Now that summer has loomed over the country, it’s more important than ever that we stay aware of the heat and formulate ways to keep ourselves protected from it.
Temperatures continue to rise and prevention is always better than cure, so although treatment for sun damage is typically easy to attain, it’s much simpler and healthier to stay safe to begin with.
Unfortunately, the risks of the rising heat aren’t as well-known as we’d like them to be, and there are many who are simply unaware of how dangerous the hot summer sun and the sweltering climate it induces can be.
This can potentially lead to very grave consequences – and, sadly, for this family, it did.
Elijah Mikel was spending the day out at a nature trail with his caretaker in Lawrence, Kansas, on the 11th of July. It was 102 degrees out, and the 18-year-old had only been outside for about 15 minutes when he suddenly fell gravely ill.
He was unable to stand up or move again, so the caretaker hurriedly contacted Elijah’s parents.
Elijah’s mother and father rushed to the scene and found him propped against a tree, seated on the ground and slumped forward. His eyes were beginning to roll back into his head.
His mother was absolutely horrified, and when his father – a registered nurse – began to scream in horror, she knew it was incredibly serious.
They quickly called for emergency help, and first responders were on the scene in half an hour. But by that point, Elijah’s temperature had soared up to a terrifyingly high 108.8 degrees.
Medical professionals worked as hard as they could to bring his temperature back down, but nothing they did was working. That same day, Elijah passed away due to heat exhaustion.
Dr. Steve Lauer, who is the Chair of Pediatrics of the University of Kansas Health System Associate, explains that once the temperature of the body exceeds 104 degrees, the internal heat will begin to wear down all the muscles in the body at an alarming rate – and the heart is, in fact, a muscle.
This is why the heat can be so horrifically damaging to the body, and there’s no specific age where heat exhaustion – and the following heat stroke – can occur.
The worst part is how quickly it all happens – so fast that it’s a potentially fatal medical emergency.
The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion are signs like dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, a weakened pulse, or very hard sweating.
In Elijah’s case, however, the heart stopped altogether, even though he was relatively healthy and still young. His parents are now trying to spread the word about the dangers of overexposure to heat and the sun in this weather.
Rachel, Elijah’s mom, wants everyone to keep in mind that if they feel these symptoms in the heat, they should immediately get to a shady area and drink some water, or just take a break for outdoor activities for a bit.
And she’s right – it’s important to exercise caution when you’re out in the sun.
Elijah, who was non-verbal and on the autism spectrum, had always brought joy to the lives of those around him. His mom attests that he always knew how to have fun and she stresses that the autism never defined her son.
Although there were challenges she and her husband faced as parents to Elijah, those challenges only made them love him more, and they know how precious his life had always been.