News & Media

Fireground health scare VIDEO story

By: Su Tayler

Category: People

  11.23 AM 19 November, 2013


Location: District 7 News

Views: 1993

This year I was among a small group of people from CFA who attended three days of a digital storytelling workshop at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image.

By the end of the workshop, each of us had made a video story. The story I told was about my time in CFA and an incident earlier this year. 

The workshop was emotional for me as I hadn’t made much time to focus on my experience.  It hit me that weekend though. It was also an inspirational weekend as I met a wonderful bunch of people and heard some truly great stories. 

This is a summary of the CFA story I told in my video...

I read an article in the local newspaper: CFA volunteers required who are available during the day.  I thought, 'That is something I’d be interested in doing'.  I don’t think I knew what I’d signed up for but I’ve always really loved TRUCKS. I joined Ocean Grove Fire Brigade in May 2011. It has been a challenge, but a good one.

When they found out I was a librarian they said, 'You can be the brigade historian'.  I was really enjoying being part of my local brigade and the CFA. Everything was going great!

On Friday 22 February 2013, I attended a grassfire. I drank only water and sucked on a few barley sugars. I felt fine. The time passed quickly; it felt like five minutes, not hours. 

Back home, I showered and ate. About an hour later, one leg went numb, quickly swapping to the other foot, and a mild headache started. It went pear-shaped rapidly after that. The last thing I remember was rubbing my head and joking about a bucket. The 'thousand yard' stare, vomiting and a more extreme headache followed. I have no memory of these extreme symptoms. Fifteen minutes from my first symptom I was in an ambulance.  In the hospital emergency section, I was placed in a coma. I woke up in ICU and a day had passed.

I was diagnosed with Exercise Associated Hyponatraemia (EAH). EAH is 'a condition of electrolyte imbalance, in which there is too little sodium relative to water'. (Noakes, 2012) 

It had been a week of extreme heat, two grassfires (+ four other calls), a hot outfit, exertion, two long periods of time without eating and drinking only water. I had sweated out my sodium causing an electrolyte imbalance. It still amazes me how easy it was for it to happen, although it is supposedly difficult to do. People have assumed I drank too much water but I hadn’t. 

I have learned EAH is something I couldn’t have known would happen, but I’ve also learned I could have done some things better. The biggest lesson for everyone is don’t forget to eat or snack often and don’t drink to extreme on the fireground. If I’d eaten or snacked and used the electrolyte drink while on rest breaks it may have helped. It takes time for our body to digest food and water.  Not eating for long periods of time causes a deficit which is hard to make up.

The doctors told me I was too fit and healthy to be in hospital!  I was released from ICU on Monday 25February, having lived to tell the story! 

Back to the good stuff.

Apparently in my brigade, librarian equates to writing books - something I’d never done before or dreamed of doing!  I’ve written and compiled two books in two years and loved every minute of it – one for the Bellarine Fire Brigades Group 50 years and the other a history of the Ocean Grove Fire Brigade since 1946. Compiling these histories has increased my involvement and has certainly enhanced my time in CFA.

Joining CFA has been an amazing experience even with the EAH. I’ve done things I never thought I’d do and I never thought I’d get as involved as I have in such a short period of time.

Read my story on EAH  

Last Updated: 07 June 2014