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Heat illness arrives in central Oklahoma

During heatstroke, the person 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.
by Juliana Keeping Published: May 13, 2012

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 happening.”

Heat-related illness

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 caffeinated beverages. She started off the hot day dehydrated and went down hill from there, she said.

Her heat-related illness took her into dangerous territory. A friend called 911.

If untreated, she could have suffered a heatstroke, which is potentially deadly.

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-related calls the Emergency Medical Services Authority received May 5 and 6, days that neared or hit 90 degrees in central Oklahoma.

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 stopped sweating. All were taken in good condition to hospitals, she said.

No. 1 killer

Heat waves rank No. 1 among weather-related causes of deaths, according to the National Weather Service.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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