Warning not given in water contest
Two participants in a radio station’s water-drinking contest with a 28-year-old mother of three who later died said they were not warned they could be putting their health at risk, a newspaper reported Monday.
Gina Sherrod said that family members listening to the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest on KDND-FM told her that a nurse called into the program to warn that drinking too much water was dangerous, but that she did not worry until she learned of Jennifer Lea Strange’s death.
“I was so scared,” Sherrod told the Sacramento Bee on Sunday. “I had the hardest time going to sleep last night because I was afraid I wouldn’t get up.”
Strange was one of about 18 people who vied for a Nintendo Wii gaming console early Friday by seeing how much water they could drink without going to the bathroom. She was found dead several hours later.
The Sacramento County coroner said she died of water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, which occurs when the body’s sodium level falls below normal.
Overdrinking dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, causing the brain to swell and push against the skull. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weakness and, in severe cases, seizures, coma and death.
During the contest, participants were given two minutes to drink an 8-ounce bottle of water and then given another bottle to drink after a 10-minute break.
Contestant James Ybarra said he quit after drinking eight bottles, but Strange, who placed second, and others kept going, even after they were given larger containers.
Strange showed other participants photographs of her two sons and daughter, for whom she was hoping to win the prize, Ybarra said.
“It is sad that a mother had to lose her life to get something for her kids,” he told the newspaper. “None of us knew this could be a risk to our health.”
Contestants qualified for the event by recounting the worst Christmas gifts they’d received. Strange said her worst gift was a set of champagne flutes wrapped like roses that shattered when she opened them, Sherrod said.
Strange also mentioned that she and friends had sixth-row tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert that night.
Sherrod said she managed to drink half of a larger bottle before she became nauseated and had to leave.
“I felt drunk and really out of it,” she said.
Strange’s mother found her daughter’s body at home Friday in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova after Strange called her supervisor at her job to say she was heading home in terrible pain.
Strange’s husband, William Strange, 27, issued a written statement late Sunday in which he described his wife’s giving nature.
“Friday, Jennifer was just her bright, usual self,” he wrote. “She was trying to win something for her family that she thought we would enjoy.... We miss her dearly. She was my girl.”