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How I Spent $100,000 in One Day – The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You may be thinking to yourself that I am a very wealthy person in order to just blow $100,000 in a single day, however you would be wrong. I am just an average working mom and our household income is probably the median for Missoula. So, you may be wondering then just how I was able to burn through that kind of money in a single 24-hour period. The answer may be a bit surprising, and probably not as fun, as you might think. You see, about six years ago, my family and I all were poisoned by carbon monoxide.

We had a water heater that malfunctioned during the night while we were sleeping and it leaked out deadly, odorless carbon monoxide gas. I woke up because I felt sick and made it around to the other side of the bed and passed out from the gas. My husband thought it was the dog until he heard me moaning on the floor. Then he got up and tried to wake me up, but I wouldn’t respond. He somehow figured out what was going on and placed me in front of an open door and covered me with a blanket (it was the middle of November). When I came to I was repeatedly sick.

After a little while we decided to go to the hospital, so we loaded the three boys up and headed to the ER. We arrived and told the doctors what had happened. We took a breath test to check the oxygen levels in our blood. They were normal. However, when they tested the level of oxygen in our blood, then they found out we were in trouble. The levels were so low that my husband and I got to take a jet ride over to Spokane for hyperbaric chamber treatments. Thankfully our boys didn’t breath in as much carbon monoxide, and they only had to be on oxygen for six hours.

If you’ve never been in a hyperbaric chamber, I wouldn’t suggest it as something fun to do. It’s like being shoved in a bank tube. You might be able to sit up, if you’re not too tall. If you’re claustrophobic, too bad, you can’t freak out because you are in a pressurized chamber and it takes time to depressurize you. If that’s not enough, they have an antistatic band you have to wear around your wrist because they are pumping such high levels of oxygen into the tube, that a spark of static electricity could start a fire.

So, by the time it was all said and done we had $80,000 in jet fees. This was an insane amount of money. (My husband and I both rode in the same jet and we were both billed $40,000 apiece for the jet, the fuel and the pilot.) We had $2,500 in ambulance fees. We rode a total of 12 miles in two different ambulances. (Again we rode in the same ambulance together and we were each billed for an ambulance ride and fuel. This turned out to be a little over $600 a piece per person per ride.) Of course, we still have five ER bills in Missoula and two hospital bills in Spokane to make up the last $17,500.

The funny, but not so funny thing about this story is that all it would have taken to avoid this is a $30 carbon monoxide detector. Every year about 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. We were almost five of those deaths. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are much like flu symptoms. It is almost impossible to detect because it is colorless and odorless. The scary part is that you don’t even know you are being poisoned. Please, if you don’t have a detector in your house, get one. It’s worth it.

Joy Larson is a mother of four boys, graduate of The University of Montana, animal lover and writer.

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