Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Alarming Experience


For the past 5 to 6 weeks, the nights had been getting very cold. The residual heat from the day would keep the RV comfortable until around 2 or 3 a.m. I usually keep the kitchen window, which is approximately mid-way from the front to the back where my bed is, confident that there was enough oxygen to sustain life with my propane heater on. I’d fire it up for some hours before getting up.

For the past 2 to 3 weeks, I’d been feeling terribly dizzy just moving my head from side to side, especially in bed. Upon waking up, I felt very lethargic and despondent. I’d ascribe it to Seasonal Affective Disorder and think no more about it since I’d feel better during the day with the sun shining.

Yesterday was altogether different. Attempting to get up, I had a very hard time focusing my eyes. Everything was twirling around. I knew that I had to get up but vertigo and nausea were a problem. I had to use the walls as props to keep me upright. Then, when I caught sight of myself in a mirror, I saw that the white of my eyes was the colour of a ripe tomato. I looked like some vampire and that scared the living daylights out of me! Scared doesn’t even come close to describe the way I felt.

My thoughts were a jumble of trying to figure out what was going on. But when I focused on the colour red, something finally hit me. I recalled that in cases of death by carbon monoxide poisoning, the skin turns bright cherry red. I immediately shut down the heater and opened all windows and door. Then went outside to take great gulps of fresh air. It helped a bit, but still, there was no way that I’d make it even to the bus stop to get to Tequis for medical help I was so unsteady on my feet and couldn’t focus. Did I panic? You bet! To make matters worse, I could get no signal on my cell for over two hours.

Eventually, I got a signal and went on the internet to check what were the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning … OMG! I needed help and called Yvonne. She came to pick me up and we drove to Tequis to a doctor’s office. He said that taking a blood sample for analysis was useless as there was no diagnostic service for CO poisoning. All that he could do was prescribe something for the nausea and for the vertigo.

Reading further on the internet later in the day, I reviewed how long I’d been having the symptoms—for weeks, if not longer. I read that it amounted to chronic poisoning! I figure that since the symptoms had gotten progressively worse, the gas had accumulated in my body, and could have been fatal within not much time… minutes! I figure that I had reached the acute stage.

In retrospect, I realize that I should have known better when I’d light up my propane gas heater and left it on from the wee hours in the morning till I’d get up. . . and I had done it nightly since early November.

You would think that coming from the Great White North as I do, I’d be more hardened to the cold. Not so. I can tough it up during the day but am accustomed to nights made comfortable by central heating. I’m getting a little better but understand that only with time will the symptoms clear up completely. The vertigo bothers me and I have yet to get rid of muscle and joints pain where there had been none before. SAD was not the culprit in my increasing depression and lack of mental acuity and a bevy of other symptoms, which will disappear as I get rid of the CO in my blood.

The dogs had it better than I did, being close to the open kitchen window. My bed is way in the back in a very enclosed cubbyhole. Tina had not been herself for a while now and I’d been flummoxed as to what was troubling her. I should have been awake to her signals.

My determination to finish the house is now being informed by a sense of urgency. I simply cannot face another winter living in the RV. Money has never been a pursuit in and of itself, just out of necessity. It is now.

However, I must add that I’m very thankful for being alive after this episode. It had been a matter of minutes…


Teri said...

So sorry to hear of your CO poisoning, but yes you are still alive. I have been hesitant to buy a a propane heater for my RV. I am looking into the Eden Pure electric heaters, they have a new small one that heats 350 sq ft. I hope that you will make a full recovery, surprised to hear that the doctors can't do anything to help.

tk galloway tkgall said...

if you have access to electric why not an electric blanket?

Tesaje said...

Teri - the Eden Pure heaters are no better than any other electric heater so save your money and just get a more cost effective one.

CO poisoning is scary. I guess your CO monitor hasn't been functioning? I stay warm at any temp with a bag of flaxseed heated in the microwave for my feet and a thick down comforter.

Stargazer said...

I have solar panels that provide me with electricity mostly during the daylight hours. The use of any heating device, regardless of how insignificant it is, draws too big a load on my batteries.
I did get me a comforter and it is fine.
Sometimes being frugal has some drawback...

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