Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Never Trust a Man Dressed All in White

Use Grammarly for proofreading to avoid having your story about nurturing nurse become a story about a neutering one.

I've almost finished reading this totally fascinating nonfiction book called The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber (medical student turned journalist). The book is about a male RN who killed around 300 patients by injecting their IVs with different cocktails of drugs that sent them into cardiac arrest or diabetic comas or whatever.

I don't know why the book hasn't been optioned for a movie; it has all of the trappings of a medical thriller. My favorite aspect is this heroic woman (Amy) who emerges as the one who cracks open the case. She's first a friend of the guy who turns out to be the most prolific known serial killer in history, Nurse Charlie Cullen. Bu then, she's tapped by the detectives on the case to try to help them figure out how he's been getting away with it.

They show her all of this hospital data they don't quite understand and she basically figures out how it is that he's been killing patients when there was no real record of him taking out the drugs that killed them. How it worked was that the hospital had a machine that dispensed certain drugs and you had to press in the name of the drug to get it along with your password, and that would leave a paper trail. So, a few patients died of dioxin overdoses, but when they looked at Charlie's record of the drugs he dispensed, dioxin wasn't on the list. Instead, he would get like six Tylenol from the drawer for no reason that anyone could decipher. This woman, Amy, a friend of his, figured out that when he would order Tylenol, the drawer would open to give him that drug, but right next to it was also dioxin. So, they figured out he had access to the drugs after all. There were a couple of other interesting moments like that, where Amy's able to figure out details of what he was doing. For example, he spent a lot of time on the computer, seemingly typing in his notes, but when she pulled up his record, he was instead browsing other nurses' patients, essentially trolling through their records to see how sick they were. He would also do this thing where he would help by loading up the IVs for other nurses' patients and inject these bags with certain drugs that would harm them. The nurses would then administer the IVs themselves, and Cullen would be nowhere near them. In that way, he was able to have other people unwittingly do the killing for him; while he stayed removed from the situation physically. But he was also on the computer so he could monitor the progress (or decomposition) of various patients status--he could watch them begin to code or their organs fail and while everyone else was flailing around, trying to figure out what happened, he knew that he was the one behind their demises. In any case, this woman Amy is the one who gets him to confess to the murders. Without the confession, he probably would've gotten away with it, because they had no definitive proof that he was orchestrating all of this despite the many, many people who died.
 Like, in this one hospital where he worked, something like 58 people coded  in two months on his unit and lots of them died; after he was fired from that hospital for suspicious treatment, the number of codes went down to one over the next three months.

The other disturbing thing about the story is that the hospitals involved, especially the one where he met Amy (Somerset Memorial Hospital in NJ, of course) lied and covered up the paper trail as much as possible so that they wouldn't be sued or held liable in these deaths. In fact, most of the hospitals where he worked did the same. They suspected him of doing harm, couldn't prove it, so instead, got rid of him and destroyed any evidence linking him to deaths when they could. And then, they would give him a neutral reference so he could move on to the next place and continue killing. The moral of the story: Corporations lie. Also, don't get admitted to the ICU. Also, never trust a male nurse. I'm kidding, about the nurses of course. Most male nurses, I'm sure, are totally great. Anyway, I recommend the book--I don't usually read nonfiction because I never like to feel like I'm learning anything while I'm reading, but this book was well-written and interesting--very Truman Capote-esque. And there is no way this is not going to get made into a movie starring Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz or someone. It has all of the elements of a good whodunit, including a jail house confession. And I think the guy was supposed to be fairly attractive too, so you could have like this other hunky actor playing the attractive yet creepy nurse. Joaquin Phoenix, perhaps?

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