Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat Stroke

When police responded to a domestic violence call from Denver Zoo officials Monday, they arrived to find Alonzo Ashley, 29, acting "irrationally and refusing to comply with with officers' comments," according to the Denver Police Department.
Zoo officials had reported that Ashley had threatened his girlfriend and attacked a zoo security guard. As police moved to arrest him, Ashley reportedly punched one officer, and bit another officer and a zoo employee.
Police used a Taser on Ashley to subdue him, but he continued to violently resist and strike officers, according to police. Handcuffed, Ashley began to convulse and stopped breathing. Paramedics administered CPR while they waited for the ambulance to take Ashley to Presbyterian St. Luke Hospital, where he died that evening.
"They were trying to grab him, but he was so aggressive. There was like five zoo keeper securities and seven cops on top of him," Ashley's girlfriend, Elaina, told Denver's KHOW-AM radio. "I didn't see from behind, but there was Tasers going, snapping all around, and I was just freaked out. That's when he was like, 'Baby, I'm dying, help me.' And I couldn't help him."
Elaina told ABC's Denver affiliate KMGH that he had not acted violent with her, despite what zoo officials said. She also denied that her boyfriend was high at the time, even though police said they found drugs and drug paraphernalia on him.
Autopsy results were inconclusive Wednesday, and additional medical and drug tests will take about six weeks to complete, according to KMGH.
Elaina, however, told reporters that she believed heat stroke -- temperatures hit 91 in Denver on Monday -- was the trigger for Ashley's erratic behavior. He had been dehydrated, she said, and had put his head in a fountain in an effort to cool off when zoo security officers stopped him.
"By definition, patients with heat stroke have profound alterations in their mental state and their state of consciousness," said Dr. Corey Slovis, head of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical condition that happens when the body's cooling system, controlled by the brain, stops working. When a person suffers from heat stroke, the core body temperature rises to 105 degrees or more, which causes disruption, inflammation and damage to several organs, including the brain, gastrointestinal tract and heart.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 700 Americans die each year from heat-related conditions.
Symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness, hyperventilation, along with flushed skin that is hot and dry. The condition, which often comes on quickly, can cause comas, seizures and combativeness, and produce significant cardiovascular changes, such as high pulse and low blood sugar levels.
"If not treated immediately, it can result in death," said Slovis. A person should be put in "wet and windy" conditions by cooling the body in ice water with a fan pointed directly toward the body.
"If this person really did have heat stroke, the only thing that could have made a difference in the outcome would be how quickly he was cooled," said Slovis. "And even then, if he was hot enough long enough, even cooling the patient does not guarantee he'd recover."