Uixi is a small village on the Lago do Ayapua in the heart of the Amazonian jungle. The intense heat of the jungle doesn’t vary much with the annual change of seasons.
The two seasons they talk about in the Amazon are the dry season and the wet season. There is little difference between summer and winter. It is always hot and humid. During the rainy season, it is hot and rains a lot. During the dry season, it rains less, but is still always hot.
We were conducting a medical clinic in Uixi as part of a medical mission trip sponsored by the University of Cincinnati. The trips were organized and led by our local friend, Dr. Keith Holten. As a respiratory therapist and an EMT, I was invited to be part of the medical team.
There weren’t many breathing problems to treat. So, I spent most of my time doing physical assessments and distributing medication from our small traveling pharmacy. The medications were prescribed by the physicians on the team. Using an interpreter, I would then explain to the patient what the medication was for and how to take it.
The line of villagers wanting to be seen by the medical team never ended. We didn’t get a break. Our day started early and lasted through the heat and humidity of the day. We kept an eye on each other. We encouraged our teammates to drink plenty of water. I learned the hard way that there was no such thing as drinking too much water in the jungle.
Hour after hour – patient after patient – I took prescription slips from villagers, filled the prescription and explained, either through an interpreter or in broken-Portuguese, how to take the medication and what to expect.
In the heat and humidity of the afternoon, as the tropical sun beat down on the little building we were using, another patient handed me a prescription slip. I looked at the prescription. My brain locked up. I had no idea what to do next.
Andy, one the young physicians from UC, looked at me and said, “Are you going to fill that, or what?” I said, “Andy, I don’t know what to do.” Andy realized that I was in trouble. Suddenly, I went from being part of the team to being a patient. I was in the early stages of a heat emergency. I was confused, sweating profusely. My skin was bright red. My pulse was racing. Suddenly, I became a patient.
They helped me outside into a shady spot where there was a little breeze. I sat down with strict instructions to start drinking water and not to stop drinking until the container was empty. It took about 45 minutes before I was able to rejoin the team. It was still hot, humid and miserable inside the clinic, but I paced myself and was able to finish the day.
A physical heat emergency should never be taken lightly.
It is only mid-August here in southwest Ohio. We have plenty of hot, humid weather ahead of us. Be prepared.
Obviously, regardless of the weather, many people have to do heavy work outdoors. If so, get plenty of rest the night before. Drink plenty of fluids before and during work. Wear loose fitting, light colored clothing. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Learn and know the early signs of heat emergency and do not ignore the signs.
It is amazing that there have already been reports of people leaving their children or their pets inside of locked cars. That is sheer stupidity. Never, never, ever leave a child or a pet inside of a car in the heat of summer.
On a hot sunny day, the temperature inside of an enclosed car can top 130 degrees in a very short time. By the time you walk into a shopping center, look for a few items, find what you need, go through the checkout and return to your car, a child or pet could be dying in the 130-degree heat that quickly developed inside the vehicle.
If you see this happening, anywhere – call the police immediately. Getting the child removed from the vehicle can save their life. Do whatever is necessary to save the child’s life.
If you are home and the air-conditioning goes out and the heat and humidity are rising, run some cool water in your bath tub and relax in the water. The cool water in the tub can drain heat from your body 20-times faster than air.
If there is a power failure in your community, be sure to check on your family, friends and your neighbors, especially if they are elderly. Because of age, health conditions and medications, our senior citizens have a much more difficult time dealing with heat and humidity.
Be kind to others. When you see your mailman or meter reader, offer them a cool glass of water.
Watch out for each other. Watch out for your neighbors. Take good care of yourself.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.