Monday, February 28, 2011

Coming out of my carbon monoxide cloud

Yes, that's right.  The carbon monoxide saga continued after I posted that our carbon monoxide detector had saved our lives.  See, my Dad had just written an article about testers and was horrified that this could happen to his kids...well the horror got worse!

Dad pointed out to us that our tester was OLD!  We were lucky the darn thing had gone off in the first place; so he replaced it with a newer any good Engineer Dad would.  During this time, we were having chimney issues like no other.  The darn thing was literally falling apart... The chimney to the woodstove, not the fireplace, and we were hardly using the furnace at all.  But anyway, when the first alarm had sounded, we thought we found the problem, fixed it and then moved on.

A few weeks later, the new alarm started going off in the night.  It was reading very low levels of carbon monoxide.  It was coincidentally when the fire in the woodstove was going out, so we'd get up in the night thinking it was our bad chimney and open up the garage door and get the fire going again for good draw up the chimney and then go back to bed.  This went on for a couple weeks.

One morning after a particularly bad night with the damn alarm I could not for the life of me do my e-mail and stuff.  I couldn't think straight and was very confused, I kept forgetting what I was doing; and although this is a common problem for me with my seizure meds this was way worse.  I looked up carbon monoxide poisoning and lo and behold...I had a match!

I was due for some labwork anyway and asked my doctor if she would ad the test.  After some initial questions she did so, and a test that normally takes 24-48 hours came back in less than 18 hours with my blood level at ten times the rate of what it was supposed to be.  Now, there is a bit of a debate about measurements of carbon monoxide in the blood, the only thing I know is that they were trying to talk me into going into "the chamber" more than 24 hours after exposure.  What??????????

So, this is what we have learned.  First of all, we were pretty much idiots for ever thinking it was the fire.  A woodstove would have to be practically smoking into your home to do that to me.  What was happening was that our furnace had a malfunctioning heat exchanger in it.  When we opened up the garage door to get the fire going again, we were releasing the carbon monoxide and saving our lives!  The rest of the family was leaving for 8-12 hours a day and cleaning out their systems, while I sit here in the garage (where the furnace and woodstove are both located) and work a good portion of the day.

And, as usual, I am going to say follow your instincts folks.  When the first alarm went off, I quit trusting that damn furnace and quit using it whenever possible.  I would shut it down whenever I could, but those weeks that we were getting poisoned it was like -20* here, there was just no avoiding using it.  Well, I would have if I had known-ha!  As a matter of fact, I was so sure it was the furnace, I had shut it down the day I had left to go get my blood drawn or I could have come home to a house full of dead pets!

The point is, is that we were not thinking clearly which is the first sign of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Do not let low levels of carbon monoxide fool you.  If your detector is going off, it means that there has been a low level for over eight hours.  I will say it again, because this fact is so important.  If your detector goes off, at any level, you have been exposed to carbon monoxide for at least eight hours!

Now, to the not so fun stuff.  I have had a hell of a time getting this crap out of my system and out of my home.  If you have better insurance than I do, by all means take them up on "the chamber" and get it out of your system in a quicker way than I did.  If not, get out and get fresh air and exercise.  This was not easy to do with my back, and I had to try and take it slow, but I just did it.  It was great fun for the animals, and I know that the dogs really needed it too!

As for the that almost is a story in itself!  See, the men (the hubs and the oldest boys) all kept telling me that once the furnace was out; and believe me we had it out quick once it tested bad (in the nineties when you are supposed to evacuate at 9!) so was the carbon monoxide.  Well, I could still feel it.  That was until Hubs went back to work on Monday after being sick on the weekend and realizing that he had been showing symptoms....Thank goodness his sister was on her way to help me decontaminate the house!

And that is what I believe a person needs to do in a case like this.  We took lampshades outside and shook them and you would not believe the black dust that came off of them.  We did the windows, the sheets (which I think were the biggest contributing factor) you name it, if it was porous, we tried to clean it.  Now, keep in mind, that our furnace had been off for days, and then out of the house for another few days.  

As usual, I have to put a plug in for my friend Tiffany and her wonderful cleaning products that are available on Etsy.  My SIL Annie and I got the giggles when we saw the name of her product that we were using...Mama's Crisis Cleaning Solution!  Talk about nailing it.  This product was easy on our hands and smelled delicious as it has a bit of lavender in it.  I used it on my wood surfaces too and they really shined as well.

So God forbid this happen to you or anyone you know, but if it does, I highly encourage you to be aggressive about it.  If your alarm goes off...get out of the house and find out what the problem is immediately!  Then get your house cleaned; and I mean cleaned well.  If you can afford it, even clean the vents because when we turned the new furnace on, we had symptoms show up again.  

I still have some memory issues, and this has been a couple weeks now.  As you can see I have taken a lot of time getting back into the blog and my computer work, and this has helped with my concentration levels.  I have to really work at getting a lot of fresh air daily.  Thank goodness I live on a ranch in beautiful Colorado; I have been blessed in many ways.  To tell my tale...and to recover in the Rockies...Now those are blessings!


lfhpueblo said...

Yikes. I'm glad you guys found out the true source of the problem. We had a bad waterheater once and it had to be replaced. That was scary enough, but nothing on the level that you guys went through.

Royal Ranch said...

Thanks L, yes, it is very scary stuff. I did forget to mention one of the best things we did was to air out the house big time! We opened it up WIDE...let all the windows open for hours and the smell was amazing! When I came back in from doing chores that day, I could smell the dish soap that Hubs was using upstairs-Lovely!!!

A.C. Byrne said...

I am so happy that everything turned out ok. That sounds really scary. Our detectors are roughly 5 years old and this post inspired me last night to buy new ones just in case. It has been in the back of my mind to do so thanks for giving the final push I needed to do it.

Royal Ranch said...

I am sooo glad that you bought new detectors!!!! Even if just you guys listen I feel like this post was worthwhile! With a baby in the house it is even more important, as that little cutie pie would be the first to feel the affects.
Your Friend & Neighbor,

Khrys said...

I am so glad you are okay! It's a good thing you have a beautiful ranch to recover on and be able to have gotten that fresh air:) Are you feeling better now?