Excerpt of Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle
(Page 3 of 6)
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After suiting up and finding my size respirator, I opened another set of
doors at the back of the room. As the door cracked, I could hear a rush
of air, felt a suck against the disposable gown. The negative-pressure
system--pressure greater outside than inside, to prevent small particles
from being blown into the rest of the hospital--was working. The air
would be passed through a filter, then blown outdoors.
I made sure the respirator was fast against my face; then I pushed open
the door and walked inside.
Three figures, looking like aliens in their protective getup, were
talking in the middle of the hallway. Besides the people, there was
nothing here but a crash cart, a large biohazard waste can, and a table
with a fax machine, paper, and pens. The crash cart was filled with
drugs, paraphernalia for placing a central line, basically anything we'd
need if a patient's heart stopped or, in medical parlance, if they
"crashed." The fax was directly connected to another machine at the
nurses' station outside the biocontainment zone. Notes, orders, and the
like would be sent from there to the other fax. It's how we planned to
get around carting contaminated medical records back and forth into the
hospital. St. Raphe's, like many places, was still in the dark ages of
Despite their masks, I recognized the female Dr. Madison and Dr. Verlach,
who was black. The third man, an older white guy, I didn't recognize. I
stepped up to the group, which made sort of an amoeboid shift to
"Antibodies?" Verlach asked, his speech raspy and tinny through the
"Not yet. Nothing specific," Dr. Madison said. "No idea what it is. . .
Finally, the three looked at me. Verlach said, "Dr. McCormick, you know
Jean Madison. This is Gary Hammil--" He pointed at the man I didn't
know. "He's the new Chief of Infectious Diseases at St. Raphael's."
Ah. The new Chief of ID. St. Raphe's had been casting around for someone
for months; they must have netted Dr. Hammil in the past few days. Nice
of them to tell me.
I looked at Hammil. "Nothing like diving in headfirst."
"Especially when the pool has no water," he said. We both forced a
"Dr. McCormick is on loan to us from CDC," Verlach explained.
"Okay, thanks for the introductions," Jean Madison said, annoyed. Then,
to me, "Tissue, blood, saliva have all gone to the labs here."
"Here?" I asked.
I I looked at Verlach. He said, "Fastest turnaround. We sent samples to
the state lab, too."
Hammil asked, "What do they have at the city labs?"
Verlach looked at the floor. "Um, we don't have much, mostly
run-of-the-mill. But state is pretty stocked. Tests for the filoviruses,
Marburg and Ebola. I think they have Lassa, Rift Valley, Rocky Mountain
spotted fever, Q fever. More. They don't have everything, but they have
a lot, actually."
"Well, CDC is there if you need us," I said. CDC had resources--modes of
analysis, genetic libraries of pathogens--that far outstripped those of
Baltimore City or Maryland State. We had, in fact, the largest
repository of disease-specific tests in the world at our headquarters in
Atlanta. We also had the largest repository of actual bugs. Not a place
to take your kids when they're in the oral stage.
from Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle Copyright © 2006 by
Joshua Spanogle. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this
excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing
from the publisher.