Updated March 19, 2021 - 9:09 am
In October, Tina Hartshorn ordered 5-gallon jugs of Real Water delivered to her home in the north Las Vegas Valley.
She was intrigued by what was marketed as “alkalized water infused with negative ions” and touted on the label as “the healthiest drinking water available.”
She bought two jugs for $20 and received two more for free, with a case of 1-liter bottles. She said she drank the water every day for nearly a month before she started to feel ill. She started vomiting and thought she might have an inner ear infection.
“I felt like a bobblehead,” Hartshorn said. “The more water I drank, the worse I got.”
In the wake of a recent civil lawsuit against the Las Vegas-based company and an announcement of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into Real Water after reported liver illness in children, more Nevadans have stepped forward with concerns about the product.
Attorney Will Kemp, who filed suit Tuesday on behalf of one family, said Thursday that he was fielding dozens of calls and interviewing potential clients, including one who underwent a liver transplant.
Late Thursday, his firm Kemp Jones, LLP filed a second lawsuit on behalf of a Nevada father of two who drank Real Water and suffered “acute liver failure and was informed that he was a candidate for an immediate liver transplant.”
Before receiving a transplant, however, the man recovered after he stopped drinking the water, Kemp said.
“It’s a little more serious than the health district thought,” the lawyer said of the initial response to the outbreak.
Retailers asked to pull product
Real Water President Brent Jones, a former Nevada legislator, called for retailers to pull the product from shelves “effective immediately,” according to a statement provided to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also warned consumers, restaurants and retailers not to drink, cook with, sell or serve the product.
The agency was alerted late last week about five cases of acute non-viral hepatitis, which causes liver failure, in infants and children from November, according to the agency’s announcement. Six more people, including three children, reported less severe symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue.
“Our goal is to diligently work with the FDA to achieve a swift resolution,” Jones’ statement read. He asked retailers to keep the product “in the back rooms or return it to the distributors, adding that “any customer who has purchased Real Water from a retailer is asked to return the product.”
Jones has not responded to messages from the Review-Journal.
An avid Real Water drinker for years, 69-year-old Kathleen Ryerson died from aspirated pneumonia and liver failure on Nov. 11, according to her sister, Judy Ryerson, who said she believes the product played a role in her sister’s death.
“She had no underlying liver issues,” Ryerson said. Her sister had asthma and allergies but otherwise “she was healthy for her age.”
Kathleen Ryerson, retired from the health industry, underwent testing in September, and doctors could not figure out why she was sick, her sister said.
‘She just wasn’t herself’
Kathleen Ryerson drank upward of 64 ounces of Real Water per day. Her sister did not drink the product.
In October, continuing to consume Real Water, she was struggling to get out of bed or walk, her sister said.
“She couldn’t manage her life,” Judy Ryerson said. An ambulance rushed Kathleen Ryerson to St. Rose Dominican Hospital. “She was listless. She just wasn’t herself. I knew that something was really wrong. It was incredibly hard to push her along on her journey.”
After learning through news reports of the Real Water investigation, Judy Ryerson said she contemplated contacting an attorney. She kept a bottle of the product at the home the two shared.
“What would monetary compensation do right now?” she said. “Unfortunately, my sister’s gone. If this is in any way related to the Real Water, that’s what I want out there. And that’s why I want to get involved in this.”
By Nov. 9, Hartshorn was admitted to Centennial Hospital, where she stayed for nine days, running up a $100,000 medical bill.
She could barely speak and had difficulty keeping any food down, she said. Doctors asked if she was diabetic because her insulin was so low. She told them she was not.
Because of her hospitalization, she was skipped over for shifts at the Sun Coast pool bar where she worked.
Her husband, James, who did not drink the bottled water, said the couple did not know what caused her illness.
“Now that this is all coming out, it all makes sense,” he said. “I thought she was going crazy.”