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A stark reminder of how carbon monoxide detectors save lives

9-1-1 dispatch received a call that an elderly woman may have had suffered a stroke at home.
9-1-1 dispatch received a call that an elderly woman may have had suffered a stroke at home; her daughter had returned home from work to check on her mother when she sounded delirious and confused on the phone.

On arrival our Community Paramedics, Harry and Rob, were met at the front door by the daughter and directed to the mother on the second floor. The team headed up the main stairs towards the bedrooms when their carbon monoxide detectors started to alarm.

Paramedics in Dufferin County, have carbon monoxide detectors attached to the outside of their response bags, when responding to any call. This is not standard practice across the province, but an extra precaution our team takes and one that saved many lives that day.

“We only started carrying the detector equipment about 4 years ago. This was the first time I ever had the alarm go off on a call,” recalled Harry.

Within seconds, even before reaching the second flood, the alarm quickly went from a low-level to a high-level with a loud sheering sound. When the paramedics reached the elderly patient, they checked the reading on their alarms which had started at 70 ppm and reached 100 ppm rapidly.

Rob and Harry quickly evacuated all persons and pets from the home, called the Fire Department and propped open the front door for ventilation.

“I asked the daughter if anyone else was in the home and she informed me that she had a young son that was downstairs in the washroom with a severe headache and nausea with vomiting,” recalled Harry.

The young boy and elderly woman were both suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and taken to the ambulance where they were placed on high flow oxygen.

The Fire Department arrived at the home and found that the reading of the carbon monoxide level in the basement, by the furnace, was 650 ppm; a dangerous level is considered to be anything above 101 ppm.

“This is a fatal dose of carbon monoxide within minutes if exposed to. The cause was thought to be from the snow that built up on the vent pipe from the furnace. This was a lucky escape for sure by this family,” recalled Harry.

Both the young boy and elderly woman were taken by ambulance to HHCC Emergency Department. Most of their signs and symptoms had diminished on arrival at the hospital with the high flow oxygen treatment they received en route.

“What would have happened without the alarm is a question that could keep me up at night. This call had the best outcomes for all involved but very easily could have gone the other way and turned out very tragically with the loss of multiple lives,” said Harry.

It is important of properly fit your home with a carbon monoxide detector and hard to believe that there remain people in our community who live without one.

Photo caption: Harry and Gabriela, Community Paramedics.