I stood there stunned
Wednesday November 13th 2013, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Non-Knitting

So this was nothing like that.

Except in the ways that it was.

After two winters of paying obscene heating bills, knowing that to replace the damaged ductwork on the roof would cost us a minimum of $6k (hah! I wish!), as I was paying a utility bill I told Richard what the next one would be. And the next.

The next day, he bought the first of our two space heaters after resisting them for so long for fear of fire hazard. We set it up near the thermostat to blow across our bedroom at night and turned the furnace, which had been set to 66, to where it simply wouldn’t come on at all with that thing near it. But we didn’t quite turn it off.

And the headaches I’d been waking up with every single morning went pretty much away. I’m not someone who gets headaches but very rarely. It was such a strange thing. I’ve had no energy, but I ascribed that to having recently had the flu.

Joe and his crew came today. Eight thousand dollars (so far) and there will be no new flooring before the grandchildren come, I’m afraid, but two space heaters alone does not cut it with a toddler and a by-then crawling baby around; when it came down to it, we had to have honestly working central heat again. Ours seemed to just blow cool air, never warm–better than what was outside, but.

They had about half the ductwork ripped off the roof when the city’s recycling truck came by–hey, that works! Metal is metal, you guys want this? And so they loaded it on, there you go, everybody wins.

The first contractor had left nice shiny metal ductwork up there, years ago, and the birds (we heard the woodpeckers going at it) saw either a mate or a competitor, don’t know which, but they left many many holes in it. We hired someone to fix that; he wrapped it up, ignoring the holes, oblivious to the fact that it was full of rainwater inside and that the HVAC unit now had to heat that water to get anything to us. Thus the thousand-dollar heating bills that were just killing us.

But when the crew got all that stuff down from there, Joe inspected the now-disconnected furnace.

He came down from the roof, sobered, and knocked on the door. He showed me the pictures on his phone. This is what’s there. This is the rust. This is what it means.

I stared at him, speechless; it took me a moment to explain to him, in a voice that surprised me at how small it sounded, why that hit so close to home.

It had been blowing carbon monoxide through our vents.

My doctor said this evening that yes this explained the abnormally high red blood count two weeks ago, absolutely. Richard’s still not sure; after all, the alarm in the kitchen was still plugged in. But we don’t know how much was venting or where.

And last time this happened my CO count was way higher than his. It just was. I always assumed because of the pregnancy, though I wonder now. (I have been grateful all her life for Michelle’s good health…) But then, come to think of it, at least re this time, I’m in the house all day and he’s not.

My head is directly below one of the registers as we sleep. We had only had the furnace on at night. For Richard, a headache is an ordinary thing but for me, not at all. We did have a CO alarm at the far end of the bedroom–and I went and checked it after Joe left: it had been knocked ajar from the outlet it was plugged into, no way to know when. We’d had no idea.

My sweet husband two weeks ago went from no, I’m never getting a space heater, to, sure, dear, it still worries me but I’ll get you one. And a few days later, the second for the other end of the house.

It is November, we’ve had night temps in the low 40’s and even below, and not once have we turned the furnace on all the way to see if it could actually make the house feel warm. We’d talked about it, how it might be a good way to test to see if this was when we really did finally have to call Joe, but somehow it just felt like…don’t…don’t even want it on…

Lo these many years ago we were all hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning from a coal-burning stove in New Hampshire, and these headaches had reminded me of that only not nearly so bad–but to the point that I had said something out loud to Richard about it reminding me of back then, and of asking a firefighter friend at Kathryn’s party Saturday about some of the calls he’d been on. It seemed pure hyperbole to my own ears to even make the connection; after all, that time I had fainted not from lack of oxygen (as far as I knew at the time) but simply from pain beyond what my body was willing to stay conscious through. I woke up when I hit the floor but couldn’t really get off it.

This one was just a nasty headache. It made it hard to sleep, too. (Just like… Oh wait…)

Suddenly the pain of paying for Joe’s work doesn’t seem so much of one.

Get an alarm if you don’t have one. Check it. Be safe.

(Edited to add, the doctor says it should take about three weeks to work its way out of our systems.)

16 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Blessed be.

Comment by twinsetellen 11.13.13 @ 9:05 pm

Whoa. Check where they are as well as whether they’re working.
I remember that way-back disaster, so glad that you’re okay. Yikes.

Love. Gratitude. Relief.

Comment by Marian 11.14.13 @ 12:34 am

Oh wow. Glad that circumstances had you checking it out sooner rather than later. And now you’ll be saving on your utility bills (even though you’re paying off the work), so soon you’ll have your new floors.

Breathing easier…

Comment by Kathy in San Jose 11.14.13 @ 1:23 am

What can I say? Seems those of us in the comments are all stunned, too.

Comment by LynnM 11.14.13 @ 2:25 am

So happy you found out before it was too late!

Comment by Jody 11.14.13 @ 6:46 am

Oh my goodness! I understand the huge expense, but your health is way more valuable. I hope you both are feeling much better very soon.

Comment by DebbieR 11.14.13 @ 6:49 am

After I had CO poisoning (from a car) I remember being told by the doctor that I shouldn’t fly for a month. Last month I learned that with both smoke and CO detectors, the alarm simply means that it’s working: it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is or isn’t smoke or CO — hence the many false alarms.

Comment by carol telsey 11.14.13 @ 7:12 am

Oops! Sent before I mean to! It reminds me of when we discovered our dog was allergic to dustmites, so we put encasings on our beds and pillows, washed everything with anti-mite stuff, and the stuffed-up nose I’d awakened with for years went away overnight.
I’m just so glad you’re all safe!

Comment by carol telsey 11.14.13 @ 7:15 am

Oh My! So glad you are getting things fixed.

We had to replace our furnace when we first bought our house. The original one was from 1958 and leaking. Scary when you walk down the hall and smell gas. We added a/c at the time and are glad we did.

Comment by Anne 11.14.13 @ 9:30 am

I reminds me of our friend, a furnace guy, who came to look at our furnace in Upstate NY. “Wow! I’ve NEVER seen one of THESE so well preserved.” Um, yes, we replaced it. In your case, I’m so glad you are still alive to be worrying about paying the bill!!

Comment by LauraN 11.14.13 @ 11:19 am

Peace of mind is priceless. Glad you’re okay, and glad they found the problem sooner rather than too late. Too close for comfort!

Comment by Debbi 11.14.13 @ 11:55 am

CO sure does sneak up on you. So glad it’s gone…and yeah, paying for the work is much better than the alternative. I bet you are both breathing and sleeping easier.

Comment by Pam 11.14.13 @ 1:22 pm

I am glad you are safe,and headache free, the grand kinders are so lucky to have a Grandmother and Father who care enough to make sure the floor will toasty and warm and safe for them.Ablessing not so much in disguise.

Comment by Kris 11.14.13 @ 2:33 pm


Comment by Afton 11.14.13 @ 2:48 pm

CO alarm here checked.

I remember living in a house where a contractor had installed a device that should never have been legal (according to the gas company guy). Didn’t care for the headaches, but I had no idea that it could take three weeks for the CO to work its way out of one’s system.

So glad you’re getting the work done and that you’ve found a competent person to do it. Go, Joe!

Comment by RobinM 11.14.13 @ 4:44 pm

Yes, thank you, we do have a CO monitor. All relevant batteries have been checked (when we changed to standard time) but that one is plugged in, as I recall. Upstairs in the bedroom hallway. This is totally scary. Your headaches certainly are something to be noticing, when you do get them. Kind of the canary in the house.

Comment by Susan (sjanova) 11.14.13 @ 8:04 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>