Shelby County records first heat-related death of 2010

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The first heat-related death of 2010 has been reported in Shelby County, officials said Friday.

According to Dr. Karen Chancellor, the Shelby County Medical Examiner, a 47-year-old woman was found deceased in her home in North Memphis on June 2, 2010.

It's a death that caught many neighbors by surprise.  Friday evening, flowers and a teddy bear honored the memory of the woman, who neighbors said lived alone and kept to herself.

"She was cool to me," neighbor Albert Pitts said. "She didn't bother nobody.  She would come out and sit on the porch and talk to me and my girl."

The woman was last known to be alive on May 29, 2010.

"I couldn't believe that," Pitts said. "I really couldn't believe it cause I had just seen her Saturday."

Officials said there was no air conditioning in operation in the woman's home, and all windows were shut. However, a box fan was blowing in her direction.

The indoor temperature was 92 degrees Fahrenheit when investigators arrived at the woman's home, and environmental heat exposure has been ruled a contributing factor in her death.

"She should have never been in that situation by herself," Pitts said.

The Memphis-Shelby County Health Department offered these heat-related tips Friday:

  • Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water; but avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Limit outdoor activity
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen
  • Pace yourself
  • Stay cool indoors, especially in the heat of the day
  • Never leave anyone in a car
  • Monitor those at high risk

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

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