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January 14, 2014

Couple survive close call with poison gas

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — Dan Morehouse, 68, said he believes his dog, Sweet Pea, could tell something was not right in his home just before he and his wife, Linda, were faced with a frighteningly close call with carbon monoxide poisoning this weekend.

“She sleeps downstairs,” Morehouse said of Sweet Pea, “but that night when I tried to bring her down, she didn’t want to go and she threw up. I think she sensed something was wrong.”

Other than the dog’s peculiar behavior, the Garrattsville couple said there were no indications that their house was reaching fatal levels of carbon monoxide.

Morehouse said he woke up early Saturday morning to use the bathroom and noticed he had chest pain.

“I thought it was my asthma,” he said. “But after I used my inhaler and the pain continued, I knew something was wrong.”

Dan Morehouse said he went downstairs and immediately began to vomit. After noticing a light on downstairs, Linda Morehouse said, she went to check on her husband. Upon arriving downstairs, Dan said, Linda collapsed on the floor, passed out. 

“It felt like I had no energy at all,” Linda Morehouse, 67, said. “Almost like having the flu.”

She said she initially thought of the oven, which she had cleaned earlier in the day.

“I thought the fumes were making us sick,” she said, “so I opened a door to let some air in. I was able to get to the couch and I remember we were saying to each other ‘we should call 911.’”

Dan Morehouse said he remembers crawling to the phone to make the call, and then the arrival of the Garrattsville EMS.

The couple’s daughter, Melanie Benjamin, commended the Garrattsville Fire Department and EMS for their quick recognition of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, and called the personnel “wonderful.”

“They knew exactly what to do,” Benjamin said. “They are all volunteers and great people.”

Benjamin said the emergency personnel immediately took note of the fact that the couple’s dog and cat, Princess, had also been vomiting intermittently around the house, leading them to believe the problem was carbon monoxide.

After doctors at Bassett said they had carbon monoxide poisoning, Dan Morehouse said, the couple was taken to Syracuse, where they were treated in a hyperbaric chamber to remove the poisonous gas from their systems. Linda said they both wore oxygen masks during the day on Saturday and into the night. They were released on Sunday.

The couple said it was discovered that the exhaust on their propane boiler, with which they heat their house, was clogged. According to Dan Morehouse, the couple’s carbon-monoxide detector was defective.

Nancy Stanley, pastor of the Morris United Methodist Church where the couple attends, said she sent out a prayer request for the Morehouses as soon as she learned of the incident.

“The community was very worried,” Stanley said. “I’m really happy they’re OK. They are wonderful people.”

Linda, a retired nurse who teaches piano lessons, said the incident gave her a new lease on life.

“We were so fortunate to wake up,” she said. “I was afraid to go to sleep Sunday night because you never know what can happen.”

Dan, who said he is retired and owns a grange farm and small feed mill, said the concentration of the poisonous gas was 300 parts per million when the couple returned home, even after the doors and windows had been open.

Josh Gregory from Gregory Plumbing and Heating in Oneonta said it’s important to have propane boilers cleaned and serviced by a professional every year. He said the procedure can cost anywhere from $100 to $250.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that causes more than 400 deaths, 20,000 emergency room visits and 4,000 hospitalizations every year in America. Fatality is apparently highest among individuals 65 and older. The center said people who are asleep can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

“They are very lucky to be here,” Benjamin said of her parents. “This was a wake-up call for everyone. It’s unfortunate that it happened, but the outcome was positive and we are trying to look at it as a teaching experience, so others can become aware of the dangers that can be in the home.”

The couple said the family has realized how important it is to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are present in the home and working properly.

“Our son-in-law just went out and bought four,” Dan Morehouse said. “Two for their home and two for ours.”