SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield mother brings us a warning about a silent, but deadly killer, carbon monoxide. KOLR10 met with the family to find out how they got out in time, alive, but not unharmed.
“If it wasn’t for our heat going out, it could have been severely dangerous, like one of the kids could’ve died or something,” Mom Chelsey Wren said.
Every child’s biggest fear is a monster lurking in the dark. You can’t see it, can’t hear it, and can’t smell it. But this isn’t a page out of a children’s book, it’s a moment ripped right from one family’s life. And for Wren’s kids, their monster lives in the garage.
“Where our furnace is, is out in the garage, and we were starting to go out there and clean, and my little girl would go out there and play all the time,” Wren said. “Our furnace had stopped working and we had someone come out and look at it and of course the house was positive.”
Positive for carbon monoxide, meant Mom needed to grab the kids and get out.
“He said, ‘you guys are definitely going to have to have these kids removed from the home. Our furnace was bright orange, and we were very lucky that we still had a house,” Wren said.
After finding a safe place to sleep for a week, her next call was to Mercy pediatrician Dr. Laura Waters.
“Mom brought them in. Roland was having some headaches and kind of fussiness symptoms and what Mom assumed to be headaches because of the fussiness,” Waters said.
Wren had dismissed her son’s whines as tones of a typical toddler, and his older sister’s symptoms as a routine part of her type 1 diabetes.
“My little girl was the one that complained a lot, but with her it was a toss up, because it could’ve been her sugars or anything like that,” Wren said.
Waters added, “She had headache, she also had some nausea, abdominal pain, and she was also having some shortness of breath at night, which is kind of sometimes and unrecognized symptom. We started to realize that she was probably more affected than anyone else in the family.”
Those are often good indicators of carbon monoxide poisoning. Waters says there’s another way to look at it.
“If your child is having signs of illness and it just doesn’t add up to the things that are going around, certainly call and we can check them out,” she said.
But the easiest treatment is prevention. Other than having a working carbon monoxide detector, furnaces should also be inspected once a year. It can be especially important for families who rent, like this one, and aren’t familiar with a furnace’s history.
Because what could’ve easily ended as a horror story, can now be scripted with a happy ending.
“Eventually if you’re exposed long enough and to enough of the poisonous gas, you can pass out and die from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Waters said. “Whenever I went out and got my carbon monoxide detector after that visit, I decided to make sure to get them one too.”
To close this chapter, Roland waves goodbye to the carbon monoxide monster, who won’t be keeping him up at night anymore.
If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, get out of the house as soon as possible, get some fresh air, and then call 911. About 20,000 people are exposed every year, equating to nearly 500 emergency room visits.