Indiana family issues warning after 35-year-old mother dies of water toxicity

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Monday, August 7, 2023
Indiana mom dies of water toxicity; family now raising awareness
A family in Indiana is issuing a warning about drinking too much water after a 35-year-old mother died of water toxicity while out in the sun.

MONTICELLO, Ind. -- A family in Indiana is issuing a warning about drinking too much water after a 35-year-old mother died of water toxicity during the 4th of July weekend.

Ashley Summers spent the holiday weekend on a lake with her husband and two daughters.

"She loved being on the water, she loved being on the lake," said her brother, Devon Miller. "They were out on a boat all weekend long, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday."

Miller said when he received a call that Tuesday, he knew something wasn't right.

"My sister Holly called me and she was just an absolute wreck," said Miller. "She's like, 'Ashley's in the hospital. She has brain swelling. We don't know what's causing it. They don't know what they can do to get it to go down and it's not looking good.'"

Summers' family said she was feeling dehydrated earlier that day and felt like she couldn't drink enough water. They said she felt lightheaded and had a headache.

"Someone said she drank four bottles of water in that 20 minutes," said Miller. "... Her bottle of water is like 16 ounces, so that was 64 ounces that she drank in the span of 20 minutes. That's half a gallon. That's what you're supposed to drink in a whole day."

According to WRTV, Summers made it home that night, but passed out in her garage and never regained consciousness. Doctors told her family she died of water toxicity.

"It was a shock to all of us when they first started talking about water toxicity, and it was like, 'This is a thing?'" said Miller.

Dr. Blake Froberg with Indiana University Health told WRTV water toxicity occurs when a person drinks too much water quickly.

"There are certain things that can make somebody more at risk for it, but the overall thing that happens is that you have too much water and not enough sodium in your body," he said.

Froberg said it's a rare occurrence but encourages people - including those who work outside or exercise frequently - to have a hydration plan, especially during summer months.

"Making sure that you're drinking things that have electrolytes, that have some sodium and some potassium," said Froberg.

Some of the symptoms associated with water toxicity include generally feeling unwell, muscle cramps and soreness, nausea and headaches.

"The warning takeaway that I take from it is ... if I'm thirsty and I drink a bottle of water and I still feel like I haven't got enough, that might be the light bulb for me to go, 'Ok. You know what? I need to drink a Gatorade,'" said Miller.

Summers' family said the mother was an organ donor and was able to save five lives.