Victim shares her story after suffering from heat exhaustion at band competition

Published: Sep. 24, 2017 at 11:29 PM EDT
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On Sunday, one of the victims of heat exhaustion at a band competition shared her story with NewsCenter 16.

Saturday afternoon Penn High School held its 27th annual Carnival of Bands and this year 32 were slated to perform their halftime shows in front of hundreds.

Officials said overwhelming heat and humidity sent 15 students to the hospital and caused them to treat 20 more at the scene for heat-related issues. Nothing was life-threatening.

Camryn Cook is one of the victims that went to the hospital. She's a junior at Bremen High School and has been part of the Bremen Emerald Alliance Color Guard since sixth grade.

Saturday the heat got the best of her.

"As soon as we got off of that field I just remember hyperventilating and not being able to breathe, and a lady coddling me and sitting me down in the cafeteria and having ice be everywhere around my body and then just going to the hospital in an ambulance," said Cook. "That's about all I can remember honestly."

According to Penn Fire, many of the students who had heat-related issues were part of their band color guard teams. They said it's because the girls are moving around the most during the shows.

"Whenever it's hot like that and muggy like that it is very hard for your body to try to keep up with the high heats that are outside," said Ashley Kikly, a paramedic at Penn Fire. "There were a lot of kids sweating profusely, passing out, starting to get nauseous, vomiting. Starting to actually have heat cramps and spasms and everything else."

"I usually have a panic attack every now and again because it's so much, but I didn't think I would end up going to the hospital for it," Cook said.

Cook's black velvet uniform combined with a 120 degree temperature reading on the football field was simply too much for her body to handle.

"I think my anxiety played into it and also the stress in having a solo and I have to wear a mask in the show and I guess that didn't help either," Cook said. "My body just kinda got hit by the heat by a brick wall."

Cook's mom Robyn Goehring said it was tough just standing on the turf watching the band.

"With the turf and the black track it was unbearable for us parents to stand there and watch the kids," Goehring said. "Coming off the field, I've never seen anything like it. Literally kids falling where they stood because it was unbelievably hot."

School officials quickly moved everything inside to the school gymnasium to continue the competition and get people out of the heat. They said they moved everything inside 45 minutes after the competition started.

"When I entered the doors [to the cafeteria] it was like nothing I'd ever seen before," Goehring said. "There was kids laying on the floor, ice packs sitting in chairs. It was the craziest scene I've ever seen. Just so many kids and they were coming in faster than I could even count."

Both Goehring and Cook, grateful for the help from Penn High School band moms and volunteers.

"I'm very grateful for Penn High School," Goehring said. "I can't say enough how well they treated my daughter, how well they treated others."

"That's probably the most water I drank all week that day and I gave them lots of props because they had a lot of help down there and mad respect to all of them," Cook said.

Goehring said this was a weather fluke and still wants her daughter to be part of the band. She is hopeful the directors use this as an experience of when to postpone a competition because of extreme heat in the future.

Penn High School spent weeks getting ready for the competition. They had thousands of water bottles and cool down stations set up all around the campus.

"The big deal was making sure we had lots of water, lots of cups and access to ice on campus," said Glenn Northern, the Band Director of the Penn Marching Kingsmen. "There's several ice machines in the building so there was a big crew of parents and students who were working all day to keep several water stations going with coolers full of ice water, filling cups and groups would come by and pick up water as they were in route."

Some bands like the Pride of Plymouth decided to skip the competition once they found out students were getting sick. Plymouth wasn't scheduled to play until the evening, but opted to stay home and not cause any more problems for EMTs at Penn.

"Everyone was a little bit disappointed because we work so hard for these performances, but the kids come first and their well being is always more important than a rating or a trophy," said Bryan Ames, the Band Director for the Pride of Plymouth.

Ames said they wanted to thank all of Penn and what they did to get the kids hydrated once they noticed there was a problem.