Friday, August 21, 2009

Couple recovers from CO poisoning

Benefits of detectors touted once again


Express Staff Writers

Carolyn and Eldon Wicklund outfitted their Ketchum home with some new electronics upon their return from Boise on Tuesday. Not a plasma-screen TV, but rather a pair of carbon monoxide detectors.

After being airlifted to the Elks Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise on Monday for treatment of a serious case of carbon monoxide poisoning, the pair deemed the new additions a wise investment.

According to Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle, Eldon, 78, found his wife, Carolyn, 77, "conscious but unresponsive" just before noon Monday.

"From what I understand, the woman had come home from dropping a car off, felt light-headed and lay down in the bedroom," Elle said. "Her husband came home and sat down on the couch to read the newspaper and fell asleep. He woke up to her becoming ill, realized something was really wrong with her and called 911."

An ambulance was dispatched to the Wicklunds' house at 133 Saddle Rd. at 11:44 a.m.

Once emergency personnel entered the woman's bedroom, their CO detectors, which are attached to "jump bags" containing medical supplies, immediately registered extremely high levels of carbon monoxide.

"At that point they grabbed the patient and evacuated the building," Elle said. "The man was not feeling well either."

The couple was transported to St. Luke's, where they were stabilized and then flown by airplane to the hyperbaric chamber at the Elks Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise. Hyperbaric chambers are used to force the carbon monoxide out of the body and force oxygen in, which then attaches to red blood cells.

Carolyn Wicklund said she and her husband spent four hours in the small hyperbaric chamber, intermittently breathing pure oxygen. They were released from the hospital at 11 p.m. and checked in on Tuesday morning to make sure they had fully recovered before returning to Ketchum.

Carolyn said a clogged filter in their furnace caused the carbon monoxide leak.

Elle said a couple of incidents that the Wood River Fire Department experienced last year with carbon monoxide poisoning of whole families led to his firefighters' asking for portable detectors.

"I looked into it, but we did not have money for it in the budget," he said. "Then the volunteers' association stepped forward and bought them with funds from the firemen's ball. Thank God the volunteers' association purchased the CO monitors, or we might have had a couple of injured firefighters as well."

Elle said yesterday's incident illustrates the need for carbon monoxide detectors in all homes, including those with woodstoves and fireplaces.

"Everyone should have detectors on every level," he said.

That was advice the Wicklunds took to heart, stopping on the way home to purchase two detectors. Carolyn said the detectors cost about $25 each, a small cost for their safety.

"This was a real wake-up call for us," Carolyn said. "It's a good thing for everyone to have."

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