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Hyponatremia Rears its Ugly Head in Global News

eebee's picture

If you haven't heard already, 28 year old Mother of 3, Jennifer Lea Strange, died of hyponatremia earlier this week a few hours after drinking nearly two gallons of water, in an attempt to win a Wii for her children. This was part of a morning radio show competition in Sacramento. Words fail me in describing this tragedy. The lengths radio shows will go to for ratings. 10 employees, including the radio show hosts, have been fired as a result.


Here's one article about it: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070117/ap_on_re_us/brf_water_intoxication


This news story is making headlines as far as Germany and Australia. If there is any tiny little hint of a positive note attributed to this lady's death, it's that 'water poisoning', or hyponatremia has made its way a bit further into households the world over. So maybe now 'soccer' parents will stop telling their 8 year olds to drink water until their pee runs clear.


If you're planning on any hyper-long-distance sporting events, such as A2A 87 miles, look up hyponatremia beforehand. I've seen various cases over the years where skaters kept drinking water throughout the event instead of gatorade, or even salty water, and they ended up in the emergency room. One case was almost fatal, but ended up thankfully being a 6 week or so hospital stay, after he came out of the coma.


Ok now please excuse me while I go scream into a pillow...


kjg's picture

I would like to second

I would like to second ebee's comments and add the following:

- by the end of A2A you may not be compus mentus enough to know what is best for you (and the same goes for those around you who have also skated 87 miles)

- it ia difficult to account for salts/minerals that you have lost through sweating

- check the ingredients of gus/energy bars etc. they may not have as many electrolytes in them as you expect (or any in some cases)

- if you see someone who appears to be drunk/drugged/crazy they may not be..... (Blake has the pictures ;-)

roadskater's picture

Photos, Fuzzy, Fizzy, Soy Sauce Emergency Kit and More

You're right! There's a transformation from just after the finish to a few minutes later.


I was really worried but didn't want to be too forceful about it. I probably was anyway. I remember discussing with eebee who went to look for salt. It had been thrown away by the food providers as I recall. My stuff was unavailable as I had left it on the truck at the steel factory stop to be ported to the awards site. So there I was thinking if I had some salty food or Electromix or anything like that (I often carry soy sauce packs from Chinese food takeout) I would try to get you to eat or drink some of that.  


Whatever else you were unclear about, you were smart to know you wanted medical help and exactly how you wanted that to happen. It was impressive how directly and clearly you stated that once you made up your mind. You had great friends from home with you so we didn't go along, but we worried all evening, even as we ate our nice steaks, I promise.


I'll repeat something for new readers... I don't know if this has happened to you guys, but I get tired of Skaterade after a few short hours. The best thing I've started to do is add lite salt (which also has potassium) or salt. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it helps me not get sick of the sweet in Gatorade.


I've also taken to adding Electromix but at A2A I added too much. Electromix is fizzy and oh boy was that an adventure. In 2007 I hope to switch to another plan for electrolytes. More on this story later if I can stand to tell it!

roadskater's picture

Replace Electrolytes Along With Water

Thanks, eebee, for posting about this. It's very important that we get the word out about hyponatremia. Two folk dear to me have had hospital visits due to this or something similar!  


Surely these folk were unaware of the extreme danger before embarking on this project? Surely the radio station and DJs were unaware of the dangers? If the station management or on-air employees knew, that would be criminal of course. If they didn't know, it still might be found criminal, but it is less sinister I guess.


It also would have been a good idea for the contestants to investigate the subject a bit before attempting the contest. But we don't all investigate before we take what we think are small risks, it's true, and we all risk our lives every day doing something, or not doing something. And of course you can be risking either way, which hardly seems fair! Existentialism!


Still, it's hard to believe the contest didn't have a doctor on site, given how they were careful to get waivers signed, if not medical ones.


The most disturbing part of what I have read is that a nurse called the radio show to say how dangerous this was, and they didn't heed the warning. I wonder if the contestants heard that nurse's call.


Hopefully good will come from this as more people learn about the need for electrolytes and water to be balanced. I know I didn't know much about this subject until KenO had his day of strangeness at A2A...


There were five of us who would normally have skated together in a pack if we could. We could not at this point because each of us needed to skate their own way, being actually too depleted to work together at this point, as I analyzed it at the time...we each had our strengths and they didn't match...Ken was better on level and I was better on ups I think. Anyway, Mark D and Joel S were out there in the general vicinity that day as well. It was a bit hot for that time of year.


I remember speaking with Ken off and on as we took turns passing one another. Just after the right after the thrilling sweeping down and up right bend of Leather Stocking, was the last I saw of him that day, I think it was. We continued our conversation and he said something like, "I have a rule I think. If I throw up I'm going to quit." I said, "That sounds like a very good rule to me!" The last time I passed him, he said, "Knock 'em dead" or "Go get 'em," something like that, and I didn't expect him to finish after that.


But I'll be honest I had no idea he would end up in the hospital, however, or that he was in such danger (and I think at the time he was not in as much as later, by the time he got to the steel plant stop).


As for the drink till your pee is clear I have heard this as a way of knowing when you are properly hydrated before an event, and not as part of a plan of not eating or taking any electrolytes on. I hadn't heard it in the context of during or just after a game. It's important to not be taking in just water afterward, indeed!


Anyway, here's more about the radio show water drinking contest...




I am sad for how many in the world die for lack of water, as I grieve for another person who died from too much (without electrolytes). I'm sure it was just a fun contest for a to make fun of the "wee" pronunciation of "Wii" and they just didn't know it could go so wrong. And I'm sure the courts will decide if they should have known.


eebee's picture

Nurse not taken seriously

Some thoughts based on various news reports I read about the hyponatremia/Wii contest...


Yes the radio station made sure the contestants signed the waivers. However, frivolous lawsuits and waivers have become so commonplace these days, I can imagine nobody really gave a second thought to the danger of drinking 2 gals of water without going to the bathroom.


I understand that the nurse who called in was not at all taken seriously and possibly derided for warning them of the dangers. Some of these morning shows' whole schtick is belittling each other and the general public for cheap laughs.


My Keno story is similar, but I was about 15 mins behind Blake, and by the time I got to the last rest stop (mile 76?), Keno was sitting in a chair. Somebody offered me a drink from the cooler, which I declined because I was gagging. Keno stood up off his chair, believing he was sat on the cooler, which he had been looking straight at! I was pretty far gone so I didn't think much more than "Silly Ken, he needs to sit back down". About 10 mins beforehand I had passed Mark Day, and when the universe in in synch, there's no way I can EVER pass Mark Day on skates, so that should've been a red flag. But on that 2002 A2A, as I passed Mark, I waved and said hi, and concluded his red face and dozey eyes were due to beer. We were all worried about him after he went awol shortly after crossing the finish line. When it gets to that point, time and emergency healthcare are of the essence.

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