DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Elyse Purefoy's family had no idea that they would be saying their last goodbye to her on Monday.
The Arabia Mountain High School dance team member died unexpectedly, after DeKalb County Schools said she suffered a "medical emergency" while practicing Monday morning. School officials responded quickly and contacted emergency responders. EMTs provided first aid, then took her to a local hospital, but she passed away.
Now, as a family grapples with the sudden loss of a daughter and sister, a trainer in a neighboring county is hoping his warnings regarding one possible cause could prevent another tragedy.
It’s the middle of summer and most people are carrying water bottles constantly - but what about children and student-athletes? Not only are young athletes sometimes not aware of their own dehydration but, in many cases says one athletic trainer, parents and coaches aren’t either.
“Anytime you do something outside, you’re going to dehydrate your body,” Gwinnett Medical Center head trainer Zach Buechner said.
Buechner wasn't involved with the incident in DeKalb, but he's no stranger to the topic of dehydration - a condition he said is preventable.
“Sixteen ounces, which is about the size of a water bottle during any type of intense exercise, should be consumed about every half hour,” he said.
He added that anytime the heat index is above 80, people working and playing outdoors – especially athletes – are at a much higher risk of dehydration. Being on some medications makes the risk worse, and children are even more susceptible.
Buechner said youth trainers in Gwinnett – one county over from Monday’s tragedy that may have been the result of a lack of hydration – have one main way to measure if an athlete is becoming dehydrated.
Instead of guessing how much water an athlete has lost, they simply weigh each player before practice and after. If they’ve lost more than two percent of their body weight, they can’t take part in the next practice or activity until they re-hydrate – even if it’s a big game.
Buechner added that water is a thirst quencher, but its not great for hydration, so he recommended young athletes drink sports drinks, too.
“We want about 14 grams of carbohydrates per eight ounces of fluid, and that really helps the body to re-hydrate itself,” he explained.
He said that the most important ingredient is sodium but added that potassium is also essential.
The Georgia High School Association implemented a rule that eliminates two-a-day practices to keep athletes safe. That’s now mandatory for all public schools in the state.
Meanwhile, DeKalb County School officials said they are working closely with the "appropriate departments" to figure out what happened.