Almost caught by silent killer

Sally and Mauro Vischi at their Jandakot home last week.
Sally and Mauro Vischi at their Jandakot home last week.

Two years ago, Sally and Mauro Vischi and their two young children were caught off-guard by extreme flu-like symptoms.

Seeking medical advice, the family were told their symptoms were most likely caused by a bug caught while on a family trip.

Their symptoms progressively worsened until one winter’s night when it all came to a head.

‘The night we all got carbon monoxide poisoning I went to bed feeling really ill,’ Mrs Vischi said. ‘I didn’t know it, but I actually collapsed on my bed; I found myself half on the bed, half off the bed.

‘My husband was in the other room. He was also feeling unwell and he just thought he was coming down with something.

‘My daughter ” at about one in the morning ” just screamed out.’

Fortunately the family were able to seek help from a neighbour, with Mauro also managing to call emergency services.

‘My husband couldn’t speak so he ended up just calling the emergency number,’ Mrs Mauro said.

‘The emergency services lady didn’t understand so she sent everybody: the police, the ambulance and the fire brigade.’

Sensing something wasn’t right, their neighbours suggested the fire brigade check gas levels at the home.

It was a masterstroke that potentially saved the family’s lives.

Fire brigade officers didn’t even make it through the front door before the monitor went off; the family’s home had been acting like a chamber for carbon monoxide.

The source: an old gas heater that hadn’t been properly cleaned and serviced.

Dr Neil Banham, Head of Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine at Fremantle Hospital, said the family are lucky to be alive.

‘Carbon monoxide deprives the tissues of oxygen, especially the brain and heart,’ he said.

‘Very high levels can cause headaches, confusion, then loss of consciousness and potentially death with ongoing exposure.’

With carbon monoxide accumulating in their blood, blocking fresh oxygen from getting into the body, the family were rushed to Fremantle Hospital, where they each spent three hours in a hyperbaric chamber undergoing oxygen therapy.

The State Government last week launched a campaign to encourage people to check and service their home gas appliances regularly.

Visit www.commerce.wa.gov.energysafety/gas-appliances or call 6251 1900.