September 3rd, 2011

Accuracy of injuries & chemical health hazard question

Alright, this is technically a re-post, but none of the answers to my previous thread answered the medical questions. Thanks again to those who helped with cultural tweaks for my story, though!

Settings: Norway, 1970s & 1980s, and Canada, "now"

Search terms: broken leg permanent damage, shattered leg permanent damage, shattered tibia, comminuted tibia, compartment syndrome, broken arm nerve damage, fractured radius nerve damage, leg brace, leg orthosis, arm brace, arm orthosis, fume exposure immune damage, chemical exposure immune damage.

In my character's back story he is involved in 2 serious car accidents. In the first, he is the only survivor, and is miraculously unhurt physically except for a concussion, but he is exposed to fumes from some sort of chemical that leave him immune-compromised in some way for several years. This one occurs in the 1970s in Norway, and involves at least 2 average family cars and 1 large transport truck.
Question #1: What was in that truck? I need a chemical that would cause long-term but not permanent health problems for a child (8 years old) that would reasonably be transported through Hedmark, Norway in the 1970s. It can be flammable but not highly explosive.

The 2nd car accident happens when he's 18. He's in the back seat of a car on the driver's side of the vehicle. The car he's in is reversing out of a parking stall when another car, going way too fast for a parkinglot, t-bones the car my character is in, colliding with his door. Injuries: severely broken left leg (comminuted tibia & fibula), broken left arm, broken door/window pieces to the left side of the head. No brain injuries, fortunately, but significant scarring to the left side of his face.

In treatment of the leg he suffered compartment syndrom which resulted in some muscle death of the calf area. Soft tissue damage included damage to the peroneal nerve, resulting in drop foot, and also aggravated an old (unrelated) injury to the knee. 20 years later he walks with a leg brace. The brace helps correct the drop foot, keeps his knee tracking correctly, and, to some extent, "supports" his weakened lower leg. He can walk without the brace, but he's quite unsteady. Question #2: Is this reasonable?

The broken arm was a break to the humerus, resulting in damage to the radial nerve. I know that this is possible, and that some patients use a brace on their lower arm permanently after recovering from this type of injury. I would assume that this is more of a strictly supportive brace like the ones worn for tendinitis. Question #2: How likely is it that he wears a arm brace, and if he does, what kind of brace is it? What can he do/not do with his left arm/hand?

Thanks in advance!

Herbal "knockout pills"

Google and the library have failed me, so here goes.  I need a non-lethal drug, preferably plant based, that will knock some folks out when put in their food.

The scene:
Group A has invited group B to a feast, with the intention of drugging them and killing them (group A are noted warriors, so B wants to minimize the risk).  Main character figures out and manages to sneak them out before they're killed.  I know, I know... it would make more sense to just poison them, but I need some of these folks alive for later so I'm gonna just handwave that.  My question is what drug to use?

The requirements:
1.  powerful enough sedative/tranquilizer/soporific to knock out a fairly large man within an hour or so of use, and keep him unconcious for at least a few hours.
2. something that works when ingested at the same time as food (the drug is in the food).  It doesn't need to be flavorless, since there's a lot of pepper in the dish to hide any unusual taste.
3. doesn't have any life-threatening side effects from a moderate dose
4. It must be possible, with concentrated effort, to wake the person up after an hour or two.  It's okay if this involves shouting, slapping them, whatever, as long as they'll be awake enough to stumble around a bit.

I've looked through a bunch of sites on toxic and medicinal plants, and most are either too effective/toxic, or barely do anything at all.  The best possibility seems to be kava-kava, but I'm not sure if it'd be possible to wake someone up while they were under the influence.  Thoughts?

Thanks for all the wonderful ideas!  I've settled on a combination of hashish and alcohol, which ought to do the job nicely.

Studying abroad in the US

Hi everyone,

I have a couple of questions about studying abroad in the US that I'm hoping you guys might be able to help me out with. My character is a nineteen-year-old British student at Swansea University who's doing a joint degree in History and American Studies. Part of the course involves a year at an American university (probably the University of North Carolina or the University of California) but since I've never done anything similar I was wondering:

1) When he gets to the US what kind of help/support would be available to help him settle in? I've been looking around the websites of the various universities and it seems like he'd have a Study Abroad Advisor back in Swansea and there'd probably be an Exchange Student Orientation event, but would he maybe have something like a personal tutor or a student mentor? The information I've found so far seems to be geared more to actually getting to the university rather than what happens once he's there.

2) What kind of university related things would be most likely to stand out as noticeably different to a British guy on his first trip to the States? From lurking around forums and reading a few accounts I've gathered that fraternities and sororities, more regular assessments (mid-terms, pop quizzes etc.) and general cultural differences like language, sports and the weather might take some getting used to, but is there anything glaringly obvious that I'm missing? I've googled terms like "us uk university differences" and found some useful things but I suppose I'm looking for more...personal impressions, if that makes sense.

Thanks very much!