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The Blood Betrayal

The Blood Betrayal

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Their bloodline is a dangerous mystery. Their secret is a shocking truth.
There’s something strange about the small, mountain town of Artisan, Arkansas.

When hematologist Dr. Carl Martin is called into a Little Rock emergency room, not even his expertise can save Benjamin Rasco from bleeding to death. But why did the man die? His condition shouldn’t have been fatal. And no one should have such bizarre red blood cells.

Hoping to uncover a reason for the medical mystery, Carl travels to Rasco’s hometown, an isolated, religious community nestled deep in the Arkansas Mountains. Instead of answers, however, Carl’s faced with more questions—and a mysterious woman who stows away in his car.

Sheltered Beth Corbin only wants to see the world for a few days before returning to Artisan, where the town leaders discourage mixing with the outside world. But after talking with Carl, Beth becomes increasingly distrustful of those leaders, and the suspicions she’s been harboring about the town become too intense to ignore. Together, Carl and Beth uncover an astounding medical conspiracy that not only affects all the residents of Artisan, but shatters every belief Carl ever held about himself.
Their bloodline is a dangerous mystery. Their secret is a shocking truth.
There’s something strange about the small, mountain town of Artisan, Arkansas.

When hematologist Dr. Carl Martin is called into a Little Rock emergency room, not even his expertise can save Benjamin Rasco from bleeding to death. But why did the man die? His condition shouldn’t have been fatal. And no one should have such bizarre red blood cells.

Hoping to uncover a reason for the medical mystery, Carl travels to Rasco’s hometown, an isolated, religious community nestled deep in the Arkansas Mountains. Instead of answers, however, Carl’s faced with more questions—and a mysterious woman who stows away in his car.

Sheltered Beth Corbin only wants to see the world for a few days before returning to Artisan, where the town leaders discourage mixing with the outside world. But after talking with Carl, Beth becomes increasingly distrustful of those leaders, and the suspicions she’s been harboring about the town become too intense to ignore. Together, Carl and Beth uncover an astounding medical conspiracy that not only affects all the residents of Artisan, but shatters every belief Carl ever held about himself.

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Published by: BelleBooks Publishing House on Apr 14, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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Chapter 1
DAMN 
.
I do not want to go in there 
. Death seeped under the operating room doors. It slipped through the crack between them and swirled around Carl Martin's sweat-soaked brow. Dark wet rings were already in full bloom under the armpits of his blue scrubs. But he'd already agreed to help. He snatched a quick breath then swallowed hard, his coppery saliva nearly strangling him. He leaned forward and pushed, parting the doors to hell. Inside, everyone turned to look at him. The scene froze: the bloody-gowned surgeon standing on the far side of the table, both hands in the blue-draped patient's abdomen, the circulating nurse, the assistant surgeon, the anesthesiologist, all staring at him . . . looking to him for deliverance from the escalating disaster on the table. Motion had ceased, but he heard the rhythmic wheeze of the respirator playing counterpoint to the cardiac monitor counting each of the patient's heartbeats. To the right, he was aware of hissing steam escaping from the unlatched autoclave door. It was a moment he didn't need.
Dick Crandall, the surgeon, spoke and time began flowing again. “That better be you under that mask, Carl.”
 
“It is,” Carl replied, hurrying to the table.
 
“Where the hell you been? I was about to swear out a sheriff's
 
 warrant for you.”
 
“You're welcome
 . . . Guess you've forgotten I don't do this kind of thing anymore. I'm only here
because you fired George Lee and put your patient at risk.”
 
“Lee had his chance. He couldn't help.”
 
“You're fortunate I was in my car and was close by.”
 
“Yeah,” Crandall said. “We're all just tickled to death at our luck today.”
 Crandall had always been a sarcastic asshole, even out of the operating room, so Carl wasn't surprised by his comment. Looking at the monitor panels, Carl saw that the patient was in much more serious trouble than the nurse on the phone had said. But why was everything going to hell?
He looked back at Crandall. “Why's he on the table?”
 
“Liver laceration
 . . . three knife wounds suffered in a mugging . . . Everything was reasonable for the first few minutes. Got a couple of suture bolts inserted with no problem and was drawing the margins of the first wound together, but then he started leaking like shit . . . even from intact areas of the
organ.”
 Crandall seemed annoyed at having to explain things, as though he expected Carl to just wave a magic wand and bail them out of this mess. Carl glanced at the Foley tube emerging from under the drape. Not good. The urine was tinged with blood. Moving closer, he pulled the drape aside and looked at the IV entrance wound in the back of the patient's hand. Blood was oozing from the margins. He moved to the foot of the table, lifted the drape, and examined the patient's legs. On both shins, he saw scattered sores with fresh blood glistening in their centers.
Bleeding sores . . . but they had crusted edges . . . strange.
Staying on his side, Carl went to the other end of the table, past the blue tent that isolated the patient's head from the rest of his draped body. He gently rolled the upper lip back from the patient's gums. They too, were bloody. He lifted the right eyelid. What should have been pure white was
 
punctuated with tiny hemorrhages.
Thanks . . . thank you very much.
 
“You planning to actually do anything about this problem?” Crandall said. “I can't stand here and compress these bleeders forever.”
 
“Where's the blood work?”
 
“Over here,” the circulating nurse said.
 Carl followed her to a stainless steel countertop. She picked up a piece of paper and handed it to him. Quickly perusing the report, he saw that the patient's ability to form a clot was five times slower than normal. And the amount of the main clotting protein in his blood was dangerously low. A new
freshet of sweat pearled out of Carl’s pores onto his forehead. This was
exactly 
 
 why he shouldn’t have
come. He wiped at the sweat with his arm.
“I guess we'
 ve also got peripheral smears . .
.”
 
“On the computer,” the nurse said, leading him to the work station tied to the blood lab.
  The nurse typed in the patient's name . . . Benjamin Rasco. Suddenly, behind them, the cardiac monitor began to stutter. Carl's own heart, already at a trot, kicked up to a canter. He glanced over at the monitor.  Wrong angle . . . he couldn't read it.
“Heart slipping into ventricular tachycardia,” the anesthesiologist said, in a gas passer's usual
monotone.
Oh great . . .
 Not only was he bleeding to death, the lack of blood was now starving his heart.
“Damnation, what are you waiting for?” Crandall yelled. “Get your ass moving.”
 
“Doctor, the images are ready.”
 Carl looked back at the work station computer screen and saw a menu to choose from. He clicked on the first image from the preoperative smear, and the most bizarre red blood cells he'd ever seen flicked up on the screen. Instead of smooth contours, each of these reds had a large blister on them. He clicked on the second pre-op image and saw the same thing. What the hell?  Then something in the room changed.  The cardiac monitor . . . it was back to a normal sinus rhythm. They'd just gained some time, but probably damned little.
Focus . . . focus . . .
He clicked on the first image taken from a smear made after the uncontrolled bleeding began. Now, the picture was totally different. Instead of intact red cells, there were only fragments.  That confirmed it. Shit.  The guy on the table had DIC . . . Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation . . . coined Death Is Coming by those who had to deal with it.
 The trouble started when the patient’s blood suddenly began clotting all over his body. The clots
blocked the tiny vessels in all his organs. Thousands of little pieces of him were now dying. With all the clotting factors in his blood consumed by the clotting process, blood was also leaking from the damaged  vessels. His reds had fragmented as they were forced through the clots. Carl had encountered five cases of DIC in his career. He had prevailed in all of them, becoming  widely known as the best blood doc in town. Crandall knew it. That's why he'd asked for him and not someone else. But stay in the ring long enough and even the best will catch a haymaker in the face. Carl's keen awareness of that was why he didn't want to be there. After losing two patients to leukemia and another to a bacterially contaminated blood transfusion in the same week, he had closed his practice, needing to be finished with battles where other lives were at stake.  Yet here he was again, up against a clotting problem that shouldn't even be happening. So why
was 
 it? And what's with those sores . . . and the weird red cells?
Can't dwell on any of that now.
He returned to the operating table. Rasco's heart was still banging out a normal sinus rhythm. Despite being given plasma expanders,

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