Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fire, alarm

Have you a wood fireplace? It turns out that the reason it's important to leave the flue open until all of the coals are done glowing is because of risk of carbon monoxide, not just fire risk.

Friday night, the last of the flames died around 11:00pm, so it was just barely glowing when I closed the flue and went to bed around 1:00am. At 2:15, the carbon monoxide detector went off. Earlier in the evening, it had been reading at 0 and the furnace hadn't been on for more than 16 hours. We opened windows, the flue, and tried to get the damned machine to shut up. The readings were 140 points higher in our bedroom (270) than they were in the dining room (130), the room that adjoins the room with the fireplace.

We have friends in town for the weekend, but thank Bob none of them were staying with us. We both had small headaches but had attributed them to the smoke from the fireplace. We were tired, but it was late.

After calling several professionals (my midwives and two sets of fire/emergency dispatchers), we packed up the cats--who were acting normally... they were mostly thrilled we were awake again--and sat in the car until the fire dudes arrived with their little CO machine. Then the ambulance arrived to check us out. We both showed normal blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygen.

The EMTs were very kind, as were the fire dudes. Our CO detector was giving the same readings that theirs was, and we made a mental note to thank Brooke’s stepfather for the gift. More importantly, the levels were now the highest next to the fireplace and not in the basement with the furnace. Our cats probably would have been fine in the house, as the fire dude told us. Cats and dogs require lower levels of oxygen, which explains why they were acting just fine. So much for using the cats as canaries.

We watched an episode of the Gilmore Girls on DVD and let the house air out a bit more, even though the low was 39F last night, and then we closed all windows except the ones in the living room. Then we closed the doors to the living room and went to bed (4:00am). The next morning, all rooms had a CO reading of 0.

After a little online fearmongering, I spoke with the midwives again. No need to be concerned. A few different tests could be run, but they wouldn’t necessarily tell us anything. I realized that I didn’t know what I would do with the information even if they could tell me something. Everything will be fine.


At 1:31 PM, Blogger jen said...

glad to hear everything turned out ok

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Shelli said...

EEK! Thanks for the update, and I'm glad you are all OK - and good to know about the kitties, too.

And thanks for the reminder to check our carbon monoxide detector!

At 9:00 PM, Blogger portia said...

I love you, but it would've been terribly awkward with you two carrying me out of the house thanks to the one-two knockout of my sleep meds and the CO. :D So it's a Good Thing.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Mustang Sally said...

great you're all OK - now I'm off to see how much a Co2 monitor costs :). Did you hear the story about the fetus that saved his family from Co2 poisoning? Mom was in her last month, but the fetus kicked off labor when he couldn't get enough O2. Which woke Mom up (and I think his little body helped scrub her levels faster, too so she could rouse) and she was able to call 911 when she couldn't wake up the rest of the family. Everybody lived. I love happy endings...

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Emilin said...

Whatever you do, don't go in asking for a CO2 detector. That's carbon dioxide. You want CO: carbon monoxide.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Jen said...

While we're on the subject, I feel it is important to warn people of another danger lurking out there that most people are unaware of. Educate yourself about dihydrogen monoxide. It's a killer.



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