Ashley Summers, a 35-year-old mother from Monticello, Indiana, tragically passed away from water intoxication after a Fourth of July outing with her husband Cody and their two daughters, ages 8 and 3. “They were out on the boat Saturday, Sunday, Monday and then Tuesday,” Ashley’s brother, Devon Miller, recalled.
However, the summer heat left Ashley severely dehydrated. In an effort to rehydrate, she drank four bottles of water in just twenty minutes, unknowingly putting herself at risk of water intoxication.
The Risks of Drinking Too Much Water
Water intoxication happens when someone drinks too much water quickly. The amount of water that causes this can vary depending on things like size, gender, and activity level. Doctors say not to drink more than one liter per hour for several hours. Dr. Blake Froberg, a toxicologist at IU Health, said, “Water toxicity is when somebody drinks too much water over too short of a period of time to the point where they disrupt this salt/water balance we have throughout our bodies.”
The Symptoms of Water Intoxication
Drinking an excessive amount of water in a short time can lead to the following symptoms:
- Feeling unwell
- Muscle cramps and pain
More severe symptoms include:
- Altered mental states
- Intense headaches
In Ashley’s case, as she returned to shore, she began to feel unwell. She told her husband that her toes felt “tingly and numb.” By the time they reached their home, Ashley passed out while walking from the garage to the house. Her husband tried to revive her with CPR. Then she was rushed to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with brain swelling.
Ashley’s unexpected death left her family shocked and devastated. “I had no idea,” her brother Devon said. “I didn’t know that if you drank too much water in a short amount of time that it could actually kill you.”
The grieving family finds comfort knowing that Ashley, was able to save the lives of many through organ donation. Her heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and long bone tissue were donated to those in need. Devon Miller remarked, “So, five people are getting a second lease on life because of her.”
Preventing Water Intoxication
Water intoxication is rare, but it’s important to be aware of the dangers of drinking too much water too quickly. Dr. Froberg recommends that people avoid consuming their daily amount of water within an hour. If feeling dehydrated, instead of rapidly drinking water, people should rehydrate with sports drinks containing electrolytes or consume food and drink together to balance sodium and water levels.
According to Ashley’s brother, Devon, “Something that the neurosurgeon said was, ‘If she would have drank a (sports drink) or some other drink that’s high in electrolytes, she would probably be alive today.'”
The Summers family hopes that sharing Ashley’s story will educate others about the risks of water intoxication and help prevent similar tragedies.
A Lasting Legacy
Ashley Summers left behind a legacy of love and generosity. She dedicated her life to working with children, running her own daycare and later working at another. In addition, she coached her daughters’ softball team, a sport she cherished. Her organ donation, consistent with her giving nature, brought comfort to her family, knowing that she continues to positively impact others.