By: Leah Uko
OMAHA (KPTM) – The Nebraska Medical Center treated its first patient poisoned with carbon monoxide Sunday night. As temperatures lower, it urged people to make sure they have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home that works properly.
Edwin Medberry was repairing one of his client's homes when he heard an alarm sound off. He said he thought it was a smoke detector and unplugged it. Unfortunately, it was a carbon monoxide alarm.
"I'm here because of my stupidity," he said.
Medberry felt some of the symptoms from CO exposure shortly after.
"Started feeling dizzy, nauseated, weak."
He didn't know CO worked through the body so quickly.
"I was leaning against the wall holding onto a door, he said ‘are you alright?' I said ‘no I need to get outside'."
That's exactly what Dr. Jeffrey Cooper with The Nebraska Medical Center said people should do if they are exposed to CO. He added to go to an emergency room immediately after.
Many symptoms caused from CO poisoning are similar to the flu without the fever. They include headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, vomiting and death. Dr. Cooper said because the symptoms are so similar it is difficult to determine the cause of the patient's symptoms.
"But now if they get the symptoms only when they're at home and go away when they go out of the doors and they come back that's a clue," he explained.
He said every year when weather starts getting colder, he treats about eight to 10 patients who have gotten sick from CO.
"Nebraska seems to have a very high rate of this and I'm not sure why."
He said oxygen is the best treatment to rid the body of CO because it removes it from the blood and returns the body back to regular oxygen levels.
Medberry underwent six hours of hyperbaric oxygen treatment and was released from the hospital Monday afternoon feeling much better. He took with him a lesson to share with the public.
"Don't have this happen to them," he said. "It's a pain in the hiney–end."
At the beginning of every heating season, have a trained professional inspect all your fuel-burning appliances. Doctors said checking the oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves will help prevent CO levels from getting too concentrated. It is also important not to leave your car running in a closed area for a long period of time.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. At high levels it can kill a person in minutes. It is the leading cause of poisoning death, with more than 500 victims in the United States each year, according to a report by Colorado State University.
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