As Suzi Sharp worked with a group of volunteers to raise money for a Patriot Guard rider injured in a motorcycle accident, she began to feel ill.
The volunteers were in and out of cars, in and out of buildings, for the May 5 charity event. The high neared 90 degrees.
Sharp, 67, of Edmond, didn't want to complain. She didn't want to ruin anyone's day.
Suddenly, she hardly could stand.
She suffered from heat exhaustion — dizziness and slurred speech, tingly hands and feet, a sluggish feeling, headache and nausea — after too much heat and not enough water to drink.
It sneaked up on her.
“I could hardly stand, I could hardly walk, I was vomiting,” Sharp said. “I just got overheated before I recognized what was
Heat exhaustion is a form of mild shock typically brought on when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place and lose fluids through heavy sweating.
Sharp volunteered for a military charity the night before and drank caf
Her heat-related illness took her into dangerous territory. A friend called 911.
If untreated, she could have suffered a heatstroke, which is potentially
During heatstroke, the individual stops sweating as his cooling system breaks down. That can lead to brain damage and death if the person isn't cooled and hydrated quickly.
The 911 call for Sharp, was one of four heat-
EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said the other calls were for a 22-year-old man who passed out while moving into an apartment, a 56-year-old woman working outside and a man who had
No. 1 killer
Heat waves rank No. 1 among weather-related causes of deaths, according to the National Weather Service.
A 10-year average shows heat kills 115 people a year in the United States, said Bruce Thoren, a meteorologist with the weather service in Norman.
Second to heat is flooding, which kills about 71 people per year, Thoren said.
While the 10-year average for hurricanes is 116 deaths per year, Hurricane Katrina skewed the statistics, Thoren said. The 30-year average for hurricane-related deaths is 47 per year.
Last year the temperature surpassed 100 degrees on 63 days, Thoren said.
On scorching days such as those, EMSA responded to as many as 17 calls logged as related to the heat, O'Leary said.
But the problem is much worse, a longtime paramedic said. Calls for other ailments that aren't recorded as heat-related, often are, said Tony Mc
At the hottest part of summer, paramedics respond to 30 to 50 calls per day of individuals in trouble in the hot sun, Mc
How to respond
Oklahomans are used to extremes — whether it's heat, cold, wind or rain.
“Oklahomans see themselves as a hardy group,” O'Leary said.
Those who think they can beat symptoms of heat illness could be putting themselves in danger.
“The body just can't handle the extreme temperatures over periods of time,” O'Leary said.
People should hydrate for hours before going out in the heat and should take frequent breaks in the shade for more water and cooling off. It's important to steer clear of caffeinated beverages or alcohol, which dehydrate the body, experts say.
Dressing for the weather can help mitigate heat-
McCarty noted that heat cramps are the first sign something is wrong.
“Any time that all starts, they need to get themselves out of the environment and drink good clear liquids like water or maybe Gatorade,” he said.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke should be taken very seriously, he said.
“Once they hit the confusion phase, they probably need to seek professional help to get them cooled back down. Once they've hit nausea and constant vomiting, and confusion, they absolutely must seek medical attention immediately,” Mc
Sharp's friends recognized her symptoms. When she met them at a restaurant, they called 911. A nurse at the establishment put ice in her arm pits, groin area and on the back of her neck. They dressed her in a lightweight shirt while first responders made their way to the restaurant. She was taken to OU Medical Center, where she received intravenous fluids and medical attention.
A few days later, she still felt weak. She said she hopes her story helps
“I wouldn't want anyone to go through even what I went through,” she said.