Here is an amazing guest post from Elizabeth Bryan, the co-author and co-inventor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings book and game. I was horrified and amazed when I heard of Elizabeth’s near-death experience… and incredibly moved by her simple call to action. Here’s Elizabeth!
I wanted to share how one everyday decision saved my entire family’s life – and can save yours. It’s the decision to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home today. It’s one of those things you never think to do, mostly because you don’t believe being poisoned by CO can happen to you. But it happened to me, your average working mom and our family of 11 (including the dogs and cats!).
Carbon monoxide poisoning is completely preventable yet kills hundreds of people each year and sends tens of thousands more to ER’s nationwide. It’s actually the leading cause of accidental poisoning in our country.
It was a freezing cold New York winter when all the windows were sealed tightly shut. I had a six-month-old baby and a teenager, and we were all feeling really sick – bad headaches, nauseous, foggy; the works. The little one was very cranky and sleeping a lot (which was completely out of character), so I hauled everyone off to the doctor. “Just the flu,” the doctor said. “Go home and get some rest.”
I decided to take advantage of the down time and go through some boxes in the basement. Glancing up in the direction of the hot water heater, I noticed that our CO detector was disengaged from the ceiling, hanging from its wires. I grabbed a ladder and popped it back in. Instantly, the beeping began – loud and terrifying. In that moment, I realized we did not have the flu: my entire family was being poisoned by carbon monoxide.
I ran through the house, yelling to the babysitter to help me get both kids outside for fresh air. The gas company arrived about an hour later, and confirmed what I already knew – anyone in the basement for any length of time would have already been dead. And, as the colorless, odorless gas rose to the upper floors of our home, we were about to become yet another unbearable tragedy.
We found out later that a workman in our home had heard the detector go off weeks earlier and had pulled it from the ceiling, thinking that the batteries needed to be changed. He never told a soul – and, had we all died, I wouldn’t be able to share this story with you and prevent senseless deaths, making the whole experience one huge ‘blessing-in-disguise.’
Many other incredible things came out of the whole thing, like doing my best to look on the bright side of every experience. My appreciation for life and my family increased a thousand-fold. I also try to never leave any interaction on a negative note, as you never know if you will have the chance to make amends.
There are so many things in this world that are out of our control – dying from CO poisoning is something we can control. I always say that installing a detector is “the most inexpensive way to prevent a death.” From your stove to your heater and your dryer, you can’t imagine the variety of year-round ways you can be exposed to CO. Holidays are around the corner – we’ll all be cooking and entertaining, with many of our windows shut to keep out the cold – it’s more important than ever to keep our loved ones safe. Please visit www.firstalert.com to get educated on all the risks and learn whether your state requires you to install a detector in your home. But don’t do it because it’s the law – do it for your family!
what an important lesson. thank you for sharing, caitlin and elizabeth.