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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning~The Silent Killer

While we consider ourselves to be fairly seasoned travelers and informed citizens of this thing called life, never once did we think that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my retired firefighter husband was poisoned by carbon monoxide at a “boutique hotel” in Lake Chapala, Mexico in 2017.

After dropping our children off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp outside of Guadalajara, we set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our twins would be in the good hands and company of their camp counselors and classmates and that we would get to enjoy some time together.

Never would we have imagined that instead of spending our weekend sightseeing and relaxing, that we would spend it fighting for Frank’s life at an Emergency Room in downtown Guadalajara. 

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer

How Could Such A Thing Happen? 

Do mistakes and bad things happen? Absolutely.

So does gross negligence.

After working at his computer for several hours next to an open window in our hotel room (where just on the other side of it, was–unbeknownst to us–a malfunctioning, carbon monoxide leaking hot water heater), Frank, upon standing up, was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, extreme nausea and a ghost-like color to his skin.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer

Confirmation of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To recount what those time-standing-still minutes and moments were like, waiting for the Red Cross to arrive and load my nearly lifeless husband up onto the gurney, is a memory that words escape and that I can only hope and pray will one day stop haunting us.

Confirmation by the hotel itself that in fact two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the hot water heater just outside our bedroom window, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, hospital diagnostics and treatment, verified that carbon monoxide poisoning was in fact the culprit. A simple and affordable installation of a CO detector would have easily prevented this tragedy, not to mention the proper checks and maintenance of the hot water heater by the hotel management and owners themselves.

Shameful, careless and deadly, to say the least. 

Only removal from the carbon monoxide itself and immediate medical intervention with continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber would save Frank’s life. Friends from Vallarta showed up at the ER to help us in any way they could and I will forever ever be eternally grateful for their loving kindness in one of the darkest times of our lives.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning~The Silent Killer

As a result of this terrifying experience, where my husband’s life was spared (not all are), we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors as well as outfit our home with them. We have CO alarms in each of our bedrooms and next to any gas-supplied appliances–i.e. the stove, clothes dryer and hot water heater. Even if your hot water heater is outside the house, it is highly advisable to have a CO monitor in close proximity to where it is located, as well as check it periodically for proper functioning. 

Please protect yourself and your loved ones with CO alarms for both home and travel safety. Carbon monoxide is odorless, and cannot be seen or heard. The first sign of poisoning is severe illness, or worse, death. 

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If one is suddenly overcome with nausea, headache, vision disturbances, confusion and other mind-boggling symptoms, consider a CO exposure and get OUT of the room/building ASAP (and to a medical facility) until authorities can perform necessary tests, repairs and assure that the area is safe to return to.

Don’t rely on the hotel, vacation rental, airbnb or even a loved one’s home where you might be visiting to have done the proper and required maintenance checks of all gas-fueled appliances. It is important to also consider possible exposures by nearby neighboring structures. Simply bring your own CO monitors for your and your loved one’s safety and peace of mind.

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

I hope this information saves just one life. Please share it with your friends, family, workplace and community. 

Get your CO monitors today and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for battery replacement and equipment checks.

With gratitude for this one precious life,

~Katie O’Grady






About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 18-year-old twins who were just 8 when we immigrated to Mexico in 2012, we have created a joyful life of design and freedom South of The Border. Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Saludos, Katie 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Sherri Chessen September 2, 2018, 12:42 pm

    So important that you are going public with this near-miss for Frank and helping others…I applaud you, Katie.

    Carbon Monoxide poisoning…so easily detected with the right equipment and such a silent killer otherwise.

    So happy that you are all well and that you’re choosing to help others not experience the trauma your family went through.

    Love you all,

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