Intense heat can kill even those who are healthy

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 4 at 6:15 AM

Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- The extreme heat we are experiencing is not just affecting those who already have health problems, but healthy, in-shape people as well.

And one family is hoping that by telling its most personal story, lives will be saved.

For a family in Waveland, the warnings we all hear on the news about the dangers of this heat are all too real. On Tuesday, the Renz family buried one of its beloved relatives.

"I just don't want this to happen to anybody else. Nature is more powerful than the human being is. Take care of yourself and don't do this to your family," said a distraught Liz Renz, who just lost her husband.

In her saddest moment, she thought about helping others by telling her husband's story.

Donald Renz, 51, was proud of his new healthful lifestyle. He had lost 40 pounds and he was doing what homeowners do on their time off. He was working on his yard.

It was a little after midday last Thursday, June 28, in the extreme heat when a neighbor noticed that the weedwacker was no longer making noise, so he came over to check on Don, but it was too late. He was already slumped over. The only one home was what he called "man's best friend," his beloved westie, Dixie.

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this close-knit family that grew up in Kenner said goodbye to a father, husband, brother and first time grandfather-to-be.

"Don was a family guy. That's the best way to explain it. He was raised that way with our mom and dad and with his family, his wife and kids. Family was the world to Don," said his brother Deacon Eddie Renz.

LSUHSC emergency doctors say it's not only the very old and young or people with heart disease and diabetes who are getting seriously sick from the heat. Healthy people like Don are also being affected.

"We are now seeing people (patients in the E.R.) where the first symptoms are confusion and vomiting and things like that. We've had a number of people in the last couple of weeks who, according to the family, say they looked fine and then all of a sudden they were close to a coma," said Dr. James Aiken, an LSUHSC Emergency Medicine specialist.

Doctors say if you're thirsty, it may be too late.

"What we fear the most about heat related illnesses, that your judgment is rapidly affected and people do not know, none of us know truly how much fluids we need in weather such as this," explained Dr. Aiken.

Don had just 15 feet left to weed before he would have been done.

"All us guys have been there before. We've done pushed ourselves to the point of where we feel lightheaded and we feel dizzy and we sometimes, we stop and sometimes we don't," Eddie said. "Let this be a lesson. Stop, go take the water, get the electrolytes, rehydrate yourself before you finish. The grass can wait."

Doctors say it's not enough to drink plenty of water in this heat. Mid-day sun must be avoided.

They say the first symptoms are thirst and sweating. That can rapidly become serious when you no longer sweat and get cramps, nausea and confusion.

If you have heart disease, diabetes or are very young or old, in minutes the heat could become fatal.

Editor's note: Medical Reporter Meg Farris thanks the family for taking time to help educate others during this most difficult and sad time.

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