Scary experience has local couple urging residents to check carbon monoxide levels in the home
By Jennifer Zartman Romano
Halloween had the potential of being a tragic day for a local family -- in fact, as it was, it was scary enough.
Columbia City Mayor Jim Fleck and his wife, Kay, had been feeling unwell for several days. Their ailments weren't the same -- Jim felt joint and abdomenal pain while Kay's skin hurt -- so it wasn't clear whether they had a touch of any number of the bugs going around right now.
"It would sort of come and go," Kay said. "We were both moaning and groaning."
As if warned by her sixth sense, Kay turned to Jim on Monday morning and said, "You almost wonder if it's something in our house."
Unsure what it could be, Jim made a pivotal decision to purchase a carbon monoxide detector for their home.
After having difficulty installing it, they contacted the Columbia City Fire Department with questions.
"Our ventless fireplace was the culprit," Fleck said. "Apparently, the logs were arranged incorrectly." The problem resulted in an increasing level of carbon monoxide in the home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, oderless gas that, according to the Indiana Department of Health, can cause sudden illness and death of inhaled.
The incorrect placement of the logs in the Flecks' ventless fireplace allowed carbon monoxide to seep into the home. At the time the fire department measured it, according to Fleck, it was 28 parts per million.
"I guess you can go 50 parts per million for 8 hours before you succumb," she said. Had the problem not been determined sooner, the couple could have been killed. "We are very grateful to be alive."
The Indiana Department of Health states that the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can cause loss of consciousness -- even death. The most at risk for death include infants, children and those with chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory issues. They state that up to 500 people in the US die each year due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide detectors are available at several local stores, including Teghtmeyer Ace Hardware. Commercial prices for the detectors range from $20-$60 based on their sophistication.
"Go out and get a detector and install it," Fleck added. If you have a detector already, be sure to regularly check its batteries.
Now that the culprit has been detected, the Flecks have taken care of it and their symptoms are improving. They hope their story serves as a cautionary tale for other local residents who might be experiencing strange symptoms in hopes they discover the problem before it is too late.