A 49-year-old Alabaman woman is standing trial for murder after allegedly forcing her granddaughter to run until she died.
Ran for over three hours
According to NBC News, authorities claim that Joyce Hardin Garrard, in February, 2012 made 9-year-old Savannah Hardin run for over three hours as punishment for a lie about eating chocolate candy bars at a school fundraiser.
The school bus driver, who is also a witness in the case, said that she had found wrappers in the bus the day before the running incident and then told Savannah's family the girl had admitted to eating them on the bus.
Afterwards a conversation via surveillance camera could hear Garrard saying: "She's going to run until I tell her to stop."
The parents of the deceased said that she had bladder problems and family members were concerned with any health problems she might have after eating candy, Al.com reported.
Hence, Garrard's plan to punish the girl after she had lied about eating sweets after school the previous day.
However in court, Garrard was compared to a "drill sergeant" who drove the child to run until after sunset, when she apparently collapsed from vomiting and dehydration.
A neighbour told the court he saw Savannah Hardin running sprints with cinder block-sized firewood in her arms for roughly three hours, during different parts of the afternoon and evening. She carried the wood to a wood pile and was then forced to continue running.
He thought the child was getting some rest in between, but when he and his family returned home around 6:30 pm, she was on her knees, vomiting.
Read: Too much water could be dangerous
Garrard was also seen pouring water into Savannah's mouth but most of it ran out along the sides.
According to the DailyMail, by the time paramedics arrived around 7 pm that evening, they found the child lying in the Hardin’s yard, cold and wearing a shirt and panties that were "soaking wet".
The above factors led to Garrard's defence attourneys arguing that Savannah didn't die of lack of water, but from consuming too much water.
Health24’s resident doctor Owen Wiese explains that the process is called overhydration (water intoxication), in which case the biggest problem is thinning of the blood, leading to a condition named Hyponatremia.
What is Hyponatremia?
"When a person consumes too much water in a short period of time, the kidneys can’t expell it fast enough. Water moves from low to high salt concentration levels (in this case to the cells). Cells can usually swell to accommodate this, but in the case of neurons (brain cells) it’s not possible because of restricted space in the skull," Dr Wiese said.
The overall problem with hyponatremia is therefore the swelling of the brain.
"Hyponatremia in the brain leads to catastrophic swelling, which then causes problems like epilepsy, shortness of breath, and a hernia of the brain which eventually ends in death."
Watch: HLN report on Savannah Hardin's death by running
The child collapsed outside the family's rural home and died in hospital three days later.
Safety tips for fire and water
Get your kids to drink more water