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Letter to the Editor: Linthicum Family Saved by Carbon Monoxide Detector

Meredith Totushek of Linthicum shares the story of her family's brush with carbon monoxide poisoning with Glen Burnie Patch.

The following is a letter that was sent to Glen Burnie Patch.
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On Monday, Oct. 10, a $30 carbon monoxide detector saved my family’s life. 

It was a typical morning. I got up early at 6 a.m. to go running with a friend. My friend ended up canceling, so I was lingering around the house a little waiting for the sun to come up a bit.

I was just about to put my sneakers on when I heard a very loud beeping that I had never heard before. It took me a few minutes to realize what it was—the carbon monoxide (CO) detector that we have plugged in a kitchen outlet.

I ran over to it and noticed the digital display that normally says READY now displayed a number which said 77. I ran upstairs to get my husband, Craig, who was still sleeping but heard the beeping as well. In the 15 seconds it took for us to get back downstairs, the number had risen to 89.

We were both unsure what to do, as nothing seemed wrong in the house and we both felt fine. Craig thought maybe it was a false alarm. I pulled out my laptop and googled “what to do if your carbon monoxide detector goes off."

I mean, we have this thing, but we never actually thought about what to do if it goes off. You can’t smell, see, hear or taste carbon monoxide, so how can we know if something is really wrong?

Of course everything Google pulled up said “call 911 and leave the house!" I called 911 and the operator confirmed we should indeed leave the house and get the cats out, too.

It took about two minutes for me to run up and wake the kids, Dean (2 1/2 years old) and Riann (almost 1 year old) and get out of the house. Of course the cats were hiding.

The fire department arrived within five minutes. When they entered the front door the CO levels were up to 115 ppm (parts per million). They came out to get masks and by the time they went back in the levels were up to 265 ppm.

Safe levels of carbon monoxide should be less than 9 ppm, with 9-35 ppm being unsafe to be in the house and anything higher than 35ppm potentially being lethal. 

The fire department discovered that our gas hot water heater had burst and the tube that leads the gas exhaust up the chimney flue had popped off, allowing it to escape into our home. 

The carbon monoxide detector that we bought when Dean was born at the insistence of our pediatrician is the only reason my family is still alive! Had it not alerted me, I would have gone out running and come home to a tragedy.

We now have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of our home. PLEASE, If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, go out TODAY and buy one! If you do have one, check to make sure it is in working condition! And never, ever just assume it is a false alarm. Call 911. 

I never thought a simple $30 plug in carbon monoxide detector would be the most important purchase I have ever made. This Friday, Oct. 14, is my daughter Riann’s first birthday. We will certainly be celebrating life and just how precious it is. Carbon monoxide detectors save lives! I know, it saved my family!

Please pass this story on to anyone and everyone you know! 
Meredith Totushek

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Meredith and Craig Totushek said they plan to put together a community outreach program to inform people about the importance of carbon monoxide detectors.

Have a story or opinion you want to share with Patch? Email editor Maya T. Prabhu at maya.prabhu@patch.com.

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