LAWRENCE, Kan. – The extreme heat in Kansas proved deadly for an 18-year-old with autism. His parents express themselves hopefully that their tragedy will be an important lesson for others.
"I remember watching the nurse say," Why? "It was just hot, it was just hot, it was such a bright light, it made such funny sounds and was happy about the simplest things," said Rachel Mikel.
Mikel is still trying to understand that her son Elijah is gone.
"The silence is deafening," she said. Elijah was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two. Although he could not speak, he knew how to have fun and bring joy to others.
"His autism did not define him, he really put everything into perspective and what's important in life," Mikel said.
He loved being outside, swimming and walking. As was often the case, Elijah and his caregivers made a nature trail trip along Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kansas, last week.
It was a hot day with temperatures around 1
"She called me and said," Something's not right, he sat down and will not get up, "Mikel said.
Since Elijah had non-verbal autism, the only way the caregiver could speak was his behavior.
Mikel hoped it was just one of Elijah's stubborn moments, but she hurried into the park to check on him.
"When I got there and saw it, I knew something was wrong," Mikel said.
They called 911. It turned out that Elijah's temperature was 108. He suffered from heat exhaustion. EMTs tried everything to cool him on his way to the hospital.
"Things seemed to be improving," said Mikel.
But his temperature did not drop enough. Doctors say that muscle fatigue quickly wears out the muscles of the body, including the heart.
"Being out in the heat on such days is really hard for the body, no matter how old you are, you can overheat very quickly, and switching from heat shock to heat stroke can happen much faster than many people appreciate it "said Dr. Steve Lauer, Associate Chair of Pediatrics, University of Kansas Health System.
And often weather warnings about high heat are not taken seriously.
"We're used to that in Kansas, it's just part of life here, OK, there's a heat report, I run the air conditioning," Mikel said.
But now this family has learned that the heat can be deadly and fast. They share their story in the hope that it could only help save someone's life.
"Drink water, take a break, go in. It's not a joke, it's not something that happens to other people, it's real, he was 18 and pretty healthy, so be careful," Mikel said.
Doctors say critical signs of heat are excessive sweating and abnormal behavior or fatigue. If you notice these symptoms, move to a place away from direct sunlight and drink water. Good hydration is also the key to avoiding heat illnesses.
Mikel said her family was grateful for the overwhelming support of the Lawrence community, including the doctors and nurses who cared for him in the hospital and EMTs with Douglas County Fire and Medical.
Memorials are made in Elijah's memory of the Lawrence Humane Society and Autism Speaks.
His family also hopes Elijah's story will raise awareness of autism.
"I want to emphasize that autism did not define it, it was still special, you just never know each other's story, we often stare at people, watching and watching, and sometimes people commenting," Can you have your child do not keep calm? "And I think I want everyone to know that you do not know other people's stories, and how hard we are, just worked to make him say two or three words, it was a challenge with whom we lived together, but it made us love him more and make us realize how valuable life was, "said Mikel.