Herren survives bout of dehydration

Matt Herren has survived a “drinking problem.” And he wants you to know about it, so you don’t have to live through the nightmare he did.

Herren’s health concern would be more accurately described as a “lack of drinking problem.” Competition in three straight bass fishing tournaments – all of which were endured under sweltering heat – put the 48-year-old Trussville, Ala., angler in a world of hurt. It resulted in him undergoing a battery of health tests this week. Ultimately, Herren was hooked to an I.V. to replace the fluids he lost.

“I almost pushed it past the limit,” Herren said. “We all think we’re invincible. It almost got me.”

Herren is an outdoorsman. Besides bass fishing, which he does for a living, Herren’s other hobbies are hunting and golf. He has never been bothered by extreme temperatures, either heat or cold. So when he came down with extreme chills, nausea, an aching body and a headache while competing in an FLW event on the Potomac River, he thought he’d picked up a virus of some kind or possibly food poisoning.

“All of us get those 24-hour-bugs,” Herren said. “You just fight through it and go on.”

Herren stays in his camper when traveling for bass tournaments. He said he usually turns the air conditioner on its coldest setting when he goes to sleep at night. But he couldn’t do that during the Potomac River tournament.

“I had a bout of severe chills,” Herren said. “I was shaking while I was lying under every blanket I could find.”

It was a phone call to his daughter-in-law – a pharmacist – that first alerted him to the idea that he might be suffering from dehydration. After that, Herren made certain he was drinking extra fluids while competing on the Potomac, where he picked up an $11,000 check for a 29th-place performance.

Those winnings, however, weren’t enough to make him feel any better when he got to Little Rock the following week for the Bassmaster Elite Series Diamond Drive.  He practiced only about a day-and-a-half, venturing out only for early-morning and late-afternoon sessions on the Arkansas River. He finished 92ndin the 99-man field. And he wasn’t feeling any better when he drove to Decatur, Ala., for the final Elite Series event of the regular season.

Once again, Herren fought through the pain and extreme fatigue. He made the two-day cut in the top 50. Then he earned another $10,000 with a 16th-place finish last Saturday on Wheeler Lake.

By this time, suspecting dehydration was the cause of his discomfort, Herron was drinking all the extra liquids he could get his hands on. But nothing was alleviating his symptoms of nausea, body aches and headaches. So when Herron got home after the Dixie Duel at Wheeler, he went to see his doctor. Lab work confirmed that Herren was suffering from severe dehydration. He was promptly injected with intravenous fluids.

“My electrolytes and my blood sugar were really messed up,” Herren said. “It had started affecting my kidneys. I got too far down to where I couldn’t drink enough fluids to catch up. Once you get past that point, you’re in trouble. I had been dehydrated to a dangerous level for three weeks.”

Herren was feeling much better this week after the I.V. In fact, he was feeling good enough for a round of golf on Wednesday.

“It was cloudy and only about 85 degrees,” Herren said. “I rode in a cart; I didn’t walk.”

Don’t let that round of golf fool you. Herren has been appropriately scared by his bout with dehydration. His advice for others includes familiarizing yourself with the symptoms. For instance, Herren kept sweating profusely during those three weeks of tournament fishing. He had mistakenly thought the body shutdown the perspiration process during dehydration.

“I just didn’t understand the symptoms,” Herren said.

Now that he does, Herren said he will be concentrate on drinking extra fluids days before an event where heat will be a concern, not just on those hot days of competition. And at the first sign of dehydration, he won’t hesitate to get himself to an emergency room.

“I should have gone to the doctor immediately,” Herren said. “But I was being hard-headed about it. If something like that happens again, I’ll go straight to the E.R. and tell them to get some fluids in me.”

Herren has qualified for the past three Bassmaster Classics, but he didn’t qualify for the 2012 Classic through the Elite Series schedule this year. So Herren considered competing in the first Bassmaster Northern Open, scheduled for July 7-9 on the James River at Richmond, Va. After looking at the weather forecast, Herren decided against it.

“Temperatures are supposed to be around 100 degrees,” Herren said. “I’ve learned my lesson.”

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