SANTA’S SECRET HELPER – The Conclusion!

Over this last week plus, I’ve been publishing parts of a holiday short story that I wrote and published several years ago in a Christmas short story collection of  “less than sugar and spice” Christmas tales called “FROST and other stories published by Michelle Browne. Last week I published two installments of the story (See part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE). This is the final third and the conclusion of the story.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Santa’s Secret Helper – A short story (part 3 and the end)

The afternoon of the Lion’s Club Christmas Party, Jake had two extra cups of Flor’s tea and asked Martha to brew a thermos full so that he could sip some during the party.

Since the Santa Claus costume was bulky and the Santa hat flopped down to obstruct his vision, Martha drove them to the party. She was in a great mood, mostly because Jake was so attentive and cheerful himself. She had never seen him looking forward to any holiday as much as Christmas this year. If only their kids lived closer, they could see the wonderful changes in their father.

Max, however, was worried about Jake’s temperament after he’d overheard his mom talking to Martha the day before. He wondered how much yerba mate tea Jake was drinking, thought that Jake might overdose and decided to follow them to the Christmas party gig to see for himself how Jake was acting.

At the party, Martha watched as Jake made the rounds of the room, glad-handing everyone he knew. She didn’t notice that Max had slipped into the reception hall behind some other guests and had planted himself behind an artificial shrub in the corner.

Max watched Jake for signs of an overdose. He knew that too much cocaine caused erratic behavior—much like Jake was exhibiting—but he worried about the other symptoms that he’d read about. They included high blood pressure, increased heart rate and a sudden rise in body temperature. Max realized that those could be life-threatening for a man Jake’s age.

He watched from behind the plant and witnessed Jake’s good mood escalate. Jake played a good, jolly Santa Claus. Whenever he approached children, his exuberance made them initially smile and giggle, but then shrink back from him and run to their parents. Max thought Jake seemed a little out of breath after awhile and that worried Max.

Martha watched Jake also and noticed that his hands shook when not clasping on to his Santa cane that was made to look like a giant peppermint candy cane. She thought that maybe the costume was getting too hot for him. She felt around in her purse, found the heavy thermos full of tea, but decided that water might be a better choice.

She went to the bar, asked for a tall glass of ice water and brought it over to Jake. “Are you thirsty? Maybe you should drink something.”

He looked at the glass and then at her with eyes that danced, and which looked much more alive than his costume. “Great idea. How about some of that tea? Where’s the thermos?”

“I have it right here, but maybe water—“

“No, I want some tea. A big swig, that’s all I need.”

Martha brought out the thermos and handed it to him. With a shaky hand, he unscrewed the top, tilted it up to his mouth and took a large gulp. He wheezed a little, as if he’d swallowed wrong, coughed, sputtered some, but recovered. Jake took another large swallow, screwed the top back crooked on the thermos, handed it to Martha and said, “Ho, Ho, Ho—Santa’s ready to roll!”

“What? Jake, are you okay?”

Sweeping Martha into his arms, Jake gave her a big wet kiss and said, “Never better, Babe.” He gave her a swift pat on the butt before heading over to the Christmas tree.

Max took in the scene and slumped to the floor behind the plant. “Overheated body, thirsty, crazy mood—I’m screwed. He’s going to overdose for sure,” Max mumbled to himself.

Jake arrived at the Christmas tree and bent down to grab a present but stumbled and fell into the tree, twirling as he did so, and landed face up on top of the fallen tree.

Gasps were heard around the room. Martha screamed and ran to him. Max ran up also but stopped halfway to Jake and hid behind a group of people.

Martha looked down to see Jake’s smiling face. “Oops,” he said. “Santa went down the wrong chimney.”

“Jake, are you all right? Is anything broken?”

He moved his legs and arms. They worked spastically but adequately, and without pain. He stood, tilted sideways momentarily and then bent over and vomited all over the Christmas tree.

“And now nausea and vomiting,” Max mumbled. “Next, it’ll be lights out.” He touched a finger to his lips when a woman turned to him with a quizzical look.

“I think you’ve had too much caffeine,” Martha said to Jake.

“No, Babe, it’s just too hot in here. I need to shed some of these clothes.” He kicked off his boots and then started to unzip the Santa suit.

“But, Jake,” Martha whispered. “You don’t have anything on under that suit.”

Apparently, Jake didn’t remember that under the Santa suit all he had on was his birthday suit. He slipped off the Santa costume like one would peel a banana. The pants snagged on his hips and refused to move down further.

“Jake, stop. You’re making a fool of yourself,” Martha shouted.

A man rushed up, identified himself as an off-duty policeman and asked if she was Jake’s wife and if her husband had a medical condition.

“Yes, I’m his wife, but I don’t know of any medical problem that would cause this.” She looked at the thermos. “Maybe too much tea?”

Someone in the crowd shouted, “Is he on drugs?”

Martha looked around the room and then at the cop. “Drugs? Jake won’t even take aspirin!”

“It kind of looks like an overdose of something to me,” the cop said and called out to the crowd, “Someone call 911.” He turned back to Martha and frowned. “What’s in the thermos, lady?”

Jake weaved back and forth, coughed some, and then said, “My special tea, and I need another hit.” The Santa pants slid down one hip but Jake didn’t seem to notice.

The cop grabbed the thermos out of Martha’s hands, unscrewed the cap and took a deep whiff. “Smells like tea, but with an undertone. What’s in it?”

“Only what my friend Flor made. It gives Jake energy and makes him happy.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s really only tea. Flor gets it imported from Argentina.” Martha looked at the thermos and furrowed her brow with uncertainty. “At least that’s what she told me.”

Jake staggered over, grabbed the thermos out of the cop’s hands and took a big swig. As he leaned back, the Santa suit slid all the way down to his ankles. Jake didn’t seem to notice and walked right out of the costume that lay on the floor.

He stood in all his glory and said, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Santa’s got a present for everyone.”

The cop looked from Jake to Martha and asked, “Does he have a drug habit? Is your friend his dealer and you gave him too much?”

Martha opened her mouth to speak, but just then Jake clutched his chest, keeled over, fell back into the Christmas tree and had a cardiac arrest on the spot.

“I’ll need to know everything about Flor and her ‘tea’,” the cop said as he rushed to Jake.

A little girl watching the scene in her father’s arms yelled, “She killed Santa Claus!”

**There is more to the story—does the cop do CPR and revive Jake? Is Flor or Martha (or both) arrested for drug distribution? What do you think? Post your conclusion!

*******************************************************************************

For some interesting and entertaining reading, download my two medical thriller novels in the Jon Masters Thriller Series.

Both involve Murder, Mayhem and Medicine!

Lethal Medicine: “When a drug study clinical trial involves more than cutting-edge research and innocent people’s lives are threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

Imperfect Murder: “When trust in our nation’s drug delivery system is shaken to its core and worldwide drug safety is threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

 

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SANTA’S SECRET HELPER – A short story (part 2)

Several years ago, I contributed to a Christmas short story collection of “less than sugar and spice” Christmas tales called “FROST and other stories published by Michelle Browne. Last week I published about a third of my Christmas short story (See part 1 HERE), and now this is part 2 of the story. Part 3 will be published as my December 23rd blog.

I hope you continue to enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Santa’s Secret Helper – A short story (part 2)

Early the next morning Max came home, opened the front door, walked into the house and listened for sounds that would suggest his mom was awake. Hearing nothing, he gently closed the door, tiptoed into the kitchen, opened the pantry door and looked at the shelf holding the cans of soup.

Something was wrong. The cans were placed differently than the day before. After a long night of partying, however, he decided that he was imagining things, shrugged and reached behind the soup cans. He came up empty-handed. Reaching further back, his fingers moved to the left and to the right—nothing. He rubbed his chin, felt moisture, looked at his hands and realized that they were shaky and damp with sweat. He searched the pantry with frenzy and, as his eyes glanced over some freezer bags of powder, he froze.

“Oh, my God. The bags multiplied overnight.” He gazed up to the ceiling and called out, “Thank you, God.” Frowning at the thought, Max rubbed his hands together and said aloud, “No, that’s impossible. But where did these bags come from? And where’s my stuff?”

Realizing that he was shouting, he put a finger to his lips and touched his other hand to his chest, felt his heart pounding and thought of what could have happened to his stash.

A jumble of horrible scenarios popped into his mind. They congealed into one thought. “Mom!” He touched his finger to his lips again and whispered, “Oh, Mom, what did you do?”

He backed out of the pantry, slowly shut the door and zombie-walked to his room. In a daze, Max shut the bedroom door behind him, backed against the door, slumped to the floor and folded his hands over his head. He shook his head and tried to figure out what had happened.

Hearing the front door open, he listened closely. It was his mom. He remained on the floor, his muscles refusing to move. Eventually he stood and, as if in slow motion, opened the door and walked down the hall. His mom was in the living room reading a magazine.

Flor looked up when he entered the room, tossed down the periodical and tilted her head. “I didn’t hear you come in last night. Were you out late again?”

“Not very.” The words came out more like a squeak. His mom’s only response was a puzzled look. Max cleared his throat and forced a grin. After two attempts to talk, he finally said, “I see you made a new batch of your special tea, a big one this time.”

“Well, I had a nice shipment of holly leaves that I’d never used and my friend had a bunch of dried berries. I even found some in the pantry from a previous batch. I added that into the mixture and, before I knew it, I had enough for several bags.”

Max rubbed his face with both hands and slowly closed his eyes. “You found some old mix in the pantry? Some that you didn’t remember you had?”

“What a surprise that was. I didn’t realize I had plenty enough already to share with Martha. She stopped by yesterday to pick up a supply.”

“You made some for Martha?” Max seemed to choke on the words.

“Sure, and I had already made the fresh batch, so I just added the old to the new. Now I’ll have enough to add it to the holiday punch I promised to make for the Christmas party.”

“Christmas party?” There was that squeaky voice again. “Your new tea in a holiday punch—for other people? Where’s the party?”

“You know, that Lion’s Club Party I volunteered to help with for their Christmas party. I said I’d help with the refreshments.”

Max furrowed his brow, tried to think of something to say. “Will kids be there?”

“Of course, it’s Christmas after all.”

“Maybe that’s not such a good idea . . . to give kids something with your tea in it . . . you know, caffeine and all that.”

She gave Max a disappointed look, but it quickly turned to joy and she shook her fists in the air. “I know what I’ll do. I’ll make two batches of that festive holiday punch. The soda type for the kids and for the adults, I’ll spike it with some of my tea. Everyone will love it.”

“But, Mom . . .”

“Shush! I have so much now and with the party only weeks away, I’ll have a special brew for the adults too. Isn’t that a great idea?”

“I’m not so sure, Mom. Not everyone will like the tea. And there’s some old stuff in it.”

Flor put a fist on her hip and gave her son a look that would whither a rose. “What are you suggesting?”

“Maybe you should make a totally fresh batch for the party.”

“Nonsense! Besides, I don’t have any leaves left. It’ll be fine.” She got up to go to the kitchen, but stopped and patted him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll save some for you.”

Max thought about who would be at the party . . . tried to calculate how much cocaine would be in the mix . . . realized that it was too much, even diluted into the punch . . . understood that she would kill him if she knew . . . willed himself to keep quiet.

He decided that he needed to think and turned toward the hallway. “I have to go study now, Mom. See you later.” He retreated to his room, closed the door and found the small stash of coke that he kept for personal use. He needed to steady his nerves.

+ + + + +

Martha stopped by to visit with Flor a couple of weeks later and was telling her how wonderful her tea was, said that Jake was drinking two cups a day and that he was like a changed person. “His mood is, I don’t know how to describe it, but definitely less sullen. He even offered to help at tomorrow’s Lions Club Christmas party, without me asking, and he’s been singing ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ every time I mention the party.”

Flor smiled and nodded as she pointed at Martha. “My best batch yet.”

“And not only that, Flor, but Jake’s agreed to dress up as the Santa Claus to hand out gifts at the party. A couple of days ago he ordered the costume and got fitted for it—all on his own. Before giving him your tea, he was thinking of quitting the club altogether.”

“That’s wonderful,” Flor said. “The leaves I’m getting from my cousin seem to be stronger lately. Maybe I should market that tea.” She waved a hand high across the air. “I could call it ‘Flor’s Fabulous Fix.’ How does that sound?”

“Ambitious, but I can’t argue with the results. It has to be the tea that’s made Jake human again.

( PART 3 – To be continued on Dec 23rd)

For some interesting and entertaining reading, download my two medical thriller novels in the Jon Masters Thriller Series.

Both involve Murder, Mayhem and Medicine!

Lethal Medicine: “When a drug study clinical trial involves more than cutting-edge research and innocent people’s lives are threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

Imperfect Murder: “When trust in our nation’s drug delivery system is shaken to its core and worldwide drug safety is threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

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SANTA’S SECRET HELPER – A Wicked Christmas Tale

Several years ago, I contributed to a Christmas short story collection of  “less than sugar and spice” Christmas tales called “FROST and other stories published by Michelle Browne. It’s still in print, but I am allowed to use it as I wish. I thought you might enjoy this intriguing Christmas misadventure, so I’m going to publish my short story here in three parts over the next couple of weeks before Christmas.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Santa’s Secret Helper – A short story (part 1)

Martha Lanston stomped around the kitchen as she cleared the breakfast dishes, loaded the dishwasher, wiped down the countertop near the sink and vehemently whispered, “That lazy bum. I’m so sick of him!”

She opened a drawer and brought out a small plastic bag of finely ground powder. She measured a teaspoonful of the light brown mixture and sprinkled it into a coffee mug that was printed with “Hot Stuff.” The mug had chili peppers stenciled on the outside upper edge.

Martha ran tap water until it was hot to the touch, remembered the instructions not to use boiling water, and filled the mug three-quarters full. She gently stirred the mixture until the powder went into solution.

She took a deep breath and thought about her life—a successful schoolteacher for decades, presently retired and devolved into a housewife and servant. Yes, that’s what she was, nothing more than a servant. That thought encouraged her to continue her plan.

Martha squared her jaw, clenched a fist and whispered again to the four walls, “No, he’s not getting away with this anymore.”

She picked up the hot mug, blew heat from it and walked into the living room. As usual, her husband Jake was reclining in his favorite chair and thoroughly engrossed in a crossword puzzle.

“I made you some tea. Flor says it’s a special brew that she drank all the time back in Argentina. I had some yesterday at her place and it’s good. Here, try it.”

Jake didn’t react at first, as if the request needed further thought. He frowned, looked suspiciously at the tea and then up to his wife. Without saying a word, he took the cup, set it on the end table next to him and returned to the crossword puzzle.

As he did so, Martha thought about her visit the day before with Flor, the neighbor next door who happened also to be her best friend. Martha remembered how she had tearfully told Flor how Jake was acting. They were both retired and Jake had lots of free time also, but all he seemed to do these days was work crossword puzzles, take naps and read books. Martha did all the housework, the laundry and the cooking. Even mowing the grass had become her responsibility.

“That man is crazy,” Flor had said. “You’re a good wife. He needs my tonic tea—my yerba mate. I’ll fix some for you. If you like it, I’ll give you a small bag for Jake.”

“Will it give him energy?”

Flor smiled, lifted one shoulder and tilted her head. “It may even make him feel sexy.”

Martha smiled and took a sip of tea. It was rich in aroma and warmed her insides. She decided to take some for Jake. After all, Flor seemed to have the energy of two people. The sexy part didn’t interest her, but maybe it would help Jake get off his rear and help around the house.

Suddenly, Martha heard Jake say, “Are you deaf?”

“What? Oh, sorry, I was just remembering my visit with Flor.”

“Well, you’re right. It’s tasty.” He drained the cup. “How about fixing me another?”

“I’ll make you a cup after lunch.” Grinning, Martha strolled off to sort laundry.

+ + + + +

Flor’s son, Max, walked into the house and gently closed the door behind him. He was tired and needed sleep. Tall, burly and used to getting his way, he turned into a mouse around his mom, who didn’t like him staying out all night and this was the second time in a week. He tiptoed toward his room, all the time looking around to make sure his mom wasn’t around.

As if by magic, Flor appeared from around the corner near the kitchen, stood rigid with her legs apart and arms folded. “Again, Max? What do you do all night?” She sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose. “You smell like a brewery, and you’re smoking again.”

“Ma, please, I’m over 21. I pay rent. I can come and go as I please.”

Flor stretched her five-foot-one frame as tall as she could and pointed an index finger at him. “My house, my rules. Now get some sleep. You have class this afternoon. You need to be smart, make good grades, graduate college before you’re thirty, for God’s sake.”

Max started to protest, but Flor held up her full hand this time and pointed toward his bedroom. Without another word, Max headed down the hall.

+ + + + +

That afternoon Martha made another cup of yerba mate tea and Jake gulped it down in three large swallows. Martha decided to make the tea a daily ritual.

She called Flor to report that Jake liked the tea and wanted to know where to buy it. Flor had responded that her special yerba mate was a personal blend and, since there was only a little left in her pantry, she would need the afternoon to prepare the ingredients and make a supply for Martha. Flor said that she’d call to let Martha know when her special tea was ready for pick up.

+ + + + +

Max had one ear squeezed into the small space between the door jam and his almost-closed bedroom door. He was too wired to sleep and needed to make his batch of product so that he could deliver it to the buyer the next day. He heard his mom talking on the phone, but then she started rattling around the kitchen, banging pots and pans, and opening and closing kitchen cabinets.

When she was done, she left through the front door. Her car started up, moved down the driveway and the engine sounds faded as it headed down the street.

He smiled, nodded to himself and took the brick of cocaine that he had bought the night before out of his backpack. It was good stuff, had cost him a bundle, but he could cut it with sugar, starch and some of his mom’s tea blend to stretch it and make a good profit.

He’d watched his mom make her special tea before. It was a blend of dried holly leaves, the kind from Argentina that had lots of caffeine in them, and crushed holly berries. That was her secret. The dried holly berries, when crushed, made the taste a bit bolder.

Since he was family, his mom had shared her recipe with him so that he could make it for himself after she was gone. His mom had even requested that he serve it to friends at her funeral party.

Max went into the kitchen, cut the coke brick with powders from the pantry, including the remainder of his mother’s tea blend, and started to put the brownish mixture into small plastic bags. Suddenly, he heard a car come up the driveway. He looked out the window and saw that it was his mom.

He panicked, pushed the few small packs of mixture he had made into his backpack, stuffed the remaining blend into a large freezer bag and hid that behind some cans of soup in the pantry. He swung the backpack over his shoulder and hurried to his room, reminding himself that he’d need to make a small batch of his mom’s tea later to replace what he had used.

Flor opened the front door while holding a shopping bag full of dried holly berries that a friend had been saving for her. She shed her coat, put her purse down on the couch, went straight to the kitchen and pulled out a large mortar and pestle from a cabinet.

After placing a handful of the dried berries into the ceramic bowl and using a vigorous twisting motion with the pestle to crush them, she transferred the resulting fine powder into a larger bowl and set that aside.

Next, she went to the pantry, took out the box of dried holly leaves that her cousin in Argentina had sent the previous month and measured a generous portion into the mortar. As before, vigorous twisting motions with the pestle to crush the leaves produced uniform minute granules.

She added the ground leaves to the berry powder, mixed the powders together until well blended and repeated the crushing and blending process several times until a large bowl of yerba mate tea resulted.

“Now to package this up,” Flor said aloud. “I’ll have enough for Martha and still have plenty left over for me.”

Moving into the pantry to get a box of large freezer bags, she spotted something behind some cans, looked closer, pushed the cans aside, and found a large freezer bag full of a previous blend of her herbal tea mixture.

“That’s strange. I don’t remember having this much left,” she whispered. She inspected the bag once again, gazed at the shelf behind the cans one more time and finally shrugged. “Such an odd spot. It’s a wonder I even found it. I must be getting senile.”

Flor tried to remember when she had last made a batch of mate tea. It had been months ago. She thought the mixture would be good for a long while but wondered if it had lost some potency from sitting on the shelf so long, and even questioned if it was from the last batch or from the time before that.

Deciding to mix this batch into the new one rather than waste the old by throwing it out, Flor rationalized that if some potency was lost, it wouldn’t be much and not even noticeable after mixing it with the fresh one.

When everything was mixed well—new with old—she bagged the entire blend into eight one-gallon freezer bags, placed six of them on one shelf in the pantry and kept two out for her friend Martha.

She went to the phone and called Martha. “I have your tea ready. Anytime you want to stop by is fine with me.”

“Now, Flor, are you sure you have enough to share?”

“Oh, I had plenty of ingredients, and I even found more tea in the pantry that I had forgotten about. So I’ve got lots to share and more if you need it.”

Martha promised to come by later that afternoon.

( PART 2 – To be continued on Dec 17th)

For some interesting and entertaining reading, download my two medical thriller novels in the Jon Masters Thriller Series.

Both involve Murder, Mayhem and Medicine!

Lethal Medicine: “When a drug study clinical trial involves more than cutting-edge research and innocent people’s lives are threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

Imperfect Murder: “When trust in our nation’s drug delivery system is shaken to its core and worldwide drug safety is threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

 

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Here in the United States, it is Thanksgiving time—Thursday, November 28th to be exact.

It’s a day of fantastic food feasts, with the bonus of a long holiday weekend ahead. I hope the day is extra special for all of my US readers.

 

More importantly, it’s a time to all of us to reflect on what makes our lives so special and rewarding, and what makes us thankful when we think back on the current year and the events that have shaped our lives in the recent past.

I am especially thankful to all of my readers across the world for supporting and encouraging my work as an author.

You Continue to Inspire Me!

THANK YOU!

I wish you much success at being thankful on a daily basis for all the good things that happen in your lives and I hope the not-so-good things are minimal.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Posted in A Holiday Wish, Being Thankful, Being Thankful Every Day, Being Thankful For Your Life, Happy Thanksgiving Blog, Holiday Cheer, Thankful For Being A Writer | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Superbugs and New Defenses

In response to multiple news stories over the recent years about the invasion of superbugs, defined as those bacteria resistant to almost all forms of antibiotic therapy, I’ve written blogs HERE and HERE about the invasion of superbugs that hamper our medical professionals from effectively treating infections that were once easily eradicated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Subsequently, I wrote a blog about a “post antibiotic era” HERE, which indicated that few new antibiotic discoveries are happening to combat the increasing number of bacteria that develop resistance to our most reliable antibiotic therapies.

Approximately, 35,000 Americans die each year from drug resistant bacterial infections. Worldwide that number climbs to a staggering 700,000 deaths each year. According to United Nations estimates, the number of deaths from drug-resistant infections could rise to 10 million humans by 2050.

We are presently in what scientists call “an antibiotic discovery void” in which more of our common bacterial infections (UTI’s, common respiratory infections, ear and throat infections, etc,) are evolving to be resistant to currently available antibiotics. This drug resistance evolution is happening much faster than medical science can discover and bring to market new drug therapies to combat those resistant bacteria.

Over this last year, I’ve been reading about some exciting and rather innovative research into a technique called “Crispr,” which could become the next generation of our fight over drug-resistant bacteria, and possibly even those stubborn viruses—many of which are immune to drug therapy (think the common cold virus).

Scientists have discovered that, in nature, Crispr is a natural gene-editing tool in a specialized region of DNA and used by bacteria to evolve and protect itself against deadly viruses. Researchers have taken that natural Crispr tool and discovered how to alter or edit other DNA to a specific use.

By using Crispr-associated enzyme technology, scientists (at least in a laboratory environment) have been able to kill a species of Salmonella bacteria. This cutting-edge research is the beginning of a significant new way of thinking for future antibiotic therapies that can target highly specific, and highly aggressive, drug-resistant bacteria.

Although the results of this research are proving to be extremely effective in the laboratory, the next step is testing in living animals and then in human trials. We may be years away from having such treatments commonly available, but hope is on the horizon that the devastating effects of a “post antibiotic era” and the prediction of “an antibiotic discovery void” may well be a thing of the past rather than a future reality.

From an author’s perspective, however, such new research in the hands of a fictional villain could create an entirely new future for the human race—at least in a sinister thriller plot to alter the balance of world power.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

For some interesting and entertaining reading, download my two medical thriller novels in the Jon Masters Thriller Series.

Both involve Murder, Mayhem and Medicine!

 

Lethal Medicine: “When a drug study clinical trial involves more than cutting-edge research and innocent people’s lives are threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

 

Imperfect Murder: “When trust in our nation’s drug delivery system is shaken to its core and worldwide drug safety is threatened.”

eBook or Paperback – Order Here!

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Halloween—An Ancient Ritual and Modern Fun

Halloween is celebrated each year as one of our first Fall holidays, on October 31st, and this year that day happens to be tomorrow. So HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone!

It’s the day we dress up in crazy, and even outrageously morbid, costumes and celebrate with special food and drink, and we party! Our youngsters often celebrate by going house to house yelling, “Trick or Treat” in the hopes of being given sweet treats rather than on the receiving end of a mean trick. It’s a time of pumpkin EVERYTHING these days, and I think I’ve already overdosed on all things pumpkin!

With as much of a modern fun time that Halloween is and as commercial as it has become, the holiday can be traced to an ancient and serious evolving history.

The early Celtic pagan holiday of Samhain at the end of October involved ritualistic ceremonies to ward off ghosts of the dead. The Celts celebrated in costumes made mostly of animal hides as a disguise against evil spirits of the past, and they prepared and enjoyed special feasts of autumn foods. Lanterns made out of gourds were used in these celebrations and these became the ancient version of our pumpkin lanterns. Huge bonfires were lit to ward off evil.

Halloween is distinctly tied to the religious holiday of All Saints’ Day, which in modern times is celebrated on November 1st.  Halloween, translated literally as All Hallows’ Eve, was moved from Spring in ancient times to coincide with the more religious All Saints’ Day, a day set aside to remember our deceased loved ones.

The Eastern Church in the 300’s celebrated a feast of all martyrs on May 13th as an early version of All Saints’ Day, and that date held until the seventh century. It was Pope Boniface IV who moved the feast of remembering the martyrs and deceased loved ones from May 13th to the November 1st date of our current All Saints’ Day. This was primarily to blend a pagan ritual time with a more religious one that immediately followed. Thus, All Hallows’ Eve evolved into our modern Halloween.

The mystical rituals of earlier times became our modern lighthearted night of fun and games that we now know as Halloween. The ritual of apple bobbing, that is so popular at Halloween parties, was originally a fortune-telling game on All Hallows’ Eve a couple of centuries ago. Apples would be selected to represent all of a woman’s suitors, and the guy represented by an apple that she would end up biting into would become her future husband. This Halloween ritual became a matchmaking opportunity for young women in the early 19thcentury.

Our modern Halloween has evolved into a day and night of fun and festivities in which the outrageous and ridiculous wins over anything normal and real. Fortunately, our modern Halloween rituals have little hidden meaning of actually warding off evil spirts or hint at life-altering predictions like matchmaking. Now we simply eat, drink and be merry on what was once a much more ghoulish holiday.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Posted in A Christmas Gift Idea, About James J. Murray, All Hallows' Eve, Almost Dead, Ancient Celtic Rituals, Ancient Halloween Rituals, Blog Writers, Blogging, Celtic Holiday Samhain, Halloween, Halloween Celebrating, History of Halloween Discussed, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hope on the Horizon for Pediatric Peanut Allergies

Over one million American children have a peanut allergy!

I wrote a blog a couple of years ago which indicated that researchers found that people with food allergies are increasing at a significant rate—an 18% jump between 1997 and 2007 alone, and that peanut allergies have tripled in recent years. That blog indicated several reasons for this rapid increase, but I won’t go into those specifics with this blog,

The good news, however, is that there is now a therapy to prevent this increasing threat with the recent recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of the first-ever drug to treat life-threatening peanut allergies in children.

This drug is not a cure for the allergy. Rather, the goal of this therapy is to greatly reduce the risk of accidental exposure to small amounts of peanuts and peanut-based food products that can set off a catastrophic and life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

The new drug is an oral immunosuppressive therapy regimen that reduces sensitivity to peanut allergens over time. Gradual exposure to small amounts of peanut protein over the course of six months or so can allow a child with a severe peanut allergy to safely ingest the equivalent of two peanuts without a significant reaction.

This does not mean the child can safely eat peanuts from that point forward, but it does reduce the allergic reactions from the accidental ingestion of peanut dust from contaminated food preparation surfaces, products manufactured in plants where peanut products are also manufactured, and products containing small amounts of peanut-source ingredients.

I think some of you may remember that I am a volunteer certified running coach. This year my coaching focus has been to develop a youth running program in the non-profit running club that I am a member of.

One of the significant things we do in our registration process of our youth training program is to identify the medical/medication needs and any significant allergies of our young participants. Food allergy identification is a primary component of that screening process since we serve snacks at the end of each training session.

We have had several of our youth participate who have severe peanut allergies. We identify those kids on day one and make sure their parents provide separate snacks to prevent any possible risk of triggering a life-threatening event during group snacks and rehydration.

Such kids are the likely candidates for this drug regimen. It could possibly save the life of one of those kids if they accidentally ingested a peanut-containing product in the future.

Thoughts? Comments” I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Anaphylaxis, Blog Writers, Blogging, Children and Food Allergies, Common Food Allergies, Cutting Edge Drug Therapy Research, Deadly Food Contamination, Food Allergies on the Rise, Foods and Lethal Allergic Responses, Foods That Kill, Identifying Peanut Allergies, Increased Peanut Allergies in Kids, Increasing Food Allergies, James J. Murray Blog, Lethal Food Allergies, Medical Technology Advances, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Drug Discoveries, New Drug For Treating Peanut Allergies, New Drug Research, Peanut Allergies, Pediatric Peanut Allergies, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Trends, Preventing Peanut Allergy Reactions, Screening For Peanut Allergies, Severe Food Allergies, The Pharmacy Profession, The Price of Freedom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A New 21st Century Weapon of Mass Destruction

Before the 2000’s, the world feared WMD (weapons of mass destruction) that involved nuclear technology. The threat of nuclear war, whether accidental or intentional, shaped how the military, our diplomates and alliance nations acted to protect its people and to prevent the mutual destruction of the world with a nuclear clash of superpowers.

In this century, biological weapons (although in limited use since WWI) became the new WMD with threats from Iraq and more recently Syria. World leaders scrambled to develop antidotes and anti-toxins to some of the most significant and most lethal biologicals that could somehow make it into the hands of terrorists to destroy large segments of the civilized world.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how as much as 80% of our prescription medications are imported from India and China, with a significant percentage of the active ingredients coming from China. I mentioned that the current trade wars could create a situation where prescription medications for US citizens would likely become more expensive with rising tariffs.

Recent news articles (Here and Here) indicate that the evolution of the United States outsourcing so much drug manufacturing to other nations over the years not only brings the possibility of price increases, but it also could create a very real crisis of prescription medication shortages if our prescription drug supply were to be held hostage as a negotiating tactic.

Just imagine if our supplies of life-saving antibiotics , for instance, (many of which are generic drugs made in Chinese manufacturing plants) were suddenly cut off. Some antibiotic products are certainly made in the United States, but a little known fact is that the last penicillin factory in the United States closed in 2004 and that manufacturing process was outsourced overseas.

China is the world’s largest exporter of vitamins and other antibiotic raw material in the modern world. China also is a key manufacturer of the active ingredients in blood pressure medications and prescription drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression.

Real national security risks exist with Chinese dominance of the global pharmaceutical industry. Retired Brig. Gen. John Adams told NBC News, “Basically, we’ve outsourced our entire (drug) industry to China. That is a strategic vulnerability.” Essentially, Western nations have handed an aggressive foreign government the power to hold all the cards for 21st Century WMDs over our collective heads, with the United States in a unique position to be the most vulnerable with the current trade war instabilities between the US and China.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Affordable Prescription Drugs, Biological Weapons, Bioterrorism, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chemotherapy Supply Shortage Issues, Chinese Drug Industry, Chinese Prescription Drug Exports, Controlling Drug Costs, Developing Story Arcs, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Drug Distribution Chain, Drug Shortages in the US, Drugs and Terrorism, FDA and Drug Supply Shortages, Generic Drug Manufacturing, Generic Drug Safety, Generic Drugs in the US, Increasing Costs of US Pharmaceuticals, International Supply of Drugs, James J. Murray Blog, Made In America, Medication Cost Increases, Medication Safety Issues, Medication Shortages in the US, Modern Weapons of Mass Destruction, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Pharmaceutical Shortages in the US, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription Drug Shortages, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Trends, Shortages in the US Drug Distribution Chain, The American Drug Supply, The High Cost Of Medications in the US, The Price of Freedom, Trade War Instabilities, Trade Wars, Trade Wars and Pharmaceuticals, Where Are America's Prescription Drugs Made?, Where Are Our Drugs Made, WMD | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Advances in Nanoparticle Technology!

Medical science in the 21st century is increasingly more sophisticated and growing exponentially. One of the more fascinating areas of medical research involves the evolution of nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles are (in simple terms) small objects that behave as a unit to have common properties and to perform specific jobs.They are tiny complex particles on the scale of one billionth of a meter—mere fractions of the width of a human hair.

These particles are molecular-sized entities that can be made from almost any material: metals, plastics and a multitude of hybrid materials. The most common at present are made of silicon, and 3D printing technology is advancing this technology faster than ever.

Because they are approximately the size of a biological molecule, they offer great potential for use in the human body to cure diseases, mainly because of their ability to transport substances on their surfaces or within their structures (think sponge-like configurations) into the body.

When used for medical purposes, they enter the body most often via intravenous injections. But advanced nanos that can be administered via an oral capsule and nanoemulsions that could be used for aerosolized nasal delivery are being developed.

Recently, I came across an interesting article about new research into using nanotechnology to prevent the paralysis resulting from severe spinal cord injuries.

When spinal cord injuries occur, often it’s the body’s own immune system that causes the inflammation and subsequent paralysis by squeezing and killing nerve cells. Inflammation prevents communication between neurons and produces scars that prevent nerve cells from regenerating. Thus, there is a cascade paralysis effect to areas below the injury site.

Nanoparticles, in this case, are used to bind with immune cells to prevent them from racing to the spinal injury and causing inflammation that may create a paralysis. These nanoparticles, in essence, render inflammation-causing immune cells useless and protect the spinal cord from inflammation. This allows nerve tissue to regenerate.

To this date, the process has been successful with mice and this area of research is also targeting multiple sclerosis.

As with all technological advances, the amazing cures and enhanced qualities of life that are on the forefront of nanoparticle development could have an alternate dark side. As we’re seen with powerful herbal and pharmaceutical remedies, misuse can result in lethal outcomes.

I can already imagine what poisons and toxins could be delivered into the body by nanos, and what other lethal consequences could be achieved by ill-used nanoparticles entering the body by injection, oral or nasal spray applications.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Applications of Nanotechnology, Biological Weapons, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing With Lethal Nanoparticles, Medical Uses of Nanotechnology, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons, Nanoparticle Technology, Nanoparticle Technology in Medicine, Nanoparticles for Medical Cures, Nanoparticles in Medicine, Nanoparticles To Cure And Kill, Nanotechnology Used For Murder, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dead Man’s Fingers Fungus

I’ll bet you’re thinking this blog is about a disease, and maybe a “yucky” one at that. Nope . . . not even close! This is all about another type of fungus—mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a culinary delight, including such wonderful treats as morel mushrooms and truffles. Even the more common, and much less expensive, varieties are welcome additions to many recipes.

Care must be taken, however, to stay away from some of the deadly varieties, such as those I wrote about in a previous blog. Some varieties can be used, and are often abused, for their hallucinogenic effects. I’ve described those in another blog.

There is a most interesting variety of mushroom that reeks of death. However, it’s not deadly to humans. It’s commonly called “Dead Man’s Fingers.” The technical name for this fungus is Xylaria polymorpha.

Although this fungus can resemble the fingers of a corpse reaching out from the earth, it’s not a zombie clawing its way out of a grave. It does have deadly properties, however, only not to humans. Dead Man’s Fingers are fungi growing out of decaying wood—stumps or logs of dead, buried trees—that continue the decay process to rot wood.

In fact, this attribute has several beneficial purposes. The Dead Man’s Fingers fungi are nature’s sanitation to rid forests of dead tree wood. These fungi are also used to increase the acoustic ability of woods used to make violins. Raw violin wood is inoculated with the Xylaria fungi to cause a certain degree of wood decay, thereby decreasing the wood’s density. After a time, the fungus is killed with ethylene oxide to prevent further wood rot and this creates the beautiful sounds of a violin.

Although this fungus is indigenous to the regions of Nepal, Bhutan and Northeastern India, it can be seen in the United States where it attacks apple, maple, beech and elm trees as well as a variety of ornamental shrubs to destroy home landscapes.

The colors of these interesting fungi vary from white to blue to black at different stages in their life cycle. When young, they are pale in color, almost white, and they vary from that whitish color to a pale blue as they grow. When this variety of mushroom continues to age, the bluish color deepens all the way to black before the fungus dries out and dies.

In China, younger blue fungi are often cooked and eaten; but, as the fungi age, they are considered not edible because they become hard to digest. At that point, most Dead Man’s Finger Fungi are used as decorations or garnish, instead.

I don’t consider this fungus lethal in any way to humans, but it can make for an interesting plot twist if used in a setting where it might appear that human remains are reaching out from the grave. I’ll have to figure out a way to use this in one of my storylines. What about you?

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About Interesting Mushrooms, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, All About Mushrooms, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Blue Fungi, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Dead Man's Finger Fungi, Dead Man's Fingers, Deadly Fungal Attacks, Deadly Mushrooms, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Fungi and Violin Wood, Hallucinogenic Drugs, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Event and Ideas Develop into Short Stories, James J. Murray Blog, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Lethal Botanicals, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Mushrooms That Kill Trees, Mushrooms That Rot Wood, New Blog, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Poisonous Plants, Prescription For Murder Blog, Unique Lethal Compounds, Unique Murder Plots, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments