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Cold Water Challenge for Cancer Surges, But Safety Questioned

By Nick Sanchez   |   Monday, 05 May 2014 11:18 AM

The Cold Water Challenge for Cancer is sweeping the nation via social media, raising money for cancer charities. Many emergency medical personnel are concerned, however, about participants' safety.

Unlike the popular Polar Plunges that are usually sanctioned events with paramedic supervision, the new challenge asks participants to dunk themselves in whatever cold water they can find, ABC's WZZM Grand Rapids reports.

The challenge usually resembles a chain letter, in which a friend challenges you to either donate $100 to charity or record yourself jumping into cold water. Many people do both. Just before your plunge, you're supposed to call out the names of three friends whom you challenge to do the same, and the chain continues.

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Some people have simply filled up their bathtub with cold water and ice to take the plunge, however others have gotten more creative.

"It was cold, it was windy, and I thought, no better time, than to do it now," Brandon Alberda of Michigan told local reporters after jumping into the creek behind his home.

Josh Layman, his friend, chose a pond full of stagnant water behind his apartment complex. "It's pretty stagnant water, pond, gross, there's not a real good body of water, besides the Grand River, and I didn't want to get swept away," he explained.

Most come away free of any problems that could result, said North Muskegon Fire Department Chief Steve Lague, but there are a number of things that could go wrong.

"You tend to forget about safety issues that come along with cold water and hypothermia, but also hitting your head, paralysis, or cutting your foot," he said. He recommends designated swimming areas like those found in some local lakes and ponds, and says there should always be a friend or two with you.

CBS's WWMT Michigan reports that one man, 32-year-old Tommy Smith from Grey Lake, was paralyzed from the waist down after his participation in the Cold Water Challenge.

"As far as I know right now, he has three fractures to his neck and is paralyzed from the waist down," said Dee-Dee Taylor, who saved Smith. She said she saw 17 other people jump into the lake before him.

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