Met a neighbor downstairs yesterday. She was sitting on the stoop with her dog by her feet. My neighbor is usually quite peppy. She looked wilted and a little green around the gills. Sweaty. Bleary eyed.

I asked it she was okay, and she shook her head.

“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” she said. “Got dizzy. Maybe it’s the heat.”

I gave her a cold water bottle. Asked the café next door for a towel moistened with ice-water and wrapped that around her neck. I’d have helped her to my air-conditioned apartment but I didn’t think she should climb several flights of stairs.

She didn’t want me to call 911. Said she’d just sit on the shady (but steamy) stoop and rest. I offered to help her into the café next door instead. Had her sit down in the air-conditioned space. The dog could not enter but the waiter understood and let us sneak the leash out through a crack in the door so she can still keep hold of the pooch.

I asked again if to call 911. Didn’t want to scare her, and indeed it could be heat-exhaustion, but heart-attack in women rarely displays the classic ‘clasp your chest’ as in men. It could be something else …

She shook her head. “I don’t need 911. I’m taking this new medication and maybe it made me more sensitive to the heat. I think there was something about it on the label. I’ll be okay.”

She said the cool air already had her feeling better. So we sat. I watched her, ready to call 911 if she got worse. She didn’t. She took small sips of her water. The waiter brought another cool rag to replace the one that already warmed. She took deep breaths.

Her coloring improved. The dog, who’d been standing vigil by the door and anxiously observing her, finally lapped the water we’d placed for him, then lay down with head calmly on front paws. His reaction reassured me. It reassured my neighbor, too. She smiled and took a deeper breath. The dog lifted eyes to her and his tail slapped the ground in return greeting. Both relieved.

We sat a little longer. When my neighbor felt like herself again, we thanked the café workers and I walked her home. She was going to take it easy the rest of the day. Hydrate. Stay indoors.

Summer is lovely, but it can be tricky for many. Medications are often not taken into account, yet should.

I can be a certifiable momma hen … so, bear with me. … It’s been hot yesterday and it is hotter still today. A heat index of 109F or so. Life doesn’t need to stop, but know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t ignore them. Take precautions, check your medications for heat-sensitivity warnings, and take good care of you, of young and old or people who are in any way infirm or vulnerable to heat. Be mindful of pets, check on neighbors. Keep hydrated. Keep cool. Keep well.

SacramentoReady.org heatstroke

4 thoughts on “Heat-wave

  1. We live in the desert. We have many visitors who don’t live in heat. We are VIGOROUS about our friends taking water–many seem to think it defies their opinion of being macho–that goes for men and women.

    Here’s a short story: A friend and Win went for a hike — no hills, pretty easy, three miles either way. The friend wouldn’t take water. Win carried it for him.On the way back, the friend became sluggish. Win went to a rivulet of water, soaked his own shirt in it, put it on our friend. (There was no cell service.) He then took his own bottle of water and poured it down the friend’s throat — by now he was foaming at the mouth and out of it. Win ran to the highway, found a young Navajo couple who said they’d drive to a high spot and call for help.
    EMT’s arrived. It took six to carry him out. We went to the hospital with him where his temperature was 106.

    He was flown to a larger hospital, unconscious for six weeks. It took two years of PT to get him together, and he walks with a cane. (We believe the heat stroke then caused a regular stroke.) Our dear friend was as near death as possible.

    PLEASE–remember that most of our bodies are made of water, and we lose it fast in heat and/or exertion. (Swimmers drink a remarkable amount of water.) Many meds make you even more sensitive as does smoking.

    Take care of you, and take care of those around you. Mostly be kick-ass about taking in water!

    meredith and win blevins


    • Thank you, Meredith and Win, for this reply and this story–it is SO important, and I agree, too many people can be dismissive about heat (and hydration), as if to somehow preemptively take care of themselves is a sign of weakness or fussiness. I’m for the be-fussy-stay-conscious way of life … I’m so sorry for your good friend’s ordeal, and he was lucky to have Win with him, or … the end could’ve been much worse.
      In NYC, there are plenty of places to get water if one is over-heated, but one needs to be aware of the need to do so, and sometimes by the time one is over-heated, their brain does not work as it should … So … Yes, precautions trump drama (no pun!).
      Love to you,


  2. Love you, Mama Hen. You are so kind and such a great caretaker.

    So glad you helped your neighbor. I have been in that place, especially if you Red Cross missions as well as a client, years ago, and adult student graduating from Mt. Holyoke and I attended the ceremony and it was outside on a black asphalt at cement outdoor theater. They had an ambulance there on standby because of people passing out. Like, many of us who were not doing well in the heat, I got a preemptive ice pack for my neck. And I even had a hat on!

    Anyway, I hope you’re doing OK with your pots. I’m guessing things are a little wild and your world with the weather and the fluctuating barometric pressure’s along with your bodily loop de loop’s.

    Sending you much love and continued great admiration for the wonderful human being you are.


    Adele Ryan McDowell


    • Thank you, Adele. Yes, I remember the story of that over-cooked graduation, and I was worried about you when I’d heard how hot it had been and that it was outdoors in the sun … I know it was probably quite the close call there. Even with precautions, heat can become too much. At least you came prepared! Can you imagine if not??? (scratch that, lets imagine penquins playing in snow instead …)
      Much love to you, Mama Hen (aka Na’ama)


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