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Andy Irons RIP
November 2, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Three time world surfing champion Andy Irons has died at age 32, apparently from dengue fever.

Irons was on his way home to Kauai after abandoning an event at Aguadilla in Puerto Rico. His dynamic style and competence in big waves will be missed.
posted by Ahab (55 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Lukenlogs at 8:28 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad someone made a post about this - I wish I'd had time to earlier today. What a waste and what a terrible way to go. The surfing world lost a lot today.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:28 PM on November 2, 2010


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posted by mercredi at 8:44 PM on November 2, 2010


WHAT? Dengue fever? Cripes.

I wonder why he was flying all the way to Hawaii for treatment instead of the Mainland? Tropical disease specialists there, or something? Sad.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:47 PM on November 2, 2010


Poor bastard. Dengue fever is no way to die.

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posted by benzenedream at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2010


Whoa, that was totally out of nowhere. Generally, surfers are kind of healthy.
posted by Relay at 8:52 PM on November 2, 2010


Damn, his wife is seven months pregnant. This is sad.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:26 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


(((.
posted by gomichild at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fucking hell.

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posted by jimmythefish at 9:29 PM on November 2, 2010


As far as I know, it's extremely unusual for anyone in a position to receive modern medical care to die of dengue fever.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:38 PM on November 2, 2010


A strange thing to die from, I wonder if there were extenuating circumstances. Alas!

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posted by GilloD at 9:40 PM on November 2, 2010


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posted by spinifex23 at 9:48 PM on November 2, 2010


I've had a friend get Dengue Fever, and for some reason I only thought it made you miserable and close to death. It never occurred to me that healthy people could die from it. I kind of always thought my friend would pull through and he did, but death never even crossed my mind. Shit, and Andy Irons was likely in amazing shape and very strong, that sucks.
posted by mathowie at 9:58 PM on November 2, 2010



My students here in Maui were hit pretty hard by this. Very sad indeed.

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posted by dealing away at 9:59 PM on November 2, 2010


Wow, that article in The Australian linked from my home town, Aguadilla, is pretty crazy. The contest is actually not there, but near the town of Isabela, which a pro surfer is quoted describing as “not a modern town...it’s pretty bare..." (It is, except, ya know, for the Walmart, etc.) He goes on to doubt the quality of the drinking water, as if that might have been an issue in Irons contracting the fever (which is spread by mosquitoes). The water's not great, but it's better than here in Florida!

That said, that particular area of Isabela where the contest is being held has been horribly abused by developers for decades and the natural ebb and flow of the mangroves ruined, leaving dead pools of brackish water everywhere. People have been warning about these as breeding grounds for dengue for a long time. While the Australian article quotes other surfers speculating Irons might have contracted the fever in Portugal, I would not doubt the scourge is on the move along PR's north shore yet again and it has claimed another victim.

Andy Irons: I Surf Because (a short film)
posted by bonefish at 10:06 PM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as I know, it's extremely unusual for anyone in a position to receive modern medical care to die of dengue fever.

This is why I was questioning the treatment aspect of it. He was in Puerto Rico, and for some reason chose to leave, to fly to Hawaii. Surely there are competent tropical disease practitioners closer, in the continental U.S. ? Florida comes to mind as the first place I'd fly to from the Caribbean. I'm wondering if the screwed up medical insurance practices you guys suffer under down there might have had played some role in this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:09 PM on November 2, 2010


As far as I know, it's extremely unusual for anyone in a position to receive modern medical care to die of dengue fever.

It depends on what variety of the disease. There are two forms of the disease: dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). If you develop DHF you need immediate medical attention or the chances of death increase exponentially. While I was living in Nicaragua and I got dengue fever; luckily it did not develop into DHF. I attribute this to a high blood alcohol level developed by a steady regimen of Flor de Caña. Seriously, though, I was sick as a dog in bed with a fever for 6 days. I literally thought I was going to die. I barely had enough strength to eat or sit up in bed for more than a few minutes. Scary stuff. Unfortunately and tragically it seems that Mr. Irons was not properly diagnosed and treated. What a waste.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:12 PM on November 2, 2010


Unfortunately and tragically it seems that Mr. Irons was not properly diagnosed and treated. What a waste.

Yes, it seems so. I was just reading up on it. It seems that it presents as a flu-like illness, so he was likely flying home, undiagnosed. There is no vaccine, nor a specific treatment for it, other than fluid replacement.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:18 PM on November 2, 2010


Dengue fever deaths are tragic, all the more so because it stirs up some incongruence with our way of life. It feels strange that even while living amongst skyscrapers and with access to modern medicine and ICU units, there's still a mosquito that could fly up to you and bite you when you're not looking and infect you with a disease that has a tiny** chance of killing you, for which there is no vaccine and nothing in the way of treatment.

** well, I looked it up that you're more than twice as likely to die from dengue fever than being killed by lightning here

Two guys at my school were killed by dengue fever at the age of 17. And there are definitely aedes mosquitoes where I lived - they have distinctive white stripes along their legs and body. Nothing like getting bitten by one as a reminder of your own mortality.
posted by xdvesper at 10:19 PM on November 2, 2010


Here is an in depth guide for how to diagnose and treat dengue and DHF. The treatment of Dengue is pretty straightforward and can be recaived in most any hospital. I was treated in a third world country and I survived. The problem is getting it diagnosed early and treating it promptly.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:22 PM on November 2, 2010


> If you develop DHF you need immediate medical attention or the chances of death increase exponentially.

As the father of a four-year old who had it and was prescribed Panadol, lots of liquid and a follow-up visit to the doctor three days later, I'm glad it's not quite that bad...
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:37 PM on November 2, 2010


If you've been previously infected with one subtype of dengue, a new subtype infection will use the antibodies from the first infection to enter cells more effectively. So unfortunately the better the immune response in the first infection, the more severe the second infection can be. (Dengue, by Scott Halstead)
posted by benzenedream at 10:41 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


We don't know that he was misdiagnosed in Puerto Rico, which is suffering "an ongoing 2010 outbreak occurring in Puerto Rico with 5382 confirmed infections and 20 deaths" (from the wikipedia link in the OP), and so probably has experts in diagnosis and treatments. His trying to get home from PR - it's a long, long way - may have worsened his condition, if he was already exhausted. Hawaii had an outbreak as well, in 2001.

In any case.

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posted by rtha at 10:47 PM on November 2, 2010


The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting it as a possible methadone overdose. Although I'm sure the dengue couldn't have helped.
posted by flod at 10:48 PM on November 2, 2010


As the father of a four-year old who had it....I'm glad it's not quite that bad

It being classic dengue or DHF? If a person develops DHF it can and will lead to death as evidenced by this fpp.

So unfortunately the better the immune response in the first infection, the more severe the second infection can be.

I was told that by some of the doctors in Nicaragua but later when I was researching it on the internet I couldn't find any info on this. Thanks for the link.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:53 PM on November 2, 2010


> It being classic dengue or DHF? If a person develops DHF it can and will lead to death as evidenced by this fpp.

DHF. I can show you the paperwork if you want.

I'm not sure what you mean by "can and will". If you mean "will" then you're wrong. If you mean "can", then we're not in disagreement. And this fpp is of course about very recent news and subject to speculation and change, see the Honolulu Star post just above.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:12 PM on November 2, 2010


The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting it as a possible methadone overdose.

Isn't methadone something they give to treat heroin addicts? I just can't imagine anybody surfing while on heroin.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:32 PM on November 2, 2010


DHF. I can show you the paperwork if you want.

I'm not sure what you mean by "can and will". If you mean "will" then you're wrong. If you mean "can", then we're not in disagreement. And this fpp is of course about very recent news and subject to speculation and change, see the Honolulu Star post just above.


:) No paperwork necessary I was just curious. I guess I mean it more in the sense of can but as I stated before if one develops DHF and does not receive medical attention the chances of death increase. I was responding to you saying that it is "not quite that bad" which is not entirely accurate. "How bad" it is depends on the severity of the infection, which serotype of DENV you are infected with, and the immune system of the infected individual. So while luckily your son didn't have a severe case of DHF that doesn't mean that his case is indicative of dengue in general. From what my doctors told me most people are bed ridden for at least a week, and that's just dengue without developing DHF.

Either way I think we can both agree that whatever the cause of Mr. Iron's death it is tragic to say the least.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:46 PM on November 2, 2010


Dengue can be almost unbelievably painful. Methadone is a pretty effective painkiller.

But if Andy was trying to self treat, then he was pursuing a risky strategy. Shock is one effect of bad cases of dengue, and throwing a drug that slows respiration and heart rate at a condition that involves low blood pressure and reduced circulation is almost certainly going to worsen one's chances.

But until the drug angle is proven, I'd certainly prefer to believe that it was a virus that killed him, not a drug overdose. I'm sad enough about this already.
posted by Ahab at 11:57 PM on November 2, 2010


The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting it as a possible methadone overdose.

shit. reeks of self-medication. poor guy.


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posted by philip-random at 11:59 PM on November 2, 2010


I just can't imagine anybody surfing while on heroin.

Erm.

(Come on, that was a total setup).


Also, how terrible for his family.

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posted by jokeefe at 12:04 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Plug1 at 12:26 AM on November 3, 2010


What?? Fucking HELL.
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posted by iamkimiam at 1:24 AM on November 3, 2010


I've known Andy since he was 10...this news has devastated everyone on the North Shore of Kauai. Hundreds of people gathered at Pinetrees in Hanalei this afternoon to commiserate. Beyond the public persona, Andy was one helluva nice guy who made it a point show up / be / best man at every friend's wedding, invite those of us less talented to hang at the Pipe house, and hold a keiki contest every year (with his brother Bruce) for all the groms who looked up to him as a true hero.

Sad end for a local Kauai boy who really made it big. Many of my friends wives & girlfriends went to Lindie's baby shower last weekend... E hoʻomaha me ka maluhia my friend.
posted by IslandTrust at 1:38 AM on November 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


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posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:02 AM on November 3, 2010


For all of you speculating as to why he "flew back to Hawaii for treatment":

"Because he couldn't compete, because he was too sick, he decided to fly home," he said. "He checked into a hotel and that's where they found him."


This isn't the narrative of someone with a virulent case of dengue who was diagnosed and then rushed to specialists...he was found with methadone (hidden in a pill bottle for a different drug) next to his bedside.
posted by availablelight at 5:28 AM on November 3, 2010


Unfortunately and tragically it seems that Mr. Irons was not properly diagnosed and treated.

Tropical diseases are easy to misdiagnose, especially if you're self-diagnosing. I was three weeks into a malaria infection before I went to a hospital, the whole time convinced it was just a bad flu. By the time I got treatment my blood infection rate was almost 50%. Had I waited another day to come in I would be dead.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:34 AM on November 3, 2010


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posted by Madamina at 7:42 AM on November 3, 2010


I'm wondering if the screwed up medical insurance practices you guys suffer under down there might have had played some role in this.

Unlikely. You can get approval by phone for treatment away from home; with an emergent condition like dengue fever, it would have been very unlikely for there to be any issue with that (indeed, if he had been admitted to a hospital in Puerto Rico, someone on the staff there would probably have coordinated the coverage with his insurer).

Alas, it sounds like Irons thought he could self-medicate and white-knuckle it until he got home. Sometimes people who have been in splendid health until getting something have a hard time understanding how serious their need is for treatment ASAP.

Sad news.

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posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2010


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posted by snsranch at 8:22 AM on November 3, 2010


He was a great surfer, and his life seemed to be on an upswing after some challenging years.

So sad and tragic, whatever the cause.

RIP Andy
posted by dontoine at 8:36 AM on November 3, 2010


New York Times.

Guardian.

ESPN.
posted by Ahab at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2010


Sometimes people who have been in splendid health until getting something have a hard time understanding how serious their need is for treatment ASAP.

This. It's hard to imagine there's any flu-ish disease your body can't conquer if you're super healthy. (And most of us will go to great lengths to avoid the misery that is the ER, especially when you're someplace where English isn't the first language.)

RIP Andy.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:11 AM on November 3, 2010


Huh. That Guardian article implied that he got dengue fever semi-regularly- he probably figured he'd just ride out another bout.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 AM on November 3, 2010


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Really sad.

Not to derail but does anyone know why a toxicology report takes 60-90 days to complete? It was mentioned in the article flod linked to.

About a year ago a friend died under questionable circumstances and it took 3 months for the coroner's office to provide toxicology results. Isn't it a simple blood test? Or are they measuring something else?
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 10:35 AM on November 3, 2010


Not to derail but does anyone know why a toxicology report takes 60-90 days to complete?

Understaffing and backlog.

When tox reports come through more quickly (Heath Ledger, etc.) it's usually because someone paid a private lab to do them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2010


Not to derail but does anyone know why a toxicology report takes 60-90 days to complete?

I haven't worked with toxicology specifically, but in my experience analytical labs charge a lot for rush jobs, and there are several levels of QA/QC with machinery and qualified personnel to verify results (not to mention sample prep). Then you usually have someone seperate to interpret results.

It's not like CSI where you throw a dried up piece of blood into the scanner and it tells you who the person is.
posted by Big_B at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2010


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posted by sonicbloom at 2:43 PM on November 3, 2010


RIP AI.
posted by Duke999R at 7:44 PM on November 3, 2010


Related /unrelated :

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/rowing/8086589/Death-of-double-Olympic-champion-Andy-Holmes-sparks-health-alert-for-rowers.html
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:37 AM on November 4, 2010


It's hard to imagine there's any flu-ish disease your body can't conquer if you're super healthy.

It doesn't help that there is no real medical treatment for the flu, so people are conditioned to wait it out.
posted by smackfu at 12:58 PM on November 5, 2010


It's hard to imagine there's any flu-ish disease your body can't conquer if you're super healthy.

There are lots of viruses that use your own immune system to kill you, and the more vigorous an immune response you have, the quicker you die. Read up on cytokine storms for more details.
posted by benzenedream at 2:08 PM on November 5, 2010


"There were always rumors of drug abuse and binge drinking, but until Andy Irons died mysteriously in a Dallas hotel earlier this month, nobody close to the surfing legend was willing to talk. In an exclusive, friends and sponsors break surfing's code of silence to recount the tragic descent and final days of the sport's most troubled star."

http://outsideonline.com/adventure/travel-ta-andy-irons-surfing-athletes-sidwcmdev_152739.html?imw=Y
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:37 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


sometimes I think we need a new "cause-of-death" subset; some variant of Death-By-Painkillers.
posted by philip-random at 10:58 PM on November 23, 2010


God, that article. On the one hand, you've got an open secret, but on the other the toxicology report isn't back yet and his wife probably doesn't need any more stress right now. Could they not have waited just a LITTLE longer?
posted by Madamina at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2010


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