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Sunday, December 9, 2012


“At first the blood pressure was ninety over sixty. Rubbing his hands together, his fingers felt stiff, his right arm heavy. His blood pressure dropped slightly – 85 over 50 and harder to hear than before.

The pain began in the tips of his fingers. At first he couldn't really call it a pain. It was more of a numbness – an unpleasant lack of feeling. The numbness eventually gave way to a persistent electric discomfort– worse when he pressed down, but not completely gone when he didn't. Huddled in the darkness he tested his fingertips one by one. All of them ached. It was just nerves, he thought.

Then the buzzing pain began in his toes. He began to be frightened. He reached up to his cellphone to call someone. The effort of reaching was excruciating. He glanced at his hands. The fingers and thumbs from the first knuckle to the tip had turned almost black. The rest of his hand was a dusky gray. As time passed his left hand, now fixed in a semi claw was nearly useless. He could work his right arm and fingers, but even slight movements of them sent intense pain shooting up his arm. Then the blood pressure went down to seventy-five systolic. It couldn't be heard in the right arm at all. The arm, from at least the elbow to the hand was dusky and mottled. For whatever reason, the arteries and smaller arterioles supplying blood to that limb had become blocked. To a lesser extent the blood flow to the left arm and both legs seemed compromised as well.

His hands and feet were throbbing. The cold gray hands with their blackened fingertips looked like out of a horror movie. He glanced at herself in the mirror. Something was wrong with his face. It took several seconds to understand the dark streams of blood that had begun winding down from his nostrils, across the top of he lip and alongside the corners of his mouth. He watched as his front turned a deep crimson as stain spread over the groin and legs. He was hemorrhaging from his nostrils and mouth. Fresh and drying blood covered him and was spatter on the floor and wall. Suddenly he threw up and it was all bright red blood. He tried to speak but the words were only in his mind. They would not come out. His vision seemed blurred, and there was glazed fear in his eyes. The left side of his body was paralyzed. Terror beyond any he had ever known took hold.

DIC - disseminated intravascular coagulation – the most dramatic and horrifying of all blood-clotting emergencies. A fatal stroke caused by a cerebral hemorrhage was a terrifying possibility.” (1)

Yasser Arafat, 75, died in a French military hospital near Paris on Nov. 11, 2004. His health had deteriorated suddenly during an Israeli military siege of his Ramallah, West Bank, headquarters. French hospital reports attributed his death to a massive brain hemorrhage, but gave no details on what caused a related blood condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation, also known as DIC.

No autopsy was done at the time of Arafat's death at the request of his wife. But she later filed a lawsuit spurring a French investigation. French medical teams ruled out poisoning and an 8 year Palestinian investigation found no conclusive evidence of foul play. However, In July 2012, tests carried out by the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics as part of a nine-month investigation found traces of polonium in quantities much higher than could occur naturally on Arafat's personal belongings, such as his clothes, fur hat, and toothbrush used in his final days. (2)

Polonium is a highly radioactive element occurring in uranium. The murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, in 2006 was announced as due to Polonium poisoning, but never definitively proven. It has also been suggested that Irène Joliot-Curie was the first person to die from the radiation effects of polonium. She was accidentally exposed to polonium in 1946 when a sealed capsule of the element exploded on her laboratory bench. In 1956 she died from leukemia. According to the book The Bomb in the Basement, several death cases in Israel during 1957–1969 were caused by Polonium. A leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory in 1957. Traces of Polonium were found on the hands of professor Dror Sadeh, a physicist who researched radioactive materials. Medical tests indicated no harm, but the tests did not include bone marrow. Sadeh died from cancer. One of his students died of leukemia, and two colleagues died after a few years, both from cancer. The issue was investigated secretly, and there was never any formal admission that a connection between the leak and the deaths had existed. (3)

But, for imagination's sake, is it possible to visualize what could have happened to Arafat? How would the polonium contamination get on his hat, his clothes, his toothbrush? Wouldn't someone have to have transported and opened a sealed capsule of the radioactive material? And wouldn't they themselves be exposed? Perhaps in this day of suicide bombers, that is of no concern to some terrorists. Where would the terrorist obtain the polonium? There probably is a black market for everything – or a government could easily provide it from their uranium stockpiles. But just as we never found out who, beyond the actual assassin, was responsible for killing John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, this too will probably remain a mystery.

By November 24, 2012, Arafat's body had been exhumed from its concrete encasement, samples taken, and he was reburied. Testing will be done in Switzerland, France, and Russia with results expected in a few months.

  1. Based on a fictional account of DIC in “Natural Causes” by Michael Palmer
  2. Los Angeles Times, “Remains of Arafat to be exhumed” by Maher Abukhater & Mark Magnier
  3. Wikipedia

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