Skip to main Content

Bethel vice mayor's heart stops after he consumed energy drinks

  • Author: Anna MacArthur
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 8, 2015

BETHEL -- The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Bethel Vice Mayor Byron Maczynski went to work at his dad's auto shop. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the back of an ambulance.

He says his heart stopped and he slammed his head against the shop's concrete floor during the fall. Byron's father saw it happen.

Why Byron, 28, collapsed remains a mystery, but Byron and health researchers think it might have something to do with what he drank that morning, according to a story on KYUK Public Media.

"I always thought death would hurt, but I really didn't feel anything," Byron Maczynski said. "I guess I collapsed. My face was turning purple, and my dad came in and checked a pulse. And there was nothing."

Cezary Maczynski, Byron's father, was standing 10 feet away.

"He tried to hook his coat over the hanger, and he kind of jump out like he had electric shock, and his face turned to purple, and in a split second, he'd be on the ground," Cezary said.

Cezary began administering CPR, which he'd learned while serving in the Polish military. When he wasn't seeing progress, he left his son to call 911 and then continued resuscitating.

Byron said he came to in the ambulance, and the first thing he remembers is throwing up. The paramedics never used a defibrillator on him.

"What they told me," Byron said, "was I was dangerously dehydrated; and I had low blood pressure; and my heart was trying to keep up or something and quit."

At the hospital, Byron said, the doctors gave him four bags of IV fluid and sent him home later that evening.

What caused the incident remains unknown.

Byron says he doesn't drink alcohol. He quit smoking six months ago. And he doesn't take medication or have any known medical or heart conditions. Also, he wasn't exercising or doing any physical activity that day. The one thing that stood out is early that morning: He drank a cup of coffee and two Monster energy drinks.

Dr. John P. Higgins, a sports cardiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is conducting a study on the effects of Monster energy drinks. For the research, Dr. Higgins measured his subjects' arteries before and after drinking a 24-oz Monster.

"It looks like to us that following consumption of the energy drink those arteries may not be able to open up to the same extent that they need to," Higgins said, "and this could cause problems, such as a mismatch between the blood flow so there's not enough oxygen getting to the heart. And this could cause the heart to stop beating."

This phenomenon might be what happened to Byron.

Higgins said there have been multiple documented cases of people—particularly teens and adolescents—collapsing and even dying after consuming energy drinks. So far these deaths are associations and haven't been proven to be directly caused by the energy drinks.

Also, the doctors had told Byron he was severely dehydrated. Energy drinks contain caffeine, a diuretic, which can exacerbate dehydration and lower blood volume. It can also alter blood pressure and heart rhythms.

But one of the biggest concerns with energy drinks is what's not known.

"We often don't know what's in them," Higgins said, "including the amounts of caffeine is not clear. Because they have both the synthetic caffeine in them, but also they have caffeine derived from some of the natural energy blend components."

Higgins says the blend is often unlisted.

Byron says he's doing OK. He says his chest hurts, and he thinks his ribs are broken from the CPR. But he's happy to be alive.

"The one thing I kept on thinking," Byron said, "is the stuff that I didn't do and I wanted to do, like help people, the people closest to you, how you want to take care of them better. Just all this stuff that I wanted to do but didn't."

Byron says he's given up energy drinks.

This story has been reprinted with permission from the original at KYUK.org.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.

Comments