Hazardous material losses have become so common that they rarelymake headlines. When a tanker truck full of some chemical overturnson the interstate, or a train with a couple of tank cars derails,we see a few helicopter news shots, there is a bit of local fuss,and that's about it. Only when there is serious loss of life andthe need to evacuate an entire city does a hazmat loss seemsignificant. Three thousand people, for example, were evacuated inthe May 25, 2004, fire at a swimming pool chemical plant inConyers, Ga., which drew 150 fire fighters and sent more than 100fume victims to area hospitals but, fortunately, killed only 2,000fish, crabs, and frogs in the poisonous runoff.

Such was not the case 75 years earlier, when more than 120patients, nurses, and doctors died and many more were permanentlyinjured in one of the worst hospital hazmat losses ever, occurringat the Cleveland Clinic. Today, the Cleveland Clinic, located onthe city's main avenue, is a world renowned center for heartsurgery and other cures. It was already well known on May 15, 1929,for many of its physicians, including Frank Bunts, John Phillips,and George W. Crile. Crile was famous as a pioneer in bloodtransfusions and nerve-blocking anesthesia. (His son later becamefamous as a producer for CBS's 60 Minutes.)

In this day of CAT scans, MRIs, and other magical imagingsystems, it is easy to forget that, until the late 1960s, theprimary means of internal examination was either exploratorysurgery or X-ray. Radiological medicine was still in its infancy inthe 1920s; medical institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic wereon the cutting edge of research.

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