Mother warns about dangers of heat after son dies from heat stroke

Mother warns about dangers of heat after son dies from heat stroke
Max Gilpin's mother thought he would be OK. It wasn't until doctors told her they were trying to save his life that she realized how serious it was.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As the temperatures rise and the heat index increases, Michele Crockett is immediately reminded of a day that changed her life forever.

Max Gilpin was 15-years-old when he died after collapsing in the heat during football practice. (Source: Family photo)
Max Gilpin was 15-years-old when he died after collapsing in the heat during football practice. (Source: Family photo)

On a hot August day in 2008, when the heat index was 94 degrees, her son, 15-year-old Max Gilpin, was at football practice.

The players were running sprints when Gilpin collapsed.

Crockett was called and rushed over to the school, to find her son with ice packs under his neck, his arms and in the groin area and water flowing over him.

“It was a lot worse than I thought,” Crockett said. “He was unconscious. He was making noises but it was breathing -- labored breathing sounds is what it was.”

He was rushed to Norton Children’s Hospital where Crockett said his core temperature was 107 degrees.

Crockett said even while doctors and nurses worked to cool him off, she kept thinking he was just overheated and he would be okay.

“My first question [to the doctor] was will he be able to play football again?," Crockett recalled. "And she looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to try to save his life. The next 24 to 36 hours are going to be crucial to whether he makes it or not.’ And I’m like BAM! I mean, that’s when I realized -- oh my gosh.”

Max’s organs started to fail, and he died after a few days in the hospital.

“I believe things happen for a reason and I was taught and raised to believe that you know you make the best out of a bad situation. That’s all you can do,” Crockett said. “You gotta go on. You know I had two younger kids and I couldn’t just give up, which I wanted to. It was tough, but they needed me and we kept going.”

Crockett is using Max’s memory to make sure parents and coaches understand the dangers of not hydrating.

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“I remember that day as if it was yesterday and it’s been 11 years,” Erika Janes, a registered nurse in prevention and wellness at Norton Children’s Hospital, said.

Janes said the hospital has not seen a case like Max’s since 2008, but she is still concerned about kids when the temperature and humidity rise.

“There’s really no way you are going to be able to maintain a healthy stance against a feels-like 106 degree temperature. So we’ve got to be very cautious about that,” Janes said.

Janes said it’s important to also keep an eye on young children, too.

She said babies in particular don’t sweat well, meaning their bodies are inefficient in getting rid of heat. Babies breathe faster and their hearts beat faster so they will heat up quicker than adults, but can’t tell you they are feeling too hot.

“You also want to make sure your baby, and your toddler who is wearing diapers, has at least six wet diapers a day. That is a minimum,” Janes said. “And that they are really wet. They’re not just a drop -- that they are wet because if they’re not, they’re dehydrated.”

She added nursing mothers need to nurse more and drink more water so they don’t get dehydrated. Janes said if you notice your child doesn’t want to drink or play or is acting more fussy or irritable than normal, it could be a sign of heat-related illness.

“You have to be prepared to stop this heat-related illness before it gets to heat exhaustion," Janes said. "So what we want people to do is to hydrate themselves and stay out of situations that will lead to something dangerous. It can be deadly, especially a child or anybody. That can happen really fast.”

Janes said a child who is playing outside and is active needs at least six ounces of water or a sports drink every 20 minutes to keep them hydrated.

Crockett said she encourages parents to teach their kids the importance of hydrating before they go out to play a sport in the heat or are active outside. She also emphasized teaching children at a younger age to speak up when they don’t feel well because of the heat.

“We have learned from it and that’s the main thing," Crockett said. “We’ve learned, we’ve come a long way and lives are being saved because of it. And I feel good about that. And I know Max does, too.”

Norton Children’s Hospital is hosting a Splash N Dash Walk/Run on Saturday, Aug. 3 to raise awareness about the importance of staying hydrated.

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