Stephanie Albright, committed suicide one month into the investigation. Granted, this could have been for any number of reasons but she was considered the top investigator, and Cupido had even said that she “may have been under pressure” due to the case.

Lastly, the syringe that had Gloria’s blood with the manila crystals in it had “accidentally” been disposed of. This is odd for a number of reasons, first being, they suspect a possible toxin coming from her so why would they dispose of it. Second, the hazmat team was thorough enough to have the staff remove their clothes and put them in plastic bags for safety and testing, so why would they not get the syringe too?

The county of course claims no wrong doing and even says that they had the hospital checked by a third party and no toxins or gases were found. Gloria’s family of course believes otherwise. But really, if you think there’s a cover up, would you believe anything the county says? I know I wouldn’t.

Finally, the last theory. Our favorite. ALIENS. The internet theorizes that Gloria was abducted by aliens, and their meddling explains her symptoms and affect on others. But that’s the whole theory. Just that it COULD happen.

And that’s it. So what do you think? Science? Cover up? Aliens?

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