The Phoenix

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hyperhydration - Death By Water For a Wii

28 year old Jennifer Strange was a mother of 3, from Rancho Cordova, California. What she wanted was a Nintendo Wii for her kids, and a local radio station - 107.9 The End - had a contest giving one away. The Morning Rave Show with Trish, Lukas, and Maney had a very unique sort of contest: have participants drink a ton of water and try to hold their pee. "Hold your wee for a Wii" sounded clever enough.

However, this contest would kill Jennifer Strange.

So last Friday, after signing a liability waiver form which consistented of pubicity jargon, 18 contestants were given 8 ounce bottles of water to drink every 15 minutes. They'd all yell "Wii!" and guzzle the water bottles. All the while, the radio DJs would spray the window with a hose or turn on a faucet in order to tempt contestants to go pee. One by one, the competitors dropped out.

James Ybarra had to quit. "They told us if you don't feel like you can do this, don't put your health in risk."

However, a nurse did go on the air to warn the DJs that drinking too much water was dangerous. One of the DJs didn't take her warning seriously and reminded the listeners that the contestants had signed some waiver.

Mr. Ybarra said he had drank 5 of those 8 oz bottles of water when the DJs then gave them larger bottles of water. He quit right there and then. "My bladder couldn't handle it anymore."

Jennifer Strange kept going, and eventually won second place. She was on her way to Radiological Associates where she works, but couldn't make it. Jennifer called Laura Rios, a co-woker en route. "She said to one of our supervisors that she was on her way home and her head was hurting her real bad." Jennifer complained of severe nausea as well.

After co-workers unsuccessfully tried to contact Jennifer at home, they called her mother. When she arrived, she found Jennifer dead in her home.

How did this tragedy happen?

It's called hyperhydration, or water intoxication. It's a rare occurance, as most of us are probably dehydrated actually. The act of consuming too much water in one sitting can kill you. Drinking all that water in a short amount of time throws your whole electrolyte balance out of whack. And when that happens, there can be fatal consequences.

With the overdilution of sodium in your blood, the cells work to balance everything out, creating an osmotic shift in the process. In other words, with all that water accumulating on the outside of the cell wall - sodium is drawn out of the cell to restore the electrolyte balance. Since the water outside contains less electrolytes than what's inside the cell, the water is drawn into the cell through osmosis. The cell keeps sucking up water until it bursts.

The cell membranes then begin to literally burst, unable to take the tremendous osmotic pressure. A person will experience light-headedness, nausea, vomiting, massive headaches. Severe low levels of sodium in the blood can also lead to seizures and death.

How much is too much?

Normally, an average sized guy can consume about 3 liters of water at the absolute maximum in one sitting. For those metrically challenged, that's more than three-fourths of a gallon of water (1 gallon = ~3.8 liters). Other factors can alter this limit.

One of the contestants, James Ybarra, said he consumed 40 ounces of water before quitting. That's one-third of a gallon of water, or about 1.26 liters. That would make sense that he would quit at that point, since he was trying to hold off going to the bathroom.

Judging from what her fellow contestants reported, Jennifer Strange drank well over half a gallon. Being a woman, she's much more succeptible to water intoxication. Her body weight is less, as is the sodium concentration in her blood.

A human with lower sodium content in her blood could die after just 1.8 liters of water consumed in one sitting (or .48 gallons). Jennifer kept going after that initial half gallon of water, which ultimately led to her death.

So who is to blame? The DJs on the Morning Rave morning show? 107.9 The End radio station, which is owned by Entercom Corporation? Or is Jennifer Strange responsible for her own death?

*By the way, if you want to send Trish, the female DJ on The Rave - a message via her My Space page, click HERE. You can also e-mail her HERE.

*If you want to e-mail Lukas, the DJ from the show with the birdnest hairdo, do that HERE.

*And finally, Manny - the morning show DJ with the stupid ass grin on his face can be e-mailed right about...HERE.

And that ends my public service announcement...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had heard that it was possible, but until this I hadn't heard of an actual case.

It's very sad, but frankly, I think that it was each individuals responsibility to themselves to find out what the possible effects could be.
(I's probably not a popular notion, but people really need to take a more active role in taking care of themselves I think.)

1/15/2007 11:42 AM  
Blogger Phats said...

Wow that's horrible, very very sad

1/15/2007 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's terribly sad that she died this way. I think it's the fault of everyone involved.

I had to drink 40 oz of water the other day in order to have an ultrasound. They kept me waiting so long before calling me in that I had to pee. I know I wasn't supposed to but I HAD TO. Screw 'em if they couldn't get the best ultrasound pictures. Too bad.

1/15/2007 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that is pretty rediculous - I'm looking at my water bottle now that I use and that's just 20 oz of water - I can't even drink one of those in one sitting unless I'm really thirsty.

I can't even imagine to think what I'd be like after drinking 3 of those in one sitting.

That's just horrible -

1/15/2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger Curare_Z said...

Horribly sad. In reality, it's probably Jennifer Strange's own fault for not heeding the warnings. In a court of law, however, (if this ever gets that far)...there's no telling who's to blame.

1/15/2007 12:47 PM  
Blogger cube said...

This was a very sad story to read. I worry about the lack of scientific knowledge in the population at large. It seems like the more science progresses, the more stupid and unscientific our people grow.

1/15/2007 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how strange.

1/15/2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

I have seen a guy drink massive amounts of water studying for a urine test. Now I know to warn future studiers of this type of cram session.

1/15/2007 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Wow. I have heard that water can kill you if you drink too much, but that is a really sad situation.

I guess its true, too much of anything can be bad for ya!

1/15/2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

This is just terribly sad. I think the radio station should have heeded the nurse when she called in to warn them, and the participants should have listened as well. It is hard to keep up on ALL scientific/medical knowledge, but if a professional tries to alert the public then it is idiotic not to listen.

Man, Phoenix, why do you keep finding these stories out of California?

1/15/2007 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

Unfortunately, the "waiver" will most likely absolve the station, and the DJs, of any criminal liability. This morning show has been in trouble before, although, I can't remember the particulars off the top of my head.

1/15/2007 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Andrew E said...

I just love the name of that radio station: '107.9 The End' it's so perfectly fitting.

Great post and a good read, the Phoenix never disappoints.

1/15/2007 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read about this in disbelief, how tragic and sad.

1/15/2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger Keshi said...

I can only say it's their stupidity too. Im sorry but thats a fact.


1/15/2007 7:27 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

It's very sad.

The thing is, most people don't know you can die from drinking too much water. It's water - it's pretty inert and safe stuff.

I think the show should've consulted a doctor or something first. Apparently, the radio DJs had no idea - and the contestants had no idea.

1/15/2007 8:09 PM  
Anonymous delmer said...

A guy I work with tried to tell me this was possible a couple of years ago. I thought it was a little too far out there to be true.

Very sad.

1/15/2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

So sad, although i feel we all need to take responsibility for our own actions.
I remember having to go for an ultrasound on a number of occasions...jeeez my bladder near killed me, i ended up peeing whilst waiting for my turn, i dunno how those contestants managed it. Also, the average bladder holds around 8ozs...some peoples bladders don't hold as much so they may even be more susceptible without even knowing it!

1/16/2007 6:31 AM  
Blogger ozymandiaz said...

I stand reaffirmed in my convictions to never touch the stuff.
BTW...very informative piece.

1/16/2007 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can clearly see a lawsuit coming here.

Waivers are good, but they don't eliminate being sued. Especially if the offending party takes extreme risks with another person's health.

For example, don't you think that they would be liable if they stabbed her in the heart, even if it was accidental? No matter what kind of waiver, they're likely liable. Well this is similar. Except that she did it to herself. Not very smart all around.

1/16/2007 8:59 AM  
Anonymous stephanie said...

I read about this yesterday and wondered the same thing. Are the DJ"s responsible? Is she responsible? Is the nurse responsible? Or is it just a combination? An unfortunate accident?

I've heard about water intoxication before. I saw a Dateline or something about people who take E and then go crazy and drink a ton of water, so that it's not the drug that killed them but the water. Weird.

1/16/2007 11:46 AM  
Anonymous stephanie said...

PS - I just checked their website, look at this:

All of you are probably aware of the tragic death of a contestant, Jennifer Strange, following her participation in a contest on the Morning Rave last Friday.

First and foremost, our thoughts and sympathies go out to Jennifer's family and loved ones.

I also want to assure you that the circumstances regarding this matter are being examined as thoroughly as possible. We are doing everything we can to deal with this difficult situation in a manner that is both respectful and responsible. In the interim, the Morning Rave is off the air indefinitely.

Thank you.

John Geary
Vice-President & General Manager
107.9 THE END

1/16/2007 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a frat at Chico State got into trouble for hazing a pledge who did of the same water intoxication. It's become a problem with yuppies (or whatever) who workout too much and then overhydrate themselves.

1/16/2007 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So who is to blame?

It's all George Bush's fault.

1/16/2007 12:31 PM  
Blogger Big Pissy said...

What a terrible waste!

...and for a game.....

1/16/2007 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While few things are actually worth dying over, and a game isn't one of them, I must say that the Wii is really amazing!

My wife's 88 year old grandmother bowled an entire game by herself on it. That's something!

1/16/2007 1:27 PM  
Blogger vani said...

i heard about this on our local station on the way to work and couldn't believe it was true. that truly, truly sux...feel so sorry for her family.

1/16/2007 2:35 PM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

What a senseless way to die. I'm sure her kids couldn't care less about that Wii now.
What a tragedy.
Most people don't drink enough water.
I hope her story doesn't cause people to drink less water out of fear. You'd have to really drink a lot of water to be in the danger zone, and I don't think most people make a habit of drinking half a gallon of water at one sitting.

1/16/2007 3:04 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I drink a lot of water. And I mean a LOT of water--well over the 10 or 12 or whatever glasses a day is recommended.

But I never drink more than a glass at once time. It doesn't help you much to chug like that--and, as this story shows, it can kill.

-- david

1/16/2007 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We learned about this in school. Everything in moderation, dammit!

Also, they TRIED to warn us about the dangers of dihyro-oxide!

1/16/2007 6:46 PM  
Blogger Zen Wizard said...

That really sucks--I did not think you could drink too much water.

I knew the opposite--dehydration--can and does kill a lot of people.

I don't know who is "responsible"; in today's legal environment, probably the station, disclaimers notwithstanding.

But no amount of money damages can bring somebody back to life, unfortunately.

1/16/2007 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both the contestants and the radio station are responsible. However I think the radio station has more responsibility here. First - reports now say that there was no medical release, information about medical risk, warning signs of water intoxication, etc contained in the waiver that was signed by the contestants. Second -if anyone at the station had made the minimal effort to quickly Google "water intoxication" or "too much water" when the nurse called in they would have seen very easily that there were significant risks with their contest. And they might have been able to then consult with medical expert, or stop the contest, or even print out readily available information from the web so they could give Jennifer and the other contestants a list of warning signs or symptoms that would require immediate medical attention. But they didn't. So what they did do was to create a contest that induced others to do something that was risky without doing any homework on the potential consequences, and then scorned a nurse who called to tell them that this was a dangerous contest. Not good.

1/16/2007 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is just a terrible tragedy. I don't know who to blame. I mean we all have to take ownership for our actions but I still feel for the deceased because I am sure she was pressured.

1/16/2007 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

There's an update: 10 employees, including the three DJs, were fired on Tuesday as a result of Mrs. Strange's death. Here's the story.

1/16/2007 11:06 PM  
Anonymous oceallaigh said...

Athletes have known about hyperhydration for some time. There was a vogue for "keeping your water level up" about six, seven years ago. Until people started dying. That ended the vogue.

Thus, the sacking of the radio station personnel involved tends to represent where the burden of blame rests in this case. But, in the larger view, the fault lies with We the People. Or should I write "Wii the People". Sensible people don't get The Almighty Ratings; sensible people don't attract The Holy Advertisers. We the People buy this stuff - and then wonder aloud how it could possibly be that somebody gets hurt. Or dies ...

1/17/2007 7:11 AM  
Blogger angel, jr. said...

I think it's horrible and a stupid contest. Do these people not do research before they hold these things?

1/17/2007 7:19 PM  
Blogger Phats said...

I saw this story on fox news the other night and thought of you, you beat them to it!

You watching the Aussie Open?

1/17/2007 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the audio of the morning of the contest, and the girl actually brought up that the contestants could be in danger. One of the guys said, "Yeah, but if they drink too much they'll just throw up."
Well, he must have been sick that day at medical scholl, because he was wrong...
It's the morning teams fault for not checking on the potential danger of the contest.

1/18/2007 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You come up with some of the most unique stories. Where do you find this stuff?

What an odd way to go. Maybe I should fear drinking too much water now. I'm not going to go the usual heart attack or cancer way, I'm going to do something odd like drink too much water or fall out of my wheelchair after winning the race I started in the nursing home.

1/18/2007 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one's fault. It was a tragic accident due to the ignorance of all. Shit happens. It is too bad. I feel sad for all those involved.

1/18/2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger Pixie said...

I read about this its sad.

1/18/2007 1:08 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

Thanks for the update Bruce. Everyone associated with the morning show has been fired.

And I'm sure criminal charges are a possibility. I hope those DJs get good lawyers.

1/19/2007 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad, God rest her soul...

1/20/2007 3:03 PM  
Blogger LBseahag said...

I'm glad you answered my questions...i was afraid to go get a big gulp...

1/20/2007 11:23 PM  
Blogger kim said...

I read about this on CNN. I recall that not too long ago a frat boy died in a hazing incident in a similar contest.

What a horrible thing, and over a game system. My heart goes out to her family. And frankly, I feel for the DJs. are they responsible? Sure, they have a legal and medical department that they could have vetted this thru. But I'm sure that they had no idea that a stupid radio contest could come to this and they're going to have to live with this guilt forever.

All in all, ugh.

(Oh, Phoenix, I've temporarily moved to

1/21/2007 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, for all the people going on that people don't drink enough water: this is further from the truth. for every calorie consumed you should consume roughly 1 milliliter of water, this amounts to 2 liters for a 2,000 calorie diet. this is equivalent to 67.66 fluid ounces which is 8.4575 8 ounce glasses, HOWEVER (and this is where the misconception comes from, we should sue the supposed "health specialists" for kidney damage), most of the water required is present in the food itself. have you ever looked at a dried apricot compared to a fresh one? notice the difference in size? the apricot is mostly water. ever notice the size difference in pasta once cooked? it absorbs quite a bit of water. frankly, people are over hydrating themselves and while it's not necessarily to the point of hyperhydration if you have any kidney problems this over hydration that people seem to obsess about these days can lead to serious problems. in fact, it's kidney specialists of recent who have been questioning this "have to have 8 8ounce glasses of water a day" myth. and that's exactly what it is, a myth...

1/21/2007 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Jennifer Strange and her family, but I don't think that the DJ'S are at fault alone. We must all be responsible for our own actions. I know she wanted to do something special for her children, but an unfortunate accident occured. I believe the DJ's tried to get her to quit. I am also sure that they listened to the medical personnel that called in.

1/29/2007 7:45 AM  

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