Carbon monoxide nearly killed me - don't let it get you!

ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
Hi folks. I thought I'd start this thread to make you think about the dangers of carbon monoxide and what you should do to keep you and your family safe. It is prompted by this thread and especially by Svendo's admission that he has a very old boiler and keeps putting off getting a CO detector.

I've ridden with Svendo several times and he's a nice chap - I'd hate to find out that he'd died of CO poisoning because he saved a few pounds at the supermarket not buying the detector he keeps walking past!

I'm sure that most of us know that CO is a real threat if gas appliances are not maintained properly. Every now and then a tragedy such as the 2 children dying in Corfu makes the headlines but actually, about 50 people die every single year from CO poisoning in the UK - I was nearly one of them...

I thought if I told you my story it might prompt you (are you paying attention Svendo!) to fit CO detectors and have your gas appliances checked over. Don't become an accident statistic!

A Cautionary Tale!

My house was 100 years old when I moved in. The previous owner had ripped out all the old coal fires and replaced them with gas fires and wall heaters. I have a large attic room which I use as a bedroom and office and it had a tatty old gas fire which I kept promising myself I'd replace, but then I'd change my mind and think about saving up for central heating instead. I made do...

About 7 years ago I was working from home in the winter. It was cold up in the attic so I had my gas fire on full blast from when I got up to when I went to bed. The room's only window was kept shut.

I started to come down with a cold or 'flu. At least, that's what it felt like. Over a period of days I developed a persistent headache, a sore throat and nausea, and I became increasingly lethargic and whoozy.

I became confused and unable to concentrate on the work I was doing. In the end I spent long periods of time sitting at my computer keyboard trying to remember what I was going to type.

My mind had become so fogged that I hardly realised that anything was wrong. Then my vision started to be affected. Objects in the room appeared to be shimmering and changing shape.

The room was really hot and stuffy so I decided to turn the fire off and let some fresh air into the room. I swivelled round on my office chair to face the fire and was about to stand when I spotted a malevolent-looking black shape at the top of the fire. It looked really fuzzy and I tried to make out what it was. I stared at it for about 20 seconds before I realised that it was actually a hole in the wall! :biggrin:

That was when I worked out what was going on - I was being gassed! I tried getting to my feet to walk over to the fire to turn it off but my legs buckled and I fell to the floor. Lights out...

I was out cold for over 2 hours before coming round face down on the carpet. I managed to summon enough strength to crawl to the fire and turn it off, then I crawled down the stairs to cool, fresh air on the first floor landing. Then I blacked out again...

After another couple of hours I came round again and recovered enough to get to my feet and go upstairs (holding my breath), open the attic window, and retreat to safety again.

I think what saved me was probably a pocket of clean air below a roomful of carbon monoxide. Nobody else lives in the house. If I hadn't come round, I'd have died there on the floor before anybody even realised that there was anything wrong.

The poisoning has left its mark on me. For months afterwards I was slurring and mixing up my words. My sister asked me if I was drunk when I rang her to tell her what had happened because she couldn't make sense of what I was saying. I now suffer from severe motion sickness. I have to double-check everything I type because phantom and rhyming words appear without me meaning to put them there. For a few months, I wasn't confident that I knew the names of my family members. Even now, I struggle with the names of some forum members that I've met on several occasions. I can't concentrate for long periods of time. I feel as though I have a permanent hangover. I gave up drinking for over a year and it didn't go away, so it's definitely not just due to my beer intake! :tongue:



That fire...

It turned out that the idiot who'd installed it had done a real botch-job. (S)He had bricked up the top of the fireplace without putting a lintel in! The bricks were literally just hanging there by the mortar above and to the sides of them. They had then plastered over the bricks and installed the gas fire. It looked perfectly okay.

Over the years, the inevitable had happened. The brickwork had started to sag and the plaster had cracked. When I examined the fire after my poisoning, I could see where a big chunk of plaster had broken off and fallen down the back of the fire, exposing a gap through to the flue big enough to slide a rolled-up newspaper through. The hot gasses from the back of the wire** had been venting straight into the room.

(** There you go - I typed 'wire' instead of 'fire' - the 'w' key is not adjacent to the 'f' key so why did I do that?)


That's enough waffle - learn from my experience and don't do it the hard way -
  1. Fit CO detectors and check them regularly.
  2. Have your gas appliances serviced regularly.
  3. Don't put off the first two!

PS I'm convinced that I've written all this before but I can't find it anywhere on CycleChat or BikeRadar. Perhaps it was on the old C+ forum, or maybe it's just my CO-addled brain playing tricks on me!
 

rusky

CC Addict
Location
Hove
Glad to hear you're more or less OK.

I suggest that people who think that they won't be affected by CO poisoning read up on the subject as it's a very sobering read. :biggrin:
 

Mark_Robson

Senior Member
Colin your a very lucky lad, but did you not get yourself checked out and get some O2 therapy?

My knowledge and experience of CO comes from the days that I was an Environmental Officer for British Coal. CO is also produced by degradation of organic material as well as incomplete combustion but he obvious concern from a mining point of view was the dangers of working in a confined space where fire is always a possibility.
Co is an asphixiant that attaches itself to the hemoglobin in your blood and reduces your bloods ability to carry oxygen. Once attached it is difficult to shift as well, as your body doesn't utilise it. In high enough concentrations it can lead to organ and brain damage and even coma and death. There are health care professionals who are members who I'm sure can offer more detail.

It has always been the gas that scares me the most and I regularly check my boiler and fire at home with a hand held meter that I borrow from work. I can still remember some of the horror stories that I read when I was at college regarding CO and I would strongly advise everyone to buy a couple of detectors and get your gas appliances regularly serviced because as Colin found out it can take a while for it's effect to become serious, by which time it may be to late.
 

snakehips

Well-Known Member
Some dodgy things have gone on in the past. All appliances should be checked.
When I moved in to my present house there was a gas fire on the wall in the hall. No vent , no air supply , just this metal object screwed to the wall with a gas feed pipe going in the bottom. 'That's got to go' I said , playfully tapping it with my foot. It fell off the wall and bounced up and down a bit , supported only by the gas feed pipe.

Snake

My Library
 
OP
ColinJ

ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
Mark_Robson said:
Colin your a very lucky lad, but did you not get yourself checked out and get some O2 therapy?
Er, I was really stupid and didn't go to a doctor! :biggrin: It was ages later that I read about oxygen therapy. Add another point to the list - if you think you have been exposed to CO, get yourself checked out and detoxed ASAP!

It is a scary gas because if you don't have a detector, you can only tell that you are exposed to it by noticing that you have the poisoning symptoms and they are just like coming down with a cold or the 'flu so they are easy to misinterpret. Also, as I discovered, you can become very slow-witted and don't notice it creeping up on you.

Some people get annoyed with me now because my mind flits from one thing to another, sometimes in mid-sentence, and I don't even notice that I've done it until they point it out. I also end up telling people the same thing over and over again.

Yes, I am lucky. I don't get the motion sickness when I'm cycling so that is a real blessing.
 
Location
Leicester
worrying, glad you made it ok, detectors don't cost too much, bought one myself to live ny the boiler. Think Ill buy another to live in the living room nit that Ill need it for a bit being summer....
 

vbc

Guest
Location
Bristol
My ex girlfriends daughter lost her father in a similar incident a couple of years ago.

The gas heater on his house boat was producing CO2 into the cabin. He had what appeared to be flu symptoms over a period of time - when he moved off the boat to stay with family or friends, he got better. But eventually, when back on the boat he just didn't wake up one morning. Needn't have happened with a properly installed & serviced appliance, some knowledge of the symptoms and a bit of foresight.

As for your speech and language problems - see your GP and get him to refer you to the neurology department at your local hospital. I suffered severe head injury in an accident 3 years ago and one of the lasting issues is with my speech and writing - nothing too dire, just amusing when I use the wrong words. Like you, I have trouble remembering names of people, places and things and get names mixed up. Did some speech and language therapy, might help you too. But see the GP.
 

PaulB

Legendary Member
Location
Colne
Bloody hell. This is a cautionary tale we'd all do well to learn from.

Seeing that guy who was thrown out of Oldham Royal recently for being 'drunk' had the same head injury as me, in my case caused in the most dangerous place in the world - the bloody kitchen of my own house - died. He wasn't drunk at all but was pushed over in a bar after complaining about the noise and fractured his skull! I would have died too if hadn't been for the vigilance of my wife's senior nursing knowledge and I know that circumstances could lead to this for any of us. Look after yourself and do everything in your powers to prevent you having to be assessed by medical staff in British hospitals; there are too many misdiagnoses for us to be complacent about the treatment we will receive.
 

mangaman

Guest
ColinJ said:
Hi folks. I thought I'd start this thread to make you think about the dangers of carbon monoxide and what you should do to keep you and your family safe. It is prompted by this thread and especially by Svendo's admission that he has a very old boiler and keeps putting off getting a CO detector.

I've ridden with Svendo several times and he's a nice chap - I'd hate to find out that he'd died of CO poisoning because he saved a few pounds at the supermarket not buying the detector he keeps walking past!

I'm sure that most of us know that CO is a real threat if gas appliances are not maintained properly. Every now and then a tragedy such as the 2 children dying in Corfu makes the headlines but actually, about 50 people die every single year from CO poisoning in the UK - I was nearly one of them...

I thought if I told you my story it might prompt you (are you paying attention Svendo!) to fit CO detectors and have your gas appliances checked over. Don't become an accident statistic!

A Cautionary Tale!

My house was 100 years old when I moved in. The previous owner had ripped out all the old coal fires and replaced them with gas fires and wall heaters. I have a large attic room which I use as a bedroom and office and it had a tatty old gas fire which I kept promising myself I'd replace, but then I'd change my mind and think about saving up for central heating instead. I made do...

About 7 years ago I was working from home in the winter. It was cold up in the attic so I had my gas fire on full blast from when I got up to when I went to bed. The room's only window was kept shut.

I started to come down with a cold or 'flu. At least, that's what it felt like. Over a period of days I developed a persistent headache, a sore throat and nausea, and I became increasingly lethargic and whoozy.

I became confused and unable to concentrate on the work I was doing. In the end I spent long periods of time sitting at my computer keyboard trying to remember what I was going to type.

My mind had become so fogged that I hardly realised that anything was wrong. Then my vision started to be affected. Objects in the room appeared to be shimmering and changing shape.

The room was really hot and stuffy so I decided to turn the fire off and let some fresh air into the room. I swivelled round on my office chair to face the fire and was about to stand when I spotted a malevolent-looking black shape at the top of the fire. It looked really fuzzy and I tried to make out what it was. I stared at it for about 20 seconds before I realised that it was actually a hole in the wall! :sad:

That was when I worked out what was going on - I was being gassed! I tried getting to my feet to walk over to the fire to turn it off but my legs buckled and I fell to the floor. Lights out...

I was out cold for over 2 hours before coming round face down on the carpet. I managed to summon enough strength to crawl to the fire and turn it off, then I crawled down the stairs to cool, fresh air on the first floor landing. Then I blacked out again...

After another couple of hours I came round again and recovered enough to get to my feet and go upstairs (holding my breath), open the attic window, and retreat to safety again.

I think what saved me was probably a pocket of clean air below a roomful of carbon monoxide. Nobody else lives in the house. If I hadn't come round, I'd have died there on the floor before anybody even realised that there was anything wrong.

The poisoning has left its mark on me. For months afterwards I was slurring and mixing up my words. My sister asked me if I was drunk when I rang her to tell her what had happened because she couldn't make sense of what I was saying. I now suffer from severe motion sickness. I have to double-check everything I type because phantom and rhyming words appear without me meaning to put them there. For a few months, I wasn't confident that I knew the names of my family members. Even now, I struggle with the names of some forum members that I've met on several occasions. I can't concentrate for long periods of time. I feel as though I have a permanent hangover. I gave up drinking for over a year and it didn't go away, so it's definitely not just due to my beer intake! :smile:



That fire...

It turned out that the idiot who'd installed it had done a real botch-job. (S)He had bricked up the top of the fireplace without putting a lintel in! The bricks were literally just hanging there by the mortar above and to the sides of them. They had then plastered over the bricks and installed the gas fire. It looked perfectly okay.

Over the years, the inevitable had happened. The brickwork had started to sag and the plaster had cracked. When I examined the fire after my poisoning, I could see where a big chunk of plaster had broken off and fallen down the back of the fire, exposing a gap through to the flue big enough to slide a rolled-up newspaper through. The hot gasses from the back of the wire** had been venting straight into the room.

(** There you go - I typed 'wire' instead of 'fire' - the 'w' key is not adjacent to the 'f' key so why did I do that?)



That's enough waffle - learn from my experience and don't do it the hard way -
  1. Fit CO detectors and check them regularly.
  2. Have your gas appliances serviced regularly.
  3. Don't put off the first two!
PS I'm convinced that I've written all this before but I can't find it anywhere on CycleChat or BikeRadar. Perhaps it was on the old C+ forum, or maybe it's just my CO-addled brain playing tricks on me!
Excellant post Colin

I have a service plan with British Gas that includes a free CO detector.

I wouldn't live without one now.

Especially in an old place / rented place / student houses.
 

battered

Über Member
I'm in a rented house at the mo and they are better than most, certainly better than they used to be. An annual boiler check and cert is a legal reqmt.

My ex neighbour had CO poisoning from a leaky fire, identical to mine. I had it checked, mine was OK. I've not got a CO detector though, should do as they aren't expensive. There are single use affairs for pocket money, you just stick them to the wall and if they turn black, turn everything off and get out.
 
battered said:
I'm in a rented house at the mo and they are better than most, certainly better than they used to be. An annual boiler check and cert is a legal reqmt.

My ex neighbour had CO poisoning from a leaky fire, identical to mine. I had it checked, mine was OK. I've not got a CO detector though, should do as they aren't expensive. There are single use affairs for pocket money, you just stick them to the wall and if they turn black, turn everything off and get out.

I would advise an audible alarm everytime.

The trouble with the ones that change colour, is that you have to be alert to them actually changing colour. Not many people would notice!
 

rusky

CC Addict
Location
Hove
addictfreak said:
I would advise an audible alarm everytime.

The trouble with the ones that change colour, is that you have to be alert to them actually changing colour. Not many people would notice!

Agreed, the people who lived here before us stuck one to the boiler that's housed inside a cupboard :smile:

Also, you don't notice the change!
 
I should also add that you should test your alarm on a regular basis, and if it takes normal batteries, make sure you change them. (usually once a year) But always consult the manufacturers instruction.

The same advice applys to smoke detectors.
 
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