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Mortal Conspiracy

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Mortal conspiracy is a medical thriller that tells a tale of deep corruption, greed, and exploitation in the medical field.

Synopsis

Dr. Brad Pierson, a young pathology physician-in-training, accidentally stumbles across a dark conspiracy involving a greedy insurance giant, a corrupt network of physicians, and the highest levels of governmental power, all aimed at enriching themselves at the expense of patients' health and even lives. This all began with a routine autopsy on a man by the name of Butch Kennedy, who suffered his second and this time-fatal heart attack. This came as a shock to his distraught family since after his first heart attack he seemed to have made a good recovery and had almost returned to his normal life. To get answers, they request an autopsy, the responsibility falls to the twenty-nine-year old Dr Brad Pierson. Nothing out of the ordinary-or so it he thinks until weeks later he happens upon his file again, only to find serious discrepancies with his original report. Puzzled, he reports the the matter to his superiors, not knowing that in doing so, he put his life in danger. To protect themselves and their ill-gotten gains, the conspirators will stop at nothing. Can this honest young physician stand against such powerful forces and expose their machinations before they can silence him forever?

Though the medical field has been vastly corporatized, doctors are still considered God by the common people. For the doctors' part, they too relentlessly work inhumane hours for the benefit of mankind. That said, this novel sheds some light on the darker aspects of the medical field. 


What happens when the doctor you blindly trust has ulterior motives? or is not treating you with your well-being in mind? What does a patient do when the person who's supposed to be a lifesaver becomes the very demon that takes it away? How does selfishness look in a selfless industry? This novel unravels the darker and more corrupt parts of the medical industry. 


I enjoy reading medical thrillers. Though this book was heavy on the medical details and jargon, I found it very easy to get through as I do like reading about the various medical procedures. 


The story was good. The pacing was OK. Some characters irrelevant/unimportant to the plot were introduced in the novel, which could have been avoided. Also, there was a lot of info-dumping throughout the book. Another round of editing might ensure such info-dumpy parts are culled out. 


There were also some scenes in the novel that frankly read like filler scenes to me. For example, there's an elaborate excursion scene & I still am wondering how that scene benefited the plot at all. The characters were neutral. None of them appealed to me quite that much as I did not see much of character growth in any of them including the protagonist. The romance was unimpressive but understandable as this novel's a medical drama. 


Overall it's a decent, well-researched medical thriller with an obvious but compelling plot.  

Reviewed by

An Engineer turned Technical Writer and Copy Editor, I have been a bibliophile throughout my career. Reading books is an obsession and talking about or reviewing them on my blog is my passion. My favorite genres are High Fantasy and Suspense thrillers.

Synopsis

Dr. Brad Pierson, a young pathology physician-in-training, accidentally stumbles across a dark conspiracy involving a greedy insurance giant, a corrupt network of physicians, and the highest levels of governmental power, all aimed at enriching themselves at the expense of patients' health and even lives. This all began with a routine autopsy on a man by the name of Butch Kennedy, who suffered his second and this time-fatal heart attack. This came as a shock to his distraught family since after his first heart attack he seemed to have made a good recovery and had almost returned to his normal life. To get answers, they request an autopsy, the responsibility falls to the twenty-nine-year old Dr Brad Pierson. Nothing out of the ordinary-or so it he thinks until weeks later he happens upon his file again, only to find serious discrepancies with his original report. Puzzled, he reports the the matter to his superiors, not knowing that in doing so, he put his life in danger. To protect themselves and their ill-gotten gains, the conspirators will stop at nothing. Can this honest young physician stand against such powerful forces and expose their machinations before they can silence him forever?



That autumn day in Nashville, Tennessee, had been breezy and sunny. Now

at midnight, a full moon stood tall in the sky, casting its golden beams

earthward and creating reflections of the skyline in the swirling waters of

the Cumberland River as it patiently carved its way through the downtown

area. Even at this late hour, the din of heavy traffic echoed along the shores

of the Cumberland.

The relative tranquility was shattered by the sound of gunfire. Bursting

from the shadows two hundred feet from the shores of the river, a solitary

figure ran from a four-door burgundy Cadillac sedan. Outstretched arms

brandishing handguns protruded through the car’s open windows. The young

man barely escaped death as he jumped down the stairway leading to the river.

With a fierce effort, he landed aboard a river taxi just leaving its dock. Two

men emerged from the Cadillac and chased the young man. Their bullets had

failed to hit their mark.

Five months earlier, a mid-May morning starts out much as it always had for

Butch Kennedy. The air is unusually cool and damp when he arises, chilling

him as he pushes aside the warm bedcovers. While he showers, his wife, Elinor,

prepares breakfast; later, she sits beside him during his meal. Before leaving for

work, Butch reaches for a lightweight jacket and a thermos of freshly brewed

coffee. At the back door, he kisses Elinor, still dressed in her bathrobe and

floppy slippers, and tells her he loves her. On the way to his well-worn pickup

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truck sitting in the driveway, he notices that the darkness is just beginning to

fade as the sun’s first light appears on the horizon. Butch’s warm breath fogs

the air as his gloved hand reaches for the steering wheel of his truck.

On the way to work, Butch travels along a series of winding country roads

that, up until recently, have gone mostly unpaved. Passing one sprawling farm

after another, Butch waves to some of his early rising neighbors, many of whom

are already out on their tractors or tending to their cattle. The morning air

coming in through the truck’s ventilation system is ripe with the fresh scent

of pollen, mixed with the pungent aroma of cow manure. Small flocks of birds

dot the fields on either side of the roadway.

As Butch approaches his workplace, the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee,

he thinks ahead to the schedule and hopes it will be an uneventful day. Slightly

behind on their monthly production quota, the laborers have been grumbling

to him about having to work longer hours for the past several weeks.

After finding a parking spot in the employee lot, Butch wastes little time

getting inside. He reaches his locker and quickly changes into the familiar

attire of blue coveralls and an orange baseball cap. Before leaving the locker

room, he pulls a clipboard from the wall with the day’s work assignments and,

over his first cup of coffee, sits down to briefly review the list. Satisfied that

everything seems to be in order, he stands and hurries to organize his team.

Butch then walks toward the large manufacturing portion of the facility.

The cavernous interior is initially dark, with some early daylight streaming

in through the windows on the south side of the building. Upon entering, he

reaches up to throw the main breaker on the inside wall; the room becomes

brightly illuminated by long rows of humming fluorescent lights. The air

within the facility, heavy-laden with the scent of machine oil, paint fumes,

and metal dust, instantly permeates Butch’s sinuses.

Several of the men and women who assemble the passenger cars and light

trucks are already gathering their tools and getting situated. Butch briefly

inspects each station before allowing any work to commence. For the past

fifteen years, Butch has served as the line foreman for the Japanese company’s

large facility in Smyrna. To those he supervises, he is known as tough but fair.

They greatly respect him. Because of his dedication to the job, he has won

more productivity awards than any other Nissan employee.

Noel C. Scidmore, M.D.

3

After another thirty minutes or so, all the workers have arrived and

taken their positions on the floor. Once Butch determines that everything

is in place, he visually scans the floor one final time. With a nod, he reaches

upward to pull a long cord hanging from the ceiling. A horn blares, and the

steel automobile shells begin their slow, linear march forward. Teams of two

or three men and women perform a single task at each stopping point. They

work ceaselessly; the only hint of their fatigue is the perspiration that falls

uninterrupted from their foreheads. From all across the building, mechanical

wrenches sound out a type of crude melody as bolts are snuggly fit into

place. Loud hammering and high-pitched metal sanders add to the clamor.

As Butch strides back and forth to check on his laborers, showers of sparks

are sent high into the air beside him, with huge robotic arms swinging into

place to weld the steel frames.

Suddenly, Butch catches a glimpse of something that greatly concerns

him. As he sprints across the concrete floor, his cap blows off, but that doesn’t

slow his progress. Just in time, he reaches one of the newer employees, who

was in the process of installing a steering column. The young man had gotten

his pant leg caught in one of the machines and was about to fall backward

before Butch caught him. Acting quickly, Butch releases the man’s foot, which

a moment later would have been crushed. Remarkably, the assembly line has

to be halted for only a moment. With Butch’s assistance, other workers guide

the long metal tube into place. Shaken but grateful, the man peers over at his

boss. Butch pats him warmly on the back and gives him a couple of suggestions.

He then retrieves his cap and continues his surveillance.

As the morning wears on, Butch begins to feel slightly nauseated, and

soon an ache develops in the left side of his chest. For the past two weeks, this

pain had been nagging at him. It seemed to strike him at nearly the same time

each day, which confused him. Believing he had an ulcer, Butch had been

gobbling up antacids. He had even made an appointment with the company

doctor for later in the week. Today, however, the pain is much more severe

than it has been before, and it is accompanied by some lightheadedness. He

waves at the plant supervisor, who is standing in one corner of the building.

The man immediately walks over to Butch.

Mortal Conspiracy

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“Harvey, I’m not feelin’ so good. Could you take over my shift for a few

minutes so I can see the nurse?”

“Sure, Butch. You go and get seen. You don’t look so good. What’s the

matter?”

“I think I’ve got an ulcer, and it’s just killin’ me today. I’m feelin’ a little

dizzy, too.”

“You hurry on, Butch; I can take over for the rest of the day if I need to.”

“Thanks, Harvey; you’re one great guy.”

Butch turns and walks toward Employee Health. After only a few steps, the

ache in his chest dramatically escalates to an excruciating pain that squeezes

the breath out of him. Without uttering a sound, he falls to the floor, gasping

for air. He grimaces as he feels his face strike the cold concrete floor. Lying

on his side, he rocks back and forth, hoping to find relief from the crushing

tightness in his chest. He mumbles loudly to himself as he struggles to

comprehend what is happening to him, “Oh God, I can’t breathe. Let me get

some air before I suffocate. Please, please, Lord, stop the pain! Why does my

head hurt so bad? Am I dying? Dear God, am I dying?”

While Butch writhes around on the floor, he can barely hear the alarms

ringing or the cries of his coworkers as they rush to his side. Harvey is the

first to reach him. Butch can feel Harvey’s hands on his side as he rolls him

over onto his back. Then, feeling another set of hands support his head, Butch

strains to look up to see who it is. The fuzzy image of braided red hair comes

into focus. He slowly recognizes the face of one of his longtime friends and

coworkers, Linda, who is sitting beside him. Next, he feels his coveralls being

pulled down to his waist and his T-shirt being raised to his neck. He hears

Harvey yell at the workers, “Come on, everyone, stand back and give Butch

some room to breathe!”

Butch’s brain is swimming at this point, and everything seems to be happening

in slow motion. Butch’s thoughts drift to his family.

Where’s Elinor? I want to see my wife! Where is she? Someone please call her!

What about David and Suzie? I want to see my children!

By now, Butch can barely hear anything. He futilely struggles to listen to

the conversation of several men who stand over him. Without warning, their

discussion ends and his pain worsens as one of the men begins to vigorously

Noel C. Scidmore, M.D.

5

compress his chest to get his heart back in rhythm. The compressions are

initially uncomfortable, but then Butch’s chest pain begins to wane and his

breathing becomes easier. It seems dark inside the plant. He wonders why

he can only make out the shadowy outlines of the people who stand nearby.

At about that time, the circle formed by the crowd of factory workers

around him opens. So profound is Butch’s weakness that he doesn’t hear the

wailing siren or see the flashing red lights when the ambulance arrives. He

does, however, notice two large male paramedics when they kneel beside him.

Unbeknownst to Butch, the men work at a furious pace. There is, at first

a pinch in one of his arms as they insert an intravenous line, and then comes

the feeling of something cool running into his vein. Next, beneath his nostrils

they place plastic tubing containing oxygen, relieving his struggle for air. He

barely notices when the paramedics lean over him to strap electrodes across

his chest that they will use to check his heart’s rhythm. Then, after prying his

eyelids open, they shine a bright light into his eyes.

Butch’s next sensation is of being hoisted up onto a gurney and then

being wheeled briskly across the plant floor. For the first time, he opens his

eyes to look around. In close proximity are the anguished faces of his friends

and coworkers. They are quickly left behind as he is rushed to the waiting

ambulance. As soon as the back doors are securely fastened, the driver quickly

accelerates. Butch now looks up at the men who are working furiously to save

his life. John, the younger of the two paramedics, continues to check Butch

over carefully, while his older and bearded partner, Charlie, calls into the

Deaconess Hospital in Nashville by two-way radio.

“Let me speak to Dr. Sterling.”

A moment passes. “Yes, Charlie. I’m here. Whatcha got?”

“Late-forties black male. Collapsed while at work. Severe chest pain.

Looks like an mi. Initial pressure 220/118. Pulse 110. Mental status: intact

but lethargic. Rhythm regular. st-segment elevation in anterior leads. We’ve

given two milligrams of morphine iv and three inches of Nitropaste with

good reaction in both systolic and diastolic bps. We’re running five liters O2

through binasal cannula. I’m sending the rhythm strip to you right now by fax.”

“You got any tpa on board?”

“Sure do.”

Mortal Conspiracy

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Dr. Sterling pauses as he reviews the ekg tracing that is now coming off

the fax machine. After his analysis, he returns to speaking to the paramedics.

“Charlie, you’re right, looks like an anterior mi. Give a fifteen-milligram

dose of tpa over two minutes’ iv, and then start a drip at two milligrams

per minute. We’ll aim for a total dose of one hundred milligrams.”

“Got it. Our eta is about ten minutes. I’ll see you then, unless something

comes up.”

John then instills an initial dose of the lifesaving tissue plasminogen activator

through the line in Butch’s vein, hoping to break up the clot that has formed

in the arteries of his heart. As the loud siren wails and the countryside races

by in a blur, Butch stares out the back window of the ambulance, wondering

what will happen to him. The morphine and nitroglycerin go to work in his

body, and his pain begins to subside. He turns his head to watch the clear

bag of fluid that drips slowly into the vein of his left arm. In his sleepy state,

the trip passes quickly. Closing his eyes, Butch prays silently to himself: Dear

God, let me live. You’ve gotta let me have more time with my family. I’ve gotta

see my children grow up. Please, Lord, don’t let me die.

Moments later, the automatic doors of Nashville’s Deaconess Hospital’s

emergency room fly open as two young paramedics propel Butch swiftly inside.

The loud commotion of the er startles Butch. Off to his left, a young girl

screams, while from all over the room, doctors and nurses yell to one another.

Meanwhile, multiple patients stream in the doors beside him. Along one

hallway, a long line of people sit with their families, waiting to be seen by a

doctor. On a stretcher just in front of Butch a young man is groaning loudly.

He wears a rigid neck collar, his body strapped to a long wooden board. Over

his face and chest are several large bruises and lacerations, and on his torn

trousers are multiple dark bloodstains. Beside the man are two firemen, who

describe how they had to cut the young man out of his crushed automobile.

Stopping only momentarily, the paramedics wheel Butch directly into

patient room number one. Paramedic Charlie hollers loudly, “Kennedy in one!”

Dr. James Sterling, tall and thin, with black hair, runs into the room

with two nurses alongside him as they transfer Butch to a hospital bed.

Sterling wastes no time in shouting out orders. “O2, six liters a minute—

oxygen sat monitor—twelve-lead ekg—cardiac isoenzymes—Troponin

Noel C. Scidmore, M.D.

7

I—electrolytes—magnesium—fibrin splits—fibrinogen—and pt, ptt, and

cbc—stat! Get Dr. Peters down here!”

The team works rapidly. While the ekg technician places more leads

across the chest, Butch is taken off the portable monitors and transferred to

stationary wall-mounted devices. Dr. Sterling compares the ekg tracing to

the rhythm strip obtained at the Nissan plant. He, too, notes the presence of

an anterior heart attack, but he is delighted to see there has been dramatic

improvement with the clot-busting therapy. As the two paramedics get ready

to depart, Dr. Sterling lifts his head briefly. “Nice work, Charlie, John. You

did a great job with Mr. Kennedy.”

The men wish their patient the best of luck as their dispatcher sends them

on their next task. Knowing the paramedics have saved his life, Butch struggles

to get out the phrase thank you before they are gone. By now, Butch’s mind is

clearer and he is beginning to hope that he might live.

After quickly assessing Butch’s status, Dr. Sterling performs a cursory

physical exam that includes a neurologic check, listening to his lungs and

heart with his stethoscope, and an abdominal exam. He notes Butch’s slightly

overweight physique and then begins Butch’s patient interview.

“Mr. Kennedy, I’m Dr. Sterling. I will be taking care of you here in the

emergency department. Can you tell me how long you’ve been having chest

pain?”

Butch stares up at Dr. Sterling before he answers, noting the look of

concern in the doctor’s eyes. “A couple of weeks.”

“What about this episode?”

“It came on about twenty minutes before I got dizzy and fell down.”

“Did it radiate into your jaw or shoulder, or cause numbness in your left

arm?”

“This time it hurt my left shoulder.”

“Do you have any history of high blood pressure, prior heart attacks, or

strokes?”

“No, sir.”

“Do you have a history of high cholesterol or triglycerides?”

“Not that I know about.”

“Anyone in the family with heart disease?”

Mortal Conspiracy

8

“My father died of a heart attack when he was sixty-two.”

At that moment, the cardiologist, Dr. Leonard Peters, walks in. He and

Dr. Sterling initially move to a corner of the room to discuss the case.

“Thanks for coming down, Leonard.”

“What’s the story, Jim?”

“Forty-eight-year-old black male with a history of chest pain for two

weeks. Anterior mi forty minutes ago while at work. Pain into left shoulder.

Paramedics on scene in eight minutes. One hundred milligrams tpa given,

with subsequent improvement in ekg and pain. Lab work pending. O2 sat

on six liters 95 percent. Normal neuro and cardiac exam.”

“Where’s the rhythm strip and ekg?”

Dr. Sterling hands the chart to his associate. After reviewing the data,

Dr. Peters examines Butch thoroughly, holding his stethoscope against Butch’s

chest for a long time. After that, he compliments Dr. Sterling on his management

of the case and asks for Butch to be transferred emergently to the cardiac

lab, where he’ll undergo a cardiac catheterization to document the extent of

atherosclerotic blockages of the arteries of his heart. At the same time, an

angioplasty might be performed, where the blockages will be reduced by an

inflatable balloon to improve blood flow.

Transported briskly by two attendants, Butch arrives in the cardiac suite

a few minutes later. Following a thorough explanation of the procedure, he

is transferred to the cold, hard surgical table. The initial preparation is skin

sterilization of the right groin, followed by injection of a local anesthetic. After

a small skin incision is made, Dr. Peters inserts the long metal and plastic tubeshaped

heart catheter into the main artery of the leg and guides it into position

with the help of a fluoroscopic X-ray machine. Once the catheter position has

been verified by Dr. Peters, contrast dye is released, appearing dark gray on the

black-and-white fluoroscopy screen. Plain X-rays are then taken as the dye runs

the gauntlet of vessels. The study shows that Butch has significant narrowing

of the main artery to the heart, the left anterior descending artery. There is

also significant obstructive plaque formation in one of the other major arteries.

Proceeding swiftly, Dr. Peters is able to successfully perform angioplasty on

both arteries. Without sustaining a single complication, Butch is soon on his

way to one of the coronary care units for close monitoring.

Noel C. Scidmore, M.D.

9

Having been called by one of the Nissan plant managers shortly after

Butch’s heart attack occurred, Elinor Kennedy arrived at the Deaconess

Hospital only a few minutes behind Butch. There, she sat anxiously in the

cardiac intensive care unit waiting for Butch’s procedure to be over. When

the nurses informed her that Butch was in his room following the angioplasty,

she ran in and threw her arms around her husband, shouting out; “Butch, you

look so good! I’ve been so worried. Are you okay?” Stoically, Butch nods to

the affirmative, as he is still groggy from the anesthesia; “Elinor, I love you! I

think things are goin’ to be all right.” Elinor then takes a seat beside Butch’s

bed and grasps one of his hands between her two.

Because of the extent of Butch’s disease, Dr. Peters feels that consideration

should be given to cardiac bypass grafting. Luckily for Butch, one of the most

eminent cardiothoracic surgeons in the nation practices medicine at Deaconess

Hospital in Nashville. Dr. Edward Westmoreland happens to be on duty today.

Dr. Peters calls him personally to review the case with him. Dr. Westmoreland

arrives late that evening after finishing his scheduled surgeries for the day. Prior

to evaluating his new patient, he spends a great deal of time reviewing Butch’s

angiography films and chart. Somewhat abrupt, but extremely professional,

the silver-haired Edward Westmoreland introduces himself to Butch and his

wife upon entering their room. First, he asks a series of questions and then

performs a thorough examination. His initial assessment is that Butch may

be a candidate for surgery, but he recommends that a few additional tests be

run first. Next, he pulls out a detailed anatomical diagram of the heart from

his pocket and shows Butch and Elinor the sites of Butch’s significant arterial

disease. He explains that the heart attack was severe, adding that fortunately

the clot-busting therapy given to him in the ambulance has made a significant

impact, thereby minimizing the damage to the heart.

Dr. Westmoreland then explains that the first test, an ultrasound of

the heart, will provide a rough measurement of the functional strength and

anatomy of the heart. If all goes well at that step, then bypass surgery could be

considered. Just before Dr. Westmoreland departs, he asks one final question:

“Most insurance companies now require authorization before I’m allowed to

order any tests. If you can tell me who your carrier is, I’ll get my nurse working

on the approval process right away.”

Mortal Conspiracy

10

Elinor answers, “We’re insured with AmericaHealth. All the workers at

the Nissan plant have been transferred to that insurance company.”

With a nod of his head, Dr. Westmoreland dashes off to see his next

consult. The clock on the wall of Butch’s room now reads 10:00 p.m.

About the author

I am a retired physician. I obtained my bachelor's degree in Biology at Harvard University, my Medical Doctorate from Vanderbilt University, and my speciality training in radiation oncology at Stanford University. During my practice years, I was named physician of the year in Tallahassee. ... view profile

Published on December 27, 2019

Published by

250000 words

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by

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