After drinking a gallon and a half of water, Jennifer Strange’s thinking would have been so impaired by the time she left a radio station on the day she died that she might as well have been drunk, according to a doctor who testified.
If medical personnel had been on site at the time she left the studios of KDND “The End” 107.9, they could have advised her that she needed a doctor’s care and she likely would have survived, Dr. George Alan Kaysen testified.
Kaysen said hyponatremia, or acute water intoxication, can be easily treated with an intravenous sodium drip.
Kaysen took the stand as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the wrongful-death trial under way in Sacramento Superior Court. Strange’s survivors seek damages from Philadelphia-based Entercom Communications Corp., its subsidiary Entercom Sacramento LLC and John Geary, Entercom market manager and vice president.
The acting chair of the UC Davis Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Kaysen, a kidney expert, testified that drinking too much water disrupts a body’s salt balance. It then causes cells and ultimately the brain to swell, to the point at which seizures overtake the victim, who falls into respiratory distress. Attorneys for both sides have agreed Strange died of hyponatremia.
Strange had been drinking water for nearly three hours without urinating as a participant in KDND’s Jan. 12, 2007, “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest, in which a video game would be awarded to the winner.
The DJs continued to banter about her condition, with one of them even pointing to Strange’s distended abdomen and telling her she looked pregnant.
“That is so funny,” the DJ, Patricia Sweet, said on the air at the time.
Strange, 28, then went home alone. She was found dead at her home about six hours later.
Kaysen said that by the time of the interview, Strange had already consumed more water than her kidneys could process.
“If everybody in the courtroom drank that amount of water, a fraction of us would die from it,” Kaysen testified.
He testified that Strange would have been in an altered mental state as a result of her participation in the contest.
“It certainly would impact their executive function . . . much the same way a person who was intoxicated would be impaired,” Kaysen said, of the brain swelling.
Entercom attorneys have argued that Strange’s death was not foreseeable. Defense attorney Donald W. Carlson suggested in his cross-examination that the only known deaths of acute hyponatremia that have ever occurred involved marathon runners and psychotics who drank too much water.
Kaysen answered that there are records of women dying in the hospital when they were administered too much water intravenously.
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