CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY-FOUR
Wednesday evening — 3:40 P.M.
“Are you sure?” Max asked as he entered Ava’s office.
“No,” he said. “Bob?”
“No,” Bob said.
Ava looked up to see Leslie in the doorway. Ava waved her inside. Leslie waddled her pregnant girth to the couch. Nelson and Fran followed her to the couch. Max closed Ava’s office door then took an arm chair. For a moment, no one said any thing. Then they all spoke at once and laughed.
Picking up a pad of paper and a pen, Ava got up from her desk. She took an arm chair and Bob turned around a straight back chair to join the circle.
“I feel like we’re at Alanon,” Fran said. “Hi my name is Fran and I’m a Codependent.”
“Hi Fran,” the rest of the team said and laughed.
For a moment, everything seemed normal. There was a knock on the door and reality set in. In a few minutes, they would have to make decide what to do. Through the glass wall, Ava saw the lead researcher from the USDA. She shook her head and he waved. She knew he’d come to tell her that everyone was waiting for their decision, her decision.
“Lay out the facts for me one more time,” Bob said.
“We don’t have time to make an effective anti-toxin,” Ava said. She looked up to see if everyone agreed.
“Well, that and we can’t reverse two hundred million years of evolution,” Max said. “Human being evolved after wasps and their venom. Any antitoxin would have to account for millennia of evolution, not to mention human experience. I mean, how many times has Seth been stung by a wasp? I bet a lot. The antitoxin would have to take into account his body’s immune memory for the venom.”
“There may never be an effective anti-toxin for the First Responders Toxin.” Ava wrote her statements on her pad of paper.
“Ever,” Nelson said.
“That’s more like it,” Fran said.
“Facts,” Bob said. “Let’s stick with facts.”
“The wood shards were soaked in toxin,” Fran said. “And they had fatty pockets of toxin stuck to the shards. When the wood spikes were pulled out, these packets of toxin were left behind.”
“That’s got to be why the men keep spiking fevers,” Bob said.
“I’m sure you’re right,” Leslie said. “The men’s immune systems would attack the outside fatty shell of these packets. When the shell dissolves, more toxin is released.”
“The men received doses of the toxin from the wood spike. They continue to receive toxin through these…” Ava said. “We’re calling them packets?”
“You could call them Franicles,” Nelson said.
“Packet it is,” Ava wrote down Fran’s discovery.
“The thing I’m stuck on is that we’re fighting the natural human response to this venom,” Bob said. “If we introduce another agent, even an effective antitoxin, the men’s immune systems are so fired up, they will attack it.”
“That’s a good point,” Ava said. “The men are all in a high allergic state. The ER docs said their allergic response is so activated they’re starting to have autoimmune reactions similar to lupus.”
“Allergy medications are starting to fail,” Leslie said. “Their blood pressure keeps dropping. They’re already using dopamine to stabilize their pressure but…”
They fell silent for a moment digesting Leslie’s news.
“We can’t give up,” Bob said. “The men’s lives depend on what we decide.”
“And what did we decide?” Ava asked.
“Surgery,” Max said. “The men need surgery to clean out the wounds. The rest of the toxin must be removed. That’s got to be first.”
“Dialysis with the Immunoglobulin filters,” Leslie said. “The ER docs are already talking about it. If they use the right filter, they can reduce the immune response.”
“And?” Ava looked up from her writing.
“We have to think treatment protocol,” Bob said. “Not anti-toxin.”
“And our treatment protocol is surgery, then dialysis,” Ava said.
“Meds for pain, steroids to reduce allergic response, and blood pressure stabilizing,” Bob said. “Flush their systems with saline IVs and more dialysis if necessary.”
Her team nodded.
“And if we kill them?” Ava asked.
“They are dying anyway,” Leslie said. Nothing the heartbreak on Ava’s face, she added, “I’m sorry Ava, but it’s true. The docs say they won’t make another the night.”
“Have the families been notified?” Bob asked.
“They have,” Nelson said. “But everyone expects that we’ll pull off some miracle. We are their last chance.”
Ava nodded to Nelson. She reread her notes then nodded to her team.
“Anything else?” Ava asked.
“We’re praying for him, honey,” Fran said.
Ava looked up to see the kind eyes of her lab techs and Max Hargreaves. She gave them a smile to keep from crying in exhaustion and despair.
“I’ll go tell them,” Ava said. “If we get agreement, I’ll need your help relaying it to the docs at Denver Health.”
“I don’t work for the UN or the Israelis or Homeland Security or the USDA,” Nelson said. “I work for you.”
“Nelson’s right,” Leslie said. “We should relay the information to Denver Health while you and Max talk to the research teams.”
Ava looked at Leslie and Nelson.
“He’s right you know,” Fran added.
“I agree,” Bob said. “I’d be happy to make the call.”
“Let’s go ahead,” Ava said. “Let me know if the docs have anything else to add.”
“Will do,” Leslie said.
“You guys can go home when you’re done,” Ava said. “It’s been a long day and we were here late last night.”
“We’re not leaving you,” Fran said.
“Plus, Franny and I have babysitters,” Leslie said. “I want to get another meal…”
“In an adult restaurant,” Fran said.
“Without kids!” Leslie added.
“We’re trying to say we’ll wait for you,” Nelson said. “And we want to go out again.”
Ava smiled at them. Bob got up and crossed the room to use Ava’s phone. Ava stood and Max followed her. They were almost to the door when they heard Bob request the ER doctors who had been tracking Seth and the other police officers. Ava and Max shared a look and went to tell the international team their findings.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…