Chapter 9: Santa Clara Coroner

From my debut novel

February 6, 2020
Payman found Bita dead in their bed on the morning of February 6, just 17 days after Bita could not go to work. Some days, she said she was feeling much better and ready to get up and go to work, but she noticed as soon as she got up she felt too weak, and would fall over.

She spiked a fever again and found herself in bed the entire day. Payman wanted her to go to the emergency department in a nearby hospital, but Bita refused because it would have cost a fortune, and they wouldn’t have been able to pay it. She told him she would be okay if she just rested.

Payman noticed that Bita had stopped coughing and waking him up constantly that night. He had a good night’s sleep for a change, without being interrupted by her movements or coughs. Now, he found her dead, not moving at all and already cold to touch.

Sheer panic set him off, and he ran around the apartment, not knowing what to do. Bita’s parents said to call the ambulance. The kids were dumbfounded and kept shaking their grandmother to get up. Payman called 911 and frantically reported that his wife was dead. The 911 dispatcher sent the ambulance within 10 minutes. The ambulance workers then called the county coroner’s office and the police department.

Soon the whole apartment perimeter became like a crime scene with yellow tape all over the place, a few neighbors gathering to see what was going on in their building, and a white truck with a huge CORONER sign parked nearby. No one could go into Payman’s unit.

Bita’s parents went outside, escaping from the sight because they couldn’t distinguish whether these police officers and other people from the coroner’s office were from the immigration office. All government agencies in uniform were a danger sign to them, and they ran as far away as possible from them.

The kids and Payman were standing outside when the investigation began, not knowing where exactly Bita’s parents were. They probably went out to the nearby park, Payman thought.

Photo by Keira Burton





One police officer asked Payman for the details of how he found his wife dead. He thought they were treating him like he was already a criminal who killed his wife. Somehow, he was stuttering like a guilty person answering the questions. The police made him come back into the bedroom where Bita was still lying in their bed. Payman worried his grandkids would run somewhere to find their grandparents while he was trying to answer what happened that morning when he found his wife dead.

The coroner workers were wearing white coverall suits and taking photos as the police officer directed. Then they moved the body and took Bita into the coroner’s truck. Payman signed the paperwork to give permission to conduct an autopsy at the county coroner’s office by the medical examiner. All these steps were new to him. He did not know why she had to get an autopsy. The police officer said all deaths occurring at home need examined by the medical examiner for possible homicide, or suicide. There was no other information given to Payman as to when he could get the body back for funeral arrangements, and he couldn’t think about asking appropriate questions. He did whatever the police and coroner’s officers asked

By the late afternoon, they were all gone. Bita was also gone. The only remaining thing was the yellow tape around his unit, and a part of his building entrance. He went out to find his grandkids and in-laws. Luckily, they were standing across the street and Payman went to them, hugging all of them, and cried. They all joined in and began to wail.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner was Dr. Melissa Jordan, who conducted the full autopsy on Bita, including her brain. She signed off on the cause of death on the certificate as pneumonia. Bita’s lungs were heavy and congested with serosanguinous fluid within the pleural cavities. It fit well with a flu caused by influenza, as per the patient’s history of symptoms. Influenza causing pneumonia claimed thousands of lives per year. Dr. Jordan did not see any telltale signs of murder. She sent the blood sample and pieces of lung sample from Bita to the CDC as a precaution to rule out other possible infectious etiology. Bita was only 57 years-old when she died.

Read the entire novel. All of the author’s royalties are donated to those in need. Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P7486XX

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Now in paperback: A female perspective on Covid-19, life, medicine and God

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The Unseen Doctor

Ms. Apple is a practicing pathologist…she brings a perspective to the effect of the pandemic that unfortunately is seldom seen, and millions would be enriched and informed by her unique vision…The story begins with a woman intern pathologist arriving on Hart Island to an unimaginable scene of mass burials. The web of relationships and events expands to an international scope. This is a medical but personal story, not a political one. I hope everyone can read and share this book, whose proceeds are going to charity.

—Book reviews on Amazon
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Thanksgiving. What’s on God’s mind?

November 20, 2020
In the Book of Amos, Chapter 4: 1-13, God speaks through his prophet Amos that He sent several hardships and tragedies to wake up the people of Israel. God is humorous calling the privileged women of Israel, “Listen to me, You Fat Cows living in Samaria.” God was referring to the women who are pampered, sleek and well fed who selfishly oppress the helpless in order to support their lavish lifestyles. The Lord God sent famine, lack of rain, striking farms and vineyards with blight and mildew, locusts devouring figs and olive trees, plagues, killing young men in war, the stench of death filling the air and still the people of Israel did not return their hearts to God who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds and reveals His thoughts to mankind. He turns the light of dawn into darkness and treads on the height of the earth. The Lord God of Heaven’s Armies is His name!

Almost two days, we had a dense fog in the mornings in Southern California. I couldn’t see just 6 feet away. Just a month ago, we had severe fires close to our mountains with eerie orange sky with soot on the very street I cannot see due to fog. 

Photo by Sippakorn Yamkasikorn from Pexels

As the Thanksgiving Holidays approaches, I am thinking and looking back what a tumultuous year this 2020 has been, thus far.  God allowed the world to experience the pandemic with a novel coronavirus with the death count of 1.34 million as of today and 55.6 million infections. The US leads the way with the death count of 252K and 11.8 million infections. It is still unbelievable that US is the top country to be affected by this unfortunate COVID-19. We are used to leading the technology, medicine, economy, wealth and respect for human rights and democracy but not in the viral infection rate, and I am embarrassed about this.

This year, we had seen the invisible and formidable virus affecting nondiscriminatory way; now we see our immediate families, friends and coworkers getting infected by the virus. We had more fires than any other years in southwestern states. We had more hurricanes in eastern states than any other times and we even ran out of naming the hurricanes and used the final alphabet letter Z, zeta 2020. We had the world’s largest hornet called Asian Giant Hornet, better known as murder hornets in Washington state alarming to infest the country. This is reminding me of the Amos time when God sent sequential calamities. 

Independence Hall, PA, site of the ratification for independence

These incidences are on top of the usual natural calamities such as tornadoes and floods, not to mention our man-made tragedies of racial discrimination outbreaks and violent demonstrations and looting. And to top it off, the election year for presidency manifested how our country is divided and the first time ever in 244-years-old history where our very definition of democracy is questioned by the current president not conceding since the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the US Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

Is God saying anything to us? Is He saying return to me as He said through Amos for the people of Israel? Are we still ignoring God because we did not get the message? Is God allowing all these calamities for us to turn our heads toward Him? It is impossible to know what is in God’s mind.  

With Thanksgiving holidays coming around the corner,  I can reflect and even the very question what is the meaning of all these? What a year 2020 has been thus far! Still, I have this life, the miracles of time that I breath in this very life is not my own to waste. Each day is precious. Tomorrow is not promised nor guaranteed. And I am thankful for just the fact I can breathe.

Who can possibly fathom what’s on God’s mind. I do not know the meaning of all the happenings in 2020. What I do know is I have life today and I will choose to listen to what God has to say to me today with thanksgiving heart.