Public Safety: Windsor resident has carbon monoxide scare | MyWindsorNow.com

Public Safety: Windsor resident has carbon monoxide scare

Emily Wenger
ewenger@mywindsornow.com

Judy Morris woke up at the bottom of her bathtub, naked and wet, with no idea how she got there.

She had just taken a shower to get ready to take her 7-year-old granddaughter, Alexa, to the Windsor Community Recreation Center.

When she awoke, she turned the water the rest of the way off and tried to get her bearings. Morris was feeling poorly, but she went through the motions of blow-drying her hair and getting ready for Alexa.

Then she got a text from her daughter, Jessica, who was staying in the basement of their home with Alexa. Jessica said Alexa would probably have to stay home because she wasn't feeling well. In fact, Jessica wasn't feeling well either, but she recently got a new job in Greeley and didn't want to miss work.

Jessica came to the bottom of the stairs as Morris began to descend from the second floor. Jessica collapsed on the bottom step, which Morris thought was probably an exaggeration of her illness — "She's dramatic sometimes" — but then she said the words that frightened Morris.

"Mom, I can't breathe," Jessica said.

Recommended Stories For You

In that moment, Morris remembered a girl who used to live down the street from her Windsor home many years ago who suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. She's not sure why the memory came to her, but she's glad it did. As it turns out, she and her family were just minutes from death.

• • •

What happened to Morris and her family that Jan. 8 day shows how imperative it is to have a working carbon monoxide detector. They had a detector, but while the family was on vacation more than a year ago it kept going off. Their neighbor, who is a firefighter, heard the noise and identified it. He told them they should get a new one.

Morris said they had intended to but hadn't quite gotten around to it yet. Todd Vess, spokesman for Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, said that happens more often than he'd like. It's easy to let things like that slip, he said.

"Do they call carbon monoxide poisoning the 'silent killer'?" Morris abruptly asked.

She thinks the term is apt. You can't taste or smell the gas.

And she knows without that spark of memory alerting her to what the problem might be she doesn't think her family would have lived to tell of their experience.

• • •

Once Jessica told her she couldn't breathe, Morris called her husband, who was away for work in Texas, and he urged her to call 911.

"We have to get outside," Morris told her daughter, and Jessica went back down to the basement to get Alexa. Jessica urged Alexa to get out of bed, but the 7-year-old said she couldn't.

"I can't move my legs," Alexa said.

So, with what Morris said could only have been motherly strength, Jessica scooped Alexa up and carried her up the stairs and outside to a porch swing.

A Windsor police officer arrived first and began talking to Morris and her family to help keep them calm. Morris said she knew something must be seriously wrong with her because she has met all the police officers through her work in customer service at Town Hall, but she had no idea who was speaking to her that day.

A fire truck and ambulance soon followed the police officer. Through the haze Morris said was clouding her thoughts, she saw Windsor Severance Fire Rescue firefighters walk into her home, take a reading on the carbon monoxide levels and walk right back out to get masks.

Then the ambulance took her and her family to the hospital. Morris had to be placed in a hyperbaric chamber to get the oxygen she needed.

She was told her levels were higher — within minutes of serious damage or dying, according to the fire department — because she was on the top floor of the house. Carbon monoxide rises, she said.

The whole family is well now, and Morris is back at work, cheerfully assisting Windsor residents at Town Hall.

They are alive — "By the grace of God," Morris said — and she hopes her story will encourage people to ensure their homes have functioning carbon monoxide detectors.

Carbon monoxide safety

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue recently responded to a carbon monoxide emergency, and Chief Herb Brady wants residents to pay more attention to the deadly gas.

Responding to a carbon monoxide emergency call is frustrating, Brady said, because the gas is extremely deadly, and carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable.

He gave the following tips to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

» Always have a functioning carbon monoxide detector outside every bedroom, and on every level of a home.

» Know the lifespan of your detectors, and replace carbon monoxide detectors every 5-7 years, which is typically how long they last.

» If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, don’t be afraid to call the fire department. Firefighters would rather respond to a false alarm than find out the hard way they should have been called out.

» Have furnaces or other carbon monoxide-producing devices inspected at least once per year.

» Know the symptoms, which can include headaches, lack of coordination or vomiting. It’s another sign if multiple members of the household are feeling dizzy or having headaches.