Farming community moving on after arsenic poisoning –

I blogged about this when it happened in 2003 (and the suicide of a man who posthumously took the blame), and wondered idly if anything more came of it. Here’s the answer (complete with a what happened in a small ED that night description).

Farming community moving on after arsenic poisoning

By David Sharp, Associated Press Writer | April 26, 2008

NEW SWEDEN, Maine –It has been five years since this tiny farming community was turned upside down by a crime that still baffles: Someone used arsenic to spike the coffee at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church, killing one parishioner and making 15 others violently ill.

Soon those who drank the coffee were throwing up, suffering diarrhea, or both.

The first patient arrived in the Cary Medical Center emergency room in nearby Caribou at 3:30 p.m., and sick parishioners kept pouring in over the next six hours. Dr. Dan Harrigan, an emergency room physician, arrived at work at 6:30 p.m. to find one of the parishioners outside on his knees.

Not knowing what they were dealing with, doctors and nurses at the 65-bed hospital struggled to keep patients’ blood pressure from dropping too low.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. Nurses described countertops and the floors covered with vomit-filled basins, buckets and garbage cans. "Out of 26 years in emergency medicine, I doubt I’ll have another night like that," Harrigan said.

By dawn, one of the parishioners had died, several had been transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, and doctors had figured out they were dealing with a heavy metal poisoning. Laboratory tests later confirmed it was arsenic.

Read the article: several were left with lifelong disabilities, but their community moves on.