If you must be doused in iced water to raise funds, take a tip from the Cancer Society and avoid liquor


The headline atop a Stuff report today is bound to cause some dismay among Alf’s mates at the Eketahuna Club. It says:

Don’t mix drink and ice water: charity

Some people regard ice and/or water as an important component of their tot (or two) of whisky and other spirits.

Advice on the acceptability and benefits of of this can be found here.

As it turns out, the headline doesn’t quite tell us the full story.

Nor does it focus on an aspect of the story that should be causing some disquiet among our law-and-order authorities – the burial of a bloke before coronial officials could be sure of why he died.

But let’s look first at the warning.

It has been sounded in respect of people attracted to having buckets of iced water tossed over them to raise money for charity.

This frolic in frigidity is called the ice-bucket challenge and started overseas some months ago, initially as a water challenge.

Frankly, being doused in iced water strikes Alf as being a daft thing to do, notwithstanding the worthy objective of fund-raising.

But the threat to the well-being of these fund-raisers comes from having iced water thrown over them after they have been larruping into a bit of liquor.

The Stuff report says:

The death of a Kaitaia man has prompted the Cancer Society to warn anyone taking part in the ice-water challenge to steer clear of alcohol.

Willis Tepania reportedly died some hours after having a bucket of ice poured over his head last weekend in the fundraising challenge, which has become a social media craze.

An account of the death of the 40-year-old father apparently was posted on the Cancer Society Auckland’s Facebook page this week.

“People actually don’t know the consequences of this ice challenge,” the posting said.

The society later warned anyone taking on the challenge, which involved being doused in freezing water as a dare and then making a donation to charity, to be safe and responsible.

“We would say that if you are thinking about doing this, steer clear of alcohol and don’t take any crazy risks.”

In a media release the society said: “Cancer Society cares about your health and wellbeing and so does not support the consumption of alcohol as part of this challenge.”

Oh, and the Cancer Society has been keen to distance itself from whatever happened in Kaitaia.

Stuff says:

It was not the society’s initiative and the idea was to donate to a person’s favourite charity, not just the society.

We then get confirmation from a St John Ambulance spokesman that a 40-year-old Kaitaia man was taken to Kaitaia Hospital and later flown to Whangarei Hospital after a cardiac arrest on Sunday.

Moreover, readers are treated to a bit of science on the subject (although Alf does not need to know these things to be discouraged from being deliberately drenched in iced water).

University of Otago school of physical education associate professor Chris Button has researched how humans respond when suddenly immersed in cold water.

While the ice-water challenge could be risky for those with existing heart problems, for the majority of people it would probably not be a problem, he said.

His research had shown there were even benefits of habitual exposure to cold water.

“If you’ve done a bit of cold water habituation you’re much less vulnerable to the negative aspects of it,” he said.

“It’s like how they do the polar plunge in Dunedin every year … I’d say it’s probably not such a bad thing, you just have to think about doing it in a controlled fashion.”

But it should be noted that these remarks do not address the matter of being pissed at the time of indulging in a bit of cold water habituation.

The more significant aspect of this story, as Alf sees it, is the cause of death in the Kaitaia case.

The cause of his death has not been confirmed, with TVNZ quoting an unnamed aunt saying the family did not believe Tepania’s death was connected to the challenge.

He had been in poor health for several years and had a bit of a drinking problem. He died of a heart attack about 12 hours after doing the challenge, the aunt said.

But here’s the thing that is troubling:

Tepania’s body had been buried by the time the duty coroner was informed of the death.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean’s office is to raise his concerns about the delay with the Northland chief medical officer. MacLean said he was concerned at the way Northland District Health Board officials reported Willis Tepania’s death.

“It seems a doctor was prepared to sign a death certificate in circumstances that, in my opinion, were not appropriate. I am satisfied there are issues surrounding the death that meant the duty coroner should have been notified promptly,” MacLean said.

A standard hospital report form prepared for the duty coroner had also not been sent for some days.

“When the duty coroner was finally informed and took jurisdiction of the death, it emerged Mr Tepania’s body was already buried,” MacLean said.

Coroner Wallace Bain has taken over jurisdiction of the case.

It will be fascinating to observe how he handles it.

The name of the deceased suggests he is an indigenous person.

This calls for special treatment. Let’s see.

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