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Circa 2000

Drink More Water.

 

Silence.  Darkness.  Weightlessness.  Floating.  Warmth.  Pleasant.  Like a dragging audiotape, my mind slowly starts to function and slide up to speed.  I’m not uncomfortable; in fact this semi-dream state is rather interesting.  But where am I?  Why can’t I see anything?  I hear voices, many voices.  Maybe I should wake up?

 

Now, I'm on my back, riding a high-speed elevator, I feel g’s as I am accelerated upward.  Looking up, a pinpoint of light expanding fast; rapidly it fills my field of vision.

 

Ah, a face!  A rather attractive lady; but who is she?  What is she saying?   And why is she pouring cold water on my chest?  Video operational, now the audio kicks in.

 

“He’s breathing better,” the face exclaims.  “Look, his eyes are opening.  I think he’ll be alright!” she continues.

 

“Who is this woman?  Why is she pouring that cold water on me?  And what is she talking about?” my fully operational mind screams into my consciousness.  Consciousness replies, “It’s you, dummy, you been out of it!”

 

I realize that I’m lying in the Suburban, the seat is rolled back, people all around.  My wife, Jane, and this other lady are pouring water on me and wiping my face.  In the background I can hear a siren getting closer.  Slowly, the light gets dim, the audio fades but the mind stays partially functional.  “What’s happened?”  I ask.  Consciousness does not answer.

 

For the next half hour, I am in and out of consciousness.  Reality is a blur of images and sensations: a bumpy ride on a gurney, IV’s being started, heart monitor beeping, being nauseated and then violently ill, “we may have a cardiac” shouts an EMT, staying back and forth during a high speed ambulance ride, being concerned/scared, and the what ifs.

 

At the hospital Emergency Room, the IV rapidly pours fluid into my veins and my mind regains full functionality.   Jane and I are in Douglas, Georgia, working the second day of the Wings Over South Georgia Airshow.  As the mental fog clears, I remember that the show was over; we had recovered all the equipment.  I was not feeling real well; after all it had been a long, hot day.  I sat down in the Suburban, drank another bottle of water then, went back to work.  I was hooking up the equipment trailer – when the “tape” abruptly ends.

 

Jane filled in the gaps:  “You were hooking up the trailer when the color drained from your face, you turned from the trailer, took a step or two and dropped like a rock.”  Oh yes, I remember, the grass turned purple!

 

Jane continued, “People came running from every direction.  They put you in the Suburban, turned the A/C on full and we started pouring water on you.”  Ok, that explains the attractive woman pouring cold water on my chest. 

 

By this time, Jane’s wifely concern turned to anger.  She harshly admonished me for allowing myself to get so dehydrated by saying, “YOU are the one always telling people to drink plenty of water and look at you!” 

 

“No one ever listens to the announcer!”  I replied.  Wrong answer – those blue eyes drilled right into me, but I had learned valuable lessons.

 

I had personally experienced insidious dehydration and the onset of Heat Exhaustion.

 

Insidious because I had been drinking what I thought was plenty of water.  I had not been thirsty.  I was still perspiring.  I felt a few, minor symptoms, but I ignored them thinking it was just fatigue from the long, hot day. 

 

“Heat Illness?  Not me!  I live in the south.  I work outside all the time, I’m used to the heat.”  I had thought to my macho self.  “Dummy!  It came close to killing you.” spoke a little voice inside my head.

 

I have seen many other people overcome by the heat.  But in my “superiority” I knew it could never happen to me.    

 

“I’m a graduate of military survival school in Panama .  I spent over a year in South East Asia .”  I argued.  “Yeah, but you are 52 years old now.” the little voice countered.

 

I was trying to think of a come back when, sensing victory, the little voice started again, “What if?  What if you had been driving the Suburban?  What if you had been on take-off roll?  What if, what if?”

 

“All right – All right!  Lesson learned.  I’ll pay more attention to my fluid intake.  I’ll make sure I drink enough to maintain urine output.  I’ll drink more then I think I have to – OK!” my conscious mind admitted. 

 

“Good.” Said the little voice.  But it had to take one more jab, “How many ‘unexplained’ airshow accidents have been caused by insidious dehydration?  Maybe you should tell your friends!”

 

Well friends, now I have.

 

 

Side Bar:

 

Jane has always wondered what would happen if “something happened” away from home.  Well, “something happened” and we found out what happens in Douglas Georgia. 

 

What happens in Douglas is that some very wonderful people step forward and provide everything possible to assist those in trouble.  I was cared for by a compassionate, professional medical team.  Our equipment was cared for by new friends, people we still do not know, who took the time to care for and protect someone else’s  “things.”  We were folded into the embrace of community of people who did not really know us, yet cared for us as friends and neighbors, cared for us as if we were one of their own.

 

After all those tests and two bags of IV fluid, the ER staff said we could go home.  In our case, home was a motel room and we had no transportation.  We found out taxi cabs were hard to get in Douglas, so the attending Emergency Room physician, Dr. Music, said he would give us a ride back to the motel when he got off duty.  Try that in your big city!

 

As we waited in the ER Waiting Room, Airshow Committee member, Bob Porter, walked in to check on us.  He offered us a ride back to the motel and Jane was again amazed when he offered to fly us home, to Anderson, if we did not feel up to the drive Monday. 

 

The type of place Douglas Georgia is was brought into sharp and clear focus by this little episode; it is a community in which I would be proud to call home.  For, not only does Douglas Georgia know how to produce a great airshow; Douglas Georgia knows how to be a great place with great people.

 

Thanks, Douglas Georgia!  Thanks, EAA Warbirds Chapter 10! 

 

Thanks for a great airshow!  And thanks for proving small town American values are alive and well, living in South Georgia.

 

Side Bar 2:

 

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke, do the following:

1.           Acclimate yourself to hot weather.

2.      Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.

3.      Cover your head when outdoors.

4.      Drink water often, drink more then you think you need, don't wait until thirsty.

5.      Drink extra water if you sweat heavily. If urine output decreases, increase your water     intake.

6.      Replenish lost electrolytes and salts using a “sports” drink.

7.      If you become overheated, improve your ventilation. Open a window or use a fan or air conditioner. This promotes sweat evaporation, which cools the skin.

8.      During heavy work or exercise, splash water on your body and take periodic breaks in the coolest place you can find.

9.      If at any time you feel the least bit woozy, quit your activity and call it a day. Although that may mean losing a few hours of work or recreation, it's better than losing your life.

 

Your risk and susceptibility to heat related illness increases with:

1.      General effects of aging.

2.      Alcohol or other drug abuse.

3.      Chronic illness, such as diabetes or blood-vessel disease.

4.      Recent illness involving fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea.

5.      Hot, humid weather.

6.      Working in a hot environment.

7.      Loss of body fluids from sweating and failure to drink enough replacement fluid.

8.      Heavy, restrictive clothing.

9.      Severe fever.

 

 

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