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Lack of Access to Water Hospitalizes Pride Parade Attendee

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Emily Day ventured downtown last weekend to attend the annual Gay Pride Parade and ended up in Methodist Hospital with severe heat exhaustion after her water was confiscated by parade staffers and she was unable to buy more because of the long lines.

The 2015 Gay Pride Parade saw a record-shattering attendance as people keen to celebrate the recent marriage equality decision handed down by the Supreme Court flocked to the new home of the parade in downtown. However, according to several attendees parade officials confiscated water from people who tried to enter the main entertainment area. Once inside, they found that acquiring any more water involved standing in long lines that also serviced people who wished to buy alcohol.

Day had prepared herself for a long night in the June heat by bringing four bottles of Ozarka water with her to the event. Upon arriving at the area cordoned off for music and refreshments, she says the people working the gate told her that she had to get rid of her own beverages.

“I probably could have been a little less confrontational about it,” says Day. “The said they were trying to keep people from smuggling substances in. I showed him that they were unopened Ozarka bottles. I finally just did what they asked. I figured that there would be water easily accessible.”

That turned out to not be the case. Reverend Michael Vachmiel was also attending the parade and found that no distinction had been made between serving alcohol and serving water, resulting in lines that were perpetually long.

“Everyone was confused,” he says. “Some people didn’t want to stand in the lines because they thought that they were for beer. Eventually they ran out of water altogether, but people were still standing in line.”

Day eventually met up with some friends at an area set up by The Montrose Center and was able to get a drink of water from people she knew there. She left before all the festivities were over, but later that evening began to feel seriously ill.

“My skin was tingling,” she says. “I thought I was having a stroke. I went into the bathroom to see if my face was drooping. It wasn’t, but I kept feeling worse. So I called 911.”

The paramedics rushed Day to the hospital where she was diagnosed with severe heat exhaustion. The doctors put her on three bags of fluids to treat her, and she was able to go home after several hours.

“I’m still not at 100 percent,” she says. “If you’re turning people with water away you need to make it easily and cheaply accessible. People were jumping into fountains it was so hot.”

Roughly 700,000 people attended the parade this year in its new location. Temperatures reached as high as 92. The Mayo Clinic recommends extra efforts to keep cool whenever the heat index is above 91. If not treated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, causing possible brain damage or death.

Calls and emails to Frankie Quijano, president and CEO of Pride Houston, were not returned as of press time. Several frustrated parade-goers tried to address the problems with the parade through social media.

“Had a great time, but not prepared for the lack of vendors at the parade route,” said Dee Cee on the Pride Parade Facebook. “We were in need of water, food, and we didn't see trash cans.”

The only response online from Pride Parade was a call for volunteers to help make 2016 better.

“They need to address the fact that we’re about to start having a million people attend,” says Vachmiel. “They need more trained staff. Not to rely on volunteers.”

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