As Rachel Mikel explained to Fox 4, her son, 18-year-old Elijah Mikel, was “just hot” in the moment before he passed away on July 11.
The Mikel family resides in Lawrence, Kansas and as Rachel explained, they are used to heat waves and heat advisories. They usually just adapt to those sweltering days by turning up the air conditioning.
According to Fox 4, Elijah, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, loved being outside, going for walks, and taking dips in the pool.
The day of Elijah’s death was no different. Elijah and his caregiver decided to pass some of the time by hiking the nearby nature trails, which they had reportedly done many times before.
But the temperature that day was 102, with a heat index of 110.
They were only outside for 15 minutes when Elijah’s caregiver noticed he was acting off.
Unfortunately, Elijah was non-verbal and couldn’t use his words to explain what was wrong. The caregiver immediately called Rachel to tell her what was going on. Rachel recalled:
“She called me and said, ‘Something’s not right. He sat down and won’t get back up.'”
Rachel hoped Elijah was just going through a moment of stubbornness, but when she arrived to park to check on her son, she knew that wasn’t the case.
She told Fox 4:
“By the time I got there and saw him, I knew that it wasn’t a nap. I knew something was wrong.”
Paramedics who were called to the scene determined that Elijah’s internal temperature was 108 degrees. Despite the EMTs efforts to cool the teenager down, nothing worked.
As a result, Elijah passed away. Rachel said:
“I remember looking at the nurse saying, ‘Why? He was just hot. He was just hot.'”
As Dr. Steve Lauer, the University of Kansas Health System Associate Chair of Pediatrics, explained, heat exhaustion exhausts a person’s muscles, including the heart.
“Being outside in the heat… it really is hard on the body. No matter what age you are, you can get overheated very quickly, and the move from heat exhaustion to heat stroke can happen a whole lot faster than many people appreciate.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms include:
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
The Mayo Clinic provides tips on how you should react to someone experiencing heat exhaustion:
- Stop all activity and rest
- Move to a cooler place
- Drink cool water or sports drinks
A person is encouraged to see a doctor if any of the above symptoms worsen over time.
Rachel told Fox 4 that her son “was such a bright light,” and someone who “just really put everything into perspective for us and what’s important in life.”
Now Rachel is encouraging others to take heat advisories seriously. She hopes that at least one life is saved after sharing her son’s story:
“Drink water. Take a break. Go inside. This is not a joke. This is not something that happens to other people. This is real. He was 18 and fairly healthy.”
She asked for people “just to be cautious” when it comes to the intense heat.