On Burrows’ smear from two weeks preceding his death, a lab tech, Specialist Matt Rogowicz, had noticed a variety of infection-fighting white blood cells called macrophages that seemed to be distorted and filled with engorged sacs called vesicles. These white cells’ intended activity was to engulf and kill invading bacteria. How could they be in this abnormal state? He wondered if they were dangerous to the patient’s health.
He had consulted Major Mike Grossman, the attending hematologist at Walter Reed, who was a little put out with Matt’s intrusion into his office, and asked, “Sir, what do you make of these white cells? Are they dangerous?” Matt added, “No other lab techs have reported this abnormality in subsequent smears of Private Burrows’ blood.”
This oddity was new to the Major. “I don’t know what these are,” he replied to Matt in a more civil tone.
Dr. Grossman, in turn, consulted the world-renowned experts at the nearby Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). After a lengthy discussion, the examining expert hematologists at AFIP admitted never having encountered this white cell presentation and could not render an opinion to explain its origin or significance.
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