Mother Shani Clarke of Perth, Australia, had warned her 35-year-old son Michael against drinking too many energy drinks. She noticed him carrying an armful of cans out of his truck one day and told him that too many of the drinks could be harmful to his health.
What she didn’t realize, though, was that he had been consuming as many as four cans of Mother each day. The popular energy drink in Australia and New Zealand contains 160 mg of caffeine per can; that’s over two-thirds more caffeine than 1 normal cup of coffee.
One day, he guzzled four cans of Mother along with what coroners believed was around four or five cups of coffee, and went into cardiac arrest while driving in January of 2014.
Energy drinks themselves very rarely cause outright fatal caffeine poisoning, but Clarke fell victim to the effects of the massive levels of caffeine in the beverages nonetheless. As doctors caution can happen, his heart was put under massive strain from extreme levels of caffeine that he consumed, leaving his mother grieving the loss of her eldest son.
According to the Daily Mail, Shani Clarke was heartbroken by the loss.
“I can’t tell you the pain I felt at that moment, my heart just hit the floor and I sobbed and sobbed,” she wrote at the time of his death.
Instead of letting his death overwhelm her, though, she went on to form a Facebook page to educate others on the serious effects of drinking too many caffeinated beverages—and five years later, she’s still running it.
The group grew to 500 strong within the first year, and it’s now up to over 1,700 as users get together to discuss the dangers of drinking too much caffeine. Some have been candid and admitted that they have problems with drinking energy drinks themselves, thanking Clarke for starting the group to help then kick the unhealthy habit.
The group is a gathering spot for the hundreds who want to improve their lives or caution others. It also provides Clarke with a sense of closure. She’s still left with the grief of her son’s choice, which he used to stay awake at his job.
“I was so angry when I found out it was caffeine as I had lost my first born and it could have been avoided if he hadn’t drank so many of these drinks without a break,” she said in a Facebook post.
In the aftermath, Australia reminded citizens to limit their caffeine intake in a single day to no more than 500 mg. While it takes about 10 grams for the average adult to overdose on caffeine—something incredibly difficult to achieve without vomiting first—some individuals are far more sensitive, and even just the 500 mg threshold can cause arrhythmia and cardiac arrest without the caffeine killing on its own.
For Clarke, that means that there’s still work to be done—especially if keeping the group means that others will be made aware of just how serious caffeine ingestion can be.
“Things ALWAYS happen for a reason, my back has been bad this week so got a dog wash lady to come round … and of course the caffeine subject came up and BAM she drinks Redbull every single day!” she posted in 2018.
“We had a BIG chat and gave her some cards to join the caffeine toxicity group to get help to come off, she has been thinking that she needs to stop but today I gave her the reason to stop…..another one to add to your list Michael Clarke of people you have helped.”