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Indiana mom dies from drinking too much water while on vacation

Her family is now raising awareness about water toxicity.
Posted at 8:26 AM, Aug 07, 2023

The family of 35-year-old Ashley Summers is raising awareness about water toxicity.

On Fourth of July weekend, Summers was out at Lake Freeman near Monticello, Virginia, with her husband and two daughters.

"She loved being on the water. She loved being on the lake," said Devon Miller, Summers' brother.

Miller says they were there Saturday through Tuesday. It was Tuesday evening when he got a call that something wasn't right.

"My sister Holly called me, and she was just an absolute wreck. She was like, 'Ashley is in the hospital. She has brain swelling, they 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,'" said Miller.

Earlier that day, Summers' family says she was feeling dehydrated and like she couldn't drink enough water. She was lightheaded and had a headache.

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

Ashley made it home, but passed out in her garage. She was taken to IU Health Arnett Hospital, but never regained consciousness. Doctors told the family she died from water toxicity.

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

Water toxicity occurs when someone drinks too much water really quickly.

"There are certain things that can make someone 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," said Dr. Blake Froberg, a toxicologist with IU Health.

Froberg says it's a rare occurrence, but during the summer months or if you're someone who works outside or exercises a lot, it's important to have a hydration plan.

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

Froberg says some of the symptoms you'll experience are feeling generally unwell, having muscle cramps and soreness, nausea and headaches.

Summers was an organ donor and was able to donate her heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and some of her long bone tissue. She helped save five people's lives.

There is a Venmo account set up for Summers' children and to help pay medical bills. If you would like to donate, the username is @Cody-Summers-16.

This story was originally published by Jessica Gruenling at Scripps News Indianapolis.