Today, it’s our great pleasure to bring you this exclusive interview from one of the characters from Lin Wilder’s The Fragrance Shed by a Violet. Paula Livingston, sister to Dr. Lindsey McCall, agreed to an interview conducted by MRS N and we think you’ll be surprised by her candor. Welcome, Paula. Please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Paula Livingston, the older sister of Dr. Lindsey McCall, world-famous Interventional Cardiologist and Researcher. I am a cardiac nurse, single mother of three and until very recently, the main caregiver for our desperately ill mother. Mom died because Lindsey used her non -FDA approved drug Digipro to augment Mom’s failing heart. But Mom’s heart was too damaged from long-term cardiomyopathy, Lindsey’s drug pushed it too hard.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The life I am living right this very minute. Finally, the great Lindsey McCall knows what it’s like to feel alone, frightened, and hopeless. Exactly the way I have felt most of my life. This journalist, Kate Townsend, is getting a Pulitzer Prize for the story she wrote about Lindsey. And Lindsey sits in Huntsville Prison because she murdered our mother. How perfect is that?
- What is your greatest fear?
That I am an alcoholic, that I’m addicted to drugs. That I can no longer control how much I need to drink. The shaking in my hands scares me. And there have been too many instances of blackouts where I can’t remember what happened. I think they are increasing. My coordination is getting worse as well.
- What is your current state of mind?
I am ecstatic. Lindsey’s drug Digipro works-it’s been approved by the FDA. She did it, revolutionized the treatment for heart failure but she’ll be in prison for years. But I admit I am a little worried about the reporter. I don’t think Kate Townsend likes me.
- On what occasion do you lie?
I’ve been lying since I was twelve. When I began to drink. To Mom and Dad, to just about everyone, teachers, boyfriends, husband and kids. It’s an art, lying. And requires enormous creativity and memory. Because it’s critical to remember the lies, if you forget the lies, then the problems start. I never forget.
- When and where were you happiest?
I was a really happy kid. We moved all over the country because Dad was in the Air Force. I never minded because making friends came so easily to me. But when I was almost eleven, Mom had Lindsey. And I had to help her with the baby. At first, it was okay, she was kind of cute but then it wasn’t. Mom was tired a lot. She probably had the cardiomyopathy long before she was diagnosed. And Mom expected more and more of my help after school. So I started lying about homework and studying with friends. I guess the lying started even before I started drinking.
Title: The Fragrance Shed By A Violet: Murder in the Medical Center
Author: Lin Wilder
Genre: Medical Mystery, Courtroom Thriller
Publisher: Wyatt-Makenzie Imprint
Why did a Houston district attorney decide to involve the state in an area of the law that it has historically treated as sacrosanct: that of medical decision-making? Why did the DA decide to charge McCall with murder rather than criminal negligence in a civil court? Author Lin Weeks Wilder continues Dr. Lindsey McCall’s story in the new book, “The Fragrance Shed By A Violet Cover: Murder in The Medical Center”.
In a city where the Texas Medical Center reigns as one of the top employers in Houston, housing over three thousand medical researchers making the news with new pharmaceutical discoveries almost daily, why did twelve Houstonians unanimously decide to convict Dr. McCall for intentional murder following her trial?
These are the questions that lead investigative reporter Kate Townsend to write a Pulitzer Prize winning series called Murder in the Texas Medical Center. Haunted by the knowledge that her new-found fame has been purchased at too high a price; Kate is sure that McCall is not guilty.
Texas Governor Greg Bell hires former homicide detective and criminal defense attorney Rich Jansen to fix the escalating problems at the Huntsville Prisons recently inflamed by a lawsuit against infamous inmate Dr. Lindsey McCall. Dr. McCall is an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, researcher, and a 2002 nominee for the Nobel Prize for Medicine. When Jansen’s skills quickly result in the resignation of an incompetent prison medical director, he realizes that this strange saga is just beginning.
Mark Twain wrote that forgiveness was the fragrance shed by a violet upon the heel of the boot that has crushed it. This medical mystery weaves together the lives of two sisters, Lindsey, and Paula, with those of strangers as each cope with loss, betrayal, jealousy, and the exquisitely painful journey to forgiveness.
Wilder’s second edition of her debut novel has it all. Mystery, romance, and dysfunctional family relationships wrapped up in a tale of big pharma and medicine. Literary Fiction Review dubbed it ‘A story fragrant with love and forgiveness’: https://literaryfictionreview.com/fragrance.php
She lay listening to the unfamiliar night sounds: the pacing of other sleepless prisoners, the occasional echo of a heavy-footed guard making his rounds. Mostly though, she waited for the terror of the dream to subside, for the iron bands around her heart to loosen, and for the awful pressure on her chest to lighten so that she could breathe. And she waited for her heart to climb back down into her chest and out of her throat.
The dream was a familiar one. It had begun four years before following the sudden death of a fifty-two-year-old man whose heart she had catheterized. Dr. Lindsey McCall had surgical hands—a reference to the skill and dexterity that she brought to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the University of Houston General Hospital. A colleague had made the comment during rounds one day during her cardiology fellowship at Houston General, and it had stuck.
There had been no reason for his death. Nate Morrison was a healthy senior executive with Southwest Oil, one of the largest oil conglomerates in the world. During his annual physical, Morrison had been referred to Houston General for a work up based on nonspecific changes in his cardiac diagnostic tests.
Upon reviewing his tests, Lindsey had suspected that the man’s coronaries might be clean—free of coronary artery disease. She was well aware of the numbers. Of the sixty thousand cardiac catheterizations performed each year in the United States, over 30 percent revealed clean coronaries: absence of plaque in the vessels supplying the heart with oxygenated blood. And the procedure was not benign. Complications of cardiac catheterization were not uncommon and ranged from mild hematoma to death. In twelve years, Lindsey had done over five hundred cardiac catheterizations and over three hundred angioplasties. She had never lost a patient.
But close to 75 percent of the revenue of her department was due to referrals from doctors practicing in Texas and the Houston metropolitan area; the physicians at Southwest Oil referred hundreds of patients to Houston General per year, usually for an angioplasty or cardiac cath. Furthermore, McCall was well acquainted with the financial realities of her profession—turning down lucrative procedures like cardiac catheterizations was not smart.
For some reason she could no longer recall, she, rather than one of the cath lab nurses, had gone to see this man the night before the procedure. While she had been reviewing the potential complications with her patient and obtaining his informed consent, Morrison had asked with a wink, “Just how many patients have you lost in your twelve-year career, Dr. McCall?”
His quick-grinned response to her answer had been, “Well then, let’s you and I make sure that I’m not the first, deal?”
Lindsey could picture that conversation as if it had happened a moment ago. Fourteen hours later, he was dead.
As she had done hundreds of times before upon awakening from the dream, Lindsey lay there second-guessing herself— asking all the questions that had been asked by his family, by the morbidity and mortality committee at the hospital, and by her chairman of medicine. The final diagnosis had been sudden death due to a massive left ventricular infarct most likely from coronary spasm. Neither his family nor the hospital held her responsible. There had never been even the suggestion of negligence on her part.
Her technique had been flawless. She had been calm and confident throughout the two-hour procedure, explaining what she was doing to her patient and laughing at his quick-witted responses. Lindsey had completed the injection of dye into the man’s left anterior coronary artery, and after satisfying herself that it, too, was free of plaque and had almost completely extracted the catheter from his coronary in preparation to end the procedure was when she heard the startled cry of her technician.
“Lindsey, he’s fibrillating, he’s fibrillating!”
For just a second, her gaze met that of her lead tech, Ben, who responded to her unspoken question. “He’s been in sinus rhythm for the whole exam—there was never any arrhythmia, not even a PVC!”
Ben was referring to premature ventricular contractions that are frequently harbingers of serious cardiac arrhythmias. Lindsey trusted this guy implicitly; they had worked together for over ten years. If Ben said there had been no warning of this potentially fatal arrhythmia, she believed him. So she and her staff went to work, certain that in just a few minutes, they would get control and be back to the routine work of winding down the procedure.
But they couldn’t.
They had worked for over three hours, along with six members of the hospital’s on-call code team who had responded to the emergency in the Cath lab. They were never able to restore a normal cardiac rhythm, despite massive amounts of antiarrhythmic and other emergency drugs along with numerous attempts at electrical defibrillation.
That was the last time she had accepted a patient for catheterization.
The chairman of Medicine at Houston General had spent hours with Lindsey over that first year following the death of this patient trying, in futile attempts, to help her forgive herself. He had known her since she had been accepted into the cardiology fellowship almost fifteen years earlier and had followed the young woman’s career at first with interest and later with excitement.
Dr. Simon Bayer was known to many as the cardiologists’ cardiologist. He too had been excellent in diagnostics, research, and in education. Author of several textbooks and principal investigator of countless experimental drug protocols, Dr. Bayer was internationally admired and respected. But in close to forty years as chairman of Internal Medicine at Houston General, Dr. Bayer had never before seen the talent exhibited by this young physician.
Early in her fellowship, Lindsey had talked with Dr. Bayer about her preliminary doctoral work with alteration of the molecule for digitalis. At that time, he had listened politely. Lindsey remembered sensing that her chairman believed she was chasing windmills—the drug had been around forever after all.
For centuries, physicians have treated heart failure with digitalis. Its effect on strengthening a failing left ventricle—the main pump of the four-chambered heart—remains unparalleled. But the drug has serious systemic side effects ranging from mild to potentially fatal depending on dosage and frequency. Lindsey had become interested in the drug in high school when her mother had been diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy— heart failure of unknown origin—at the age of forty-three.
Cardiomyopathies are a strange and almost-universally-fatal type of heart failure. Thought to be caused by a virus, the actual mechanism of disease is poorly understood. But the course of the disease is all too well known: increasing heart failure and incapacitation over time and death if not treated with heart transplantation. Despite living fifty miles from the premiere transplant center if the world, the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Lindsey’s mother would not consider transplantation. That she lived for close to thirty years without surgical intervention was considered a minor miracle by her physicians. Then, as now, digitalis was the drug of choice for heart failure, and so the balancing act of dosaging began—sufficient medication to keep the heart out of failure but not so much as to cause severe nausea and vomiting and toxicity to the heart.
Before her illness, Lindsey’s mom had been physically active with many outside interests and lots of friends. Although she had never worked outside her home, she had been active in volunteer and church work. The disease completely changed her personality; Ann became incapable of focusing on much other than her symptoms and the acute anxiety brought about by the facts of her disease and incapacitation.
Only thirteen at the time, Lindsey handled the virtual loss of her mother through intense study: of the heart, of her mother’s disease, and of the drugs that manage heart failure, specifically digitalis. This intellectual response to loss, crisis, and fear worked exceedingly well for the young girl and would become her major response to trauma throughout her life.
At the age of seven, Lindsey had decided that she would be a cardiologist and a research scientist; the acute onset of Ann McCall’s illness served to augment and crystallize Lindsey’s ambition. Throughout her junior and senior high school years, the young girl persuaded her chemistry and biology teachers to support her determination to alter the digitalis molecule in ways that would optimize its inotropic or strengthening effects on the heart, while mitigating its toxic effects.
Recognizing and respecting his daughter’s ambition, Tom McCall, Lindsey’s father, a NASA test pilot, made certain that Lindsey received the best of what the Clear Lake Texas schools offered in their advanced science courses. Therefore, Lindsey received quality tutors throughout the six years of junior and senior high school. Lindsey McCall’s cardiac models were entered at each science fair and, without fail, received first prize.
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Lin Wilder holds a Doctorate in Public Health and has published extensively in fields like cardiac physiology, institutional ethics, and hospital management. In 2005, she switched from non-fiction to fiction. Her series of medical thrillers are situated in Houston, Texas with many references to the Texas Medical Center where Lin worked for over twenty-three years. Her latest book is A Price for Genius. All her books are available at Amazon.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Dr.-Lin-Wilder/e/B007L380OM
About Me https://about.me/lin.wilder