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Wild Greens

to try it. All four patients showed dramatic improvement; their heart rates increased and their blood pressures were at least partially restored.

Dr. Wheelock had no sooner arrived at the ER than he took a frantic phone call from the Lake Mitchell Trout Club's live-in cook and housekeeper, Gertrude Kimball. He had a hard time understanding what she was saying, but the substance of her story was familiar. She and her husband, Erlund, had joined the others for lunch, as they often did. Erlund, a large and hearty man, had taken ill, too. While trying to get to their living quarters, he had suddenly lost his vision, begun to vomit, and fallen on the stairs. The ER staff decided to send an ambulance for him; Wheelock and Gosselin were urged to accompany the ambulance driver.

The Lake Mitchell Trout Club was only nine miles from the Hospital in Hanover. The road was paved for the two miles into the village of Norwich; then came five and a half largely unpaved miles on Beaver Meadow Road plus another two miles on Mitchell Brook Road and Mitchell Lake Road, both completely unpaved. The route, then and now, has scarcely a straightaway anywhere, and the descent into Beaver Meadow village is still hair-raisingly precipitous. On the way out, Gosselin and Wheelock both sat in the front with the driver.

When they arrived, recalls Gosselin, "I was one of several people manipulating a stretcher on a narrow stairway to the second floor of the clubhouse, loading a victim on it and then into the ambulance." The ride back was wild. "As the senior physician, Seymour rode in the front with the driver," continues Gosselin, "and I found myself in the back sitting beside the patient—or, more accurately, trying to sit beside the patient while being hurtled back and forth in the speeding vehicle. The patient was at least strapped down; I was not." For his part, Wheelock recalls that "the ambulance sped along with its interior lights on, and I, who have a history of debilitating carsickness, was rendered nearly incapacitated by violent vertigo." With vomiting both fore and aft, the trip is still a vivid memory for Gosselin and Wheelock.

Before they left the camp, Wheelock had been presented with a "bouquet" of the suspect plant. As soon as the ambulance arrived back in Hanover, calls were frantically placed to members of the biology department to locate a botanist. One of those who responded was James Poole, now deceased, a professor of

The clinical status of the four patients was unusual to say the least. It was certainly not consistent with anything common. In addition to unrelenting vomiting, they all were suffering from stunning hypotension —abnormally low blood pressure. Some of them were dangerously near shock level.

botany emeritus and curator of the College's Jesup Herbarium; it was he who identified the plant. Poole later published a short report on the incident in the New Hampshire Audubon Quarterly, the only contemporary written account of the affair aside from a few sketchy newspaper articles.

In the meantime, realizing that at least some members of the group were desperately ill, Dr. MacCarty called his son at his dorm and ordered him and Schumacher to report to the ER at once. By this time, the ER was a writhing mass of humanity—with more than twice as many patients as it had been designed to accommodate and far more staff than had ever been in it at any one time. Patients on gurneys had overflowed into neighboring hallways. When Billy MacCarty and John Schumacher arrived, still asymptomatic, they took their place in line behind a patient with an unrelated minor problem. There was some dispute among them over who was entitled to be seen next. The question was settled when Billy MacCarty suddenly and copiously

vomited. Before the affair was over, seven patients had been admitted either to MHMH or to the Dartmouth College infirmary, Dick's House, for stays of at least one night.

A more complete and coherent picture of the events leading up to this mini-epidemic slowly began to emerge. "Dumps" and Harriet MacCarty were perhaps an oddly matched but devoted couple. Both were widely known and admired in the community. Outside of radiology, Dr. MacCarty's passions were hunting and fishing. He often indulged those pursuits at the Lake Mitchell Trout Club, an organization that he headed at one time. The clubhouse was a large, old, rambling Victorian home on the edge of a lake whose pleasantly unspoiled waters were well stocked with fat trout. The surrounding woods contained plenty of deer and other game. Meals at the clubhouse often featured fresh trout, venison, and sometimes even frogs' legs as a special treat. The Lake Mitchell Club was and still is a private club, with an eclectic membership—drawn from the Dartmouth faculty and surrounding communities—of around two dozen.

Harriet MacCarty was not enthusiastic about either fishing or hunting, but in an effort to share in her husband's interests she had taken up cooking and acquired a local reputation as an excellent chef. She specialized in the wild game and fish brought home by her husband and son, and her interests extended in other directions as well. Among them were wildflowers, wild herbs, and other natural delicacies. Some, such as trillium, were used to decorate the table. Others, such as fiddlehead ferns, were for gourmet consumption. On one occasion, she made a considerable amount of elderberry wine.

As a child in Maryland, she had frequently eaten a southern dish made with a wild plant called pokeweed, and she was anxious to share it with others. On that fine May day in 1966, she had come across a verdant patch of greens that she believed to be pokeweed. She'd picked a liberal supply and presented it to Gertie Kimball, suggesting it as an addition to the lunch menu. The shoots were to be cooked in the same manner as spinach or dandelion greens, she explained. Gertie Kimball had grown up on a farm and knew by sight the plant Harriet MacCarty had found. She took a dim view of serving it. "The cows won't eat that stuff," observers recall her saying, "and I don't eat anything that the cows won't eat." True to her word, she did not partake of the dish and was

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