Soaring temperatures raise dangers of heat exposure

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Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 12:20 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When you live on the Suncoast, you get used to extreme weather. Heat is no longer an excuse to skip doing things we do on a regular basis, but heat-related health hazards can sneak up on even the fittest.

Rhonda Kapusta says she got a call that there had been an incident on the court involving her husband. “And EMT's were working with Mark and I needed to get there right away.”

When she got there, “he was unconscious on the court, six EMT's working on him, and he didn't wake up for nine days afterwards.”

Mark Kapusta was admitted to the hospital and remembers very little of that hot day in June; mainly what he's been told. “I was getting in position on the court, and I just went down.”

He was put into a medically-induced coma, and cooled with induced-hyperthermia for 18 hours. His first recollection when they brought him out of the coma? “Seeing my wife from a hospital bed.”

They’re not sure exactly what happened. “But potentially, the electrolytes were offset in the heart, maybe an arrhythmia, and the heart couldn't sustain a rhythm.”

Dr. John Moor says everyone's at risk for heat illness, especially if you don't keep up your fluid intake with the amount you are losing. “Even people that are extremely fit can have heat illness, because it's extreme conditions; a lot of heat, a lot of water loss, dehydration.”

When you sweat profusely, “that harms your kidneys. It can harm your heart, it can harm your nervous system.”

Sarasota Y Wellness Coordinator Jen Robertson says she's concerned. “When the heat gets up to almost the triple digits working out, outside on our track, running in the middle of the day.”

Kapusta had a clean bill of health prior to his incident, and had been drinking Gatorade. But, this is what doctors told him. “It's good that you were drinking what you were when you wee, but you know…this happens a lot.”

How's Kapusta today? “He's doing amazing, amazing.”

This is what some of the doctors told him. “I was without a heartbeat for between five and eight minutes, and that's pretty unusual to come back from that.”

To show citizens how quickly the interior of a vehicle can reach extreme temperatures in the Florida sun, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office recently videotaped a deputy as he sat in his marked SUV for about 11 minutes. The video was recorded in real time to demonstrate the danger of leaving children and pets in a car, even for a few minutes.

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