You'd be surprised how easily electrolytes can go out of balance with or without extenuating circumstances. I'm one of those individuals who runs on the low side of the normal range for the sodium test. Normal range is 135-145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Do any of you know what your blood sodium level is? You should know before you drink enormous quantities of water.

One December, I came down with a cold or flu. I just wanted to sleep. I didn't really feel like eating, so I didn't, even with a lot of gentle nagging by NL. When we are ill with flu or cold, we are always told to stay hydrated. So, every couple of hours, I obliged NL by drinking a glass of water. Perfect storm...not eating (not ingesting enough sodium), lower blood sodium level anyway, drinking a lot of water and after 3 days, I was acting stranger than is normal for even me. New Years eve, NL packed me into the car and took me to the emergency unit of our local hospital. I got through the registration and admissions process, got onto a hospital bed and was, in the blink of an eye, in full hyponatremic (sometimes called water intoxication) crisis. My blood sodium was 106 (mEq/L). All the other electrolytes were wonky too. I was in a babbling coma for 17 hours, no one knew if I would live, die, would have brain damage, or be in a permanent coma. Seven days later, I was released from the Intensive Care Unit, on a strict fluid intake restriction and taking sodium tablets and had to get blood tests and check in with my nephrologist every week for a couple months.

Yes there were extenuating circumstances in my case, but some extenuating circumstance of one kind or another is all it takes to upset the balance of electrolytes we all take for granted. I had this discussion with my nephrologist about how those of us with spinal cord injury are told to drink, drink, drink to flush the kidneys and bladder. She has just sat there, shaking her head. She says large quantities of water put an extraordinary burden on your kidneys and can actually cause kidney disease.

Every one of us should know our blood sodium level, along with the balance of other electrolytes and we should have yearly tests, or more often if you have a kidney or sodium problem, to monitor what is going on with our blood chemistry.