Vital though water may be to our bodies – and to all life – too much of it is dangerous and can be potentially fatal. Mother of two Dawn Page, 55, suffered irreparable brain damage after just six days on a strict detox diet, leaving her with the mental capacity of a small child. Her husband Geoff, 56, a project manager for a packaging company, tells her story:
‘The future has lost any purpose,’
said Geoff Page (pictured with Dawn)
Dawn used to be a busy wife and mother who juggled family life with her work as a conference organiser. All that changed in the autumn of 2001 when she decided to go on a health kick to lose some weight. She consulted a nutritional therapist called Barbara Nash who she’d seen on TV. She was put on a ‘detoxing diet’ by Barbara that involved cutting out as much salt as possible and drinking a minimum of four pints of water a day.
About six days after starting this detox, Dawn told me she’d been feeling lethargic and tired, then later that evening she became violently sick. Dawn told me she’d spoken to the nutritionist in case it was something to do with the new regime, but she was told by Barbara to stick with it. She’d also been told to increase the amount of water from four pints to six.
I also rang the nutritionist, but she told me in quite scientific terms that the symptoms Dawn was experiencing were normal. She said the symptoms were typical of the detoxing process and that Dawn should maintain the diet. And she emphasised the need to keep up the water intake. The next day, our son David came home from work to find Dawn collapsed in the bedroom. She was rushed to the local hospital in Swindon. I was told she was suffering from hyponatraemia, or a water overdose. The body takes in too much water, which dilutes vital salt levels in the blood. The body’s cells swell, and when that happens in the brain, it causes epileptic fits and brain damage, which is what happened to Dawn. For a while it was touch and go if she would live.
Over the next two months, Dawn was in and out of intensive care. Her muscles wasted because she was immobile for so long and as a result her body released chemicals that caused kidney failure. She went on dialysis and then developed pneumonia. As well as severe brain damage, Dawn had also developed epilepsy and a paranoid psychotic illness — she thought I was having affairs. She had never suffered mental illness or fits before, but suddenly she couldn’t see or speak properly, and had barely any memory or concentration. It was devastating.
I was allowed to take her home just before Christmas 2001, but she was no longer my wife.
She was like a baby who needed everything doing for her, from her nails to using the toilet. The bubbly, outgoing and independent Dawn is no longer with me, and communication is extremely difficult. The future has lost any purpose and, despite the compensation of £810,000 we received in 2008 in an out-of-court settlement, I worry about Dawn if I were to die.
Last year we moved house to be closer to a network of people who can give her support and help her improve her independence. It’s been devastating for our sons. I want people to realise just how easy it is get into this predicament. I warn everyone to stay away from these detoxes. Scientifically, there is no proof that a detox works. And as I’ve learned from bitter experience, it can go horribly wrong.
Drink water, but don’t overdo it – just like most things, really! Your body will detox itself. Just take care of it and fuel it with healthy food and lots of fruit and vegetables.
Written by Amanda Revell Walton, this article originally appeared in the Daily Mail