Tom Fink

There’s an old axiom about what any real estate agent will tell you is the most important thing about any property — location, location, location.

At the risk of making a bad joke — not that this has ever stopped me before — I’d volunteer that the most important part of getting through the summer if not every day of a person’s life is hydration, hydration, hydration.

As much as people hear the message — drink plenty of fluid, don’t overheat, stay inside if possible and if you can’t get out of the heat, be sure to get plenty of water — it’s easy to overlook how critically important something as basic as water — simple water — is.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Very hard.

Many years, and many doughnuts ago, long before I was writing for the Progress, I worked my way through several delivery jobs, most of which, I’ve managed to block from memory, but the last of these remains lodged in my memory and sometimes still causes me to wake up from a sound sleep in a cold sweat.

Of the job itself, I will just say it was probably similar to other delivery companies such as UPS and Federal Express, but unlike those companies, this one carried significantly fewer perks, like medical, dental, and delivery trucks with working brakes.

Or air conditioning.

Essentially, for three years, I would spend ten or more hours a day working out of a large metal heat conductor with no air-conditioning. Not so much a problem in the winter, but in the summer....

One time, I left a thermometer on a shelf with the packages and around noon, I check it and the temperature was stuck at 110 degrees, which was as high as the reading would go. It was probably hotter, but it was my assumption that the packages weren’t just made of cardboard but cardboard and some form of asbestos to keep them from bursting in to flames on a daily basis.

I digress...

Normally, I would make it a point to stay hydrated, to always keep ice water nearby and always take a drink or two every few minutes, especially when the months were at their hottest, but on one particularly grueling day, I was more focused on getting the packages off the truck than I was maintaining the delivery mechanism, i.e., me.

Around mid-afternoon, I started feeling more fatigued than usual, my head started hurting and I began experiencing nausea like I’d never felt before or since. My skin was clammy and I was perspiring so much, it was like my sweat glands were turned up as high as they would go and someone broke off the handle.

In my disorientation, I remember pulling into a QT parking lot, walking (rather unsteadily) in to the air-conditioning, going into the men’s room and sitting down for probably half an hour.

I may have briefly passed out during this time — I’m not sure, but I do remember somehow rallying and (very slowly) finishing the rest of my day.

Luckily for me, that was a Friday, and I was able to spend the rest of the weekend mostly indoors, resting, and replenishing my body’s dangerously low fluid levels.

It wasn’t until later (and this was the early days of the Internet, so Googling “Why did I almost die in the heat today?” was less common than usual) that I learned what I’d experienced was borderline if not full-on heat exhaustion.

I was very, very lucky — some, myself included, might even say blessed — that I didn’t wind up in the hospital or worse. I grew up on a farm and was no stranger to long hours and hot days, but this particular one forever changed my ability to get through them -- it compromised my stamina to the point that, even now, I have to be more careful than most people about not getting overheated and always keeping water — not Gatorade, not tea, not lemonade — good old water close by. Literally, as I’m typing this, there is a bottled water not two feet from where I’m sitting.

Usually, this isn’t a problem (physically), but with my now-increased sensitivity to getting overheated and dehydrated, I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle, especially in the summer, when I’m out at a park, the lake, or when I mow my lawn, which I often have to space out over several hours, if not days. I generally mow the crop circles the first day and finish the job the next day, just to keep it interesting.

Not only this, but my wife, Lisa also has suffered from not being able to get enough fluids into her system.

Because of a medical procedure she had several years ago, she can only drink limited amounts of water at a time, which may not sound problematic, but it is.

More than once, we’ve taken her to the emergency room for dehydration — not the “I’m thirsty” kind of dehydration, but the life-threatening, organs being affected kind of dehydration that can, and has, put her in the hospital.

Here’s the thing:

Health updates, whether in print, broadcast, or on the Internet, are easy to look over, to filter out as white noise or filler in-between other news or entertainment stories that we’re most interested in.

But odds are, most people are going to need water long before they’re going to need to find out what Donald Trump tweeted today.

I think the statistic is that the average adult (that is, our bodies) is between 55-75 percent water. Our brains need water to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters. Water regulates our body temperature (via sweating and respiration), it helps convert food to components needed for survival via digestion, and it helps deliver oxygen all over our body.

Furthermore, water is the major component of almost all of the parts of our body, it lubricates our joints, flushes out waste via urine, allows our body’s cells to grow, reproduce, and survive, keeps mucous membranes moist, and forms saliva, which is important in the first step of digestion, and which also allows me to do my spot-on Daffy Duck impersonation.

So, yeah, making sure we always have enough water is very important.

While you’re skimming past the updates on heat indexes and advisories about keeping your body cool and staying hydrated, slow down long for a minute, just long enough look over some of the information given about the how and why it’s so important — so crucial — to stay hydrated.

And while you’re doing that, take a drink of water.