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Name Your Poison FREE TO VIEW

Linda Louise Casebeer, PhD
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Editor’s Note:Linda Casebeer lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and has worked in the field of medical education outcomes research for thirty years. She writes, “My neighbor collapsed and was hospitalized with a very low heart rate and hypothyroidism. While she was being diagnosed and treated, her daughter reported on social media, as advertising, that she was continuing her mother's oleander nerium cream in the hospital, a clue to her diagnosis. The patient is slowly recovering, but I became incensed by the fact that this product remains commercially available leading to multiple drafts of ‘Name Your Poison’.”

Copyright 2016, American College of Chest Physicians. All Rights Reserved.

Chest. 2016;149(3):882. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2015.10.059
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    In her hand my neighbor held out a box
    offering me nerium oleander a poison
    as toxic as the fairy tale’s shiny apple
    in a kit of age-defying seductions
    but what she didn’t know is I know
    pink or white clustered blossoms lining
    my mother’s sea-sprayed Carolina yard
    with subtropical fragrance the leaves
    narrow and willow-like linear lanceolate
    oleander the most poisonous of garden
    plants in zones 8-10 along the coast
    even deer know poison when they find it
    planted in a ring around the roses
    to poison me since she used the product
    herself and it’s not the first poison sold
    as potion this one a cardiac glycoside
    acting on the contractile force of the muscle
    of the heart disrupting its function as if any
    of us could know exactly how the heart
    functions with so many emotions
    streaming through its arteries/veins

    The main artery in this midwestern town
    a mythical Main Street with some storefronts
    empty Radio Shack closed also The Times
    an old movie theater and up the road
    deserted factories never enough jobs
    so selling nerium oleander becomes one
    in a rat-a-tat tat announcement of a get rich
    quick scheme for the price of a sales pitch
    this is the way a pyramid is formed
    by women you know a cousin a friend
    a woman at work selling baskets or makeup
    or storage containers that burp this time
    the reward a Lexus instead of a pink Cadillac
    the real money going to the usual suspects
    which among them is not an old white man
    while in the news on Sunday my neighbor
    fainted several times also in the ambulance
    as her heart rate slowed to 40 beats a minute
    while we who want to understand googled
    for oleander as the official flower of Hiroshima
    having been the first to bloom following
    the atomic bombing of the city




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