New technology helps save family after carbon monoxide exposure

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE.com and Photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 12, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 12 at 11:06 PM

AUSTIN -- A 911 call of an unconscious person in East Austin turned out to be much more Sunday morning.

When paramedics arrived at a home in the 4500 block of Little Hill Circle, they found 6 family members experiencing headaches, nausea and dizziness.They immediately got everyone outside.

"The dangers are that carbon monoxide is both odorless and tasteless, you can't see it. It's virtually a silent killer," said EMS Field Operations Commander Millie Zapata.

Turns out, Commander Zapata says the home's carbon monoxide levels measured 10 times the normal amount.

"This particular family this morning had been exposed to carbon monoxide over the course of 2 days," she explained.

Paramedics said roofing work on the home may be to blame but often times a faulty or old furnace can cause a leak, or even a stove inside the home.

"We are finding that some folks are heating the home with the oven or their stove that leaks carbon monoxide and builds up levels over time," Commander Zapata said. "Especially when we have 3 or 4 days of cold weather."

Zapata said the quick detection Sunday morning is thanks to new cardiac monitors in each EMS truck.

"We have not had an upgrade in our portable cardiac monitors since 1999," said Commander Zapata.

The Zoll monitors allow paramedics to monitor levels on scene immediately.

"We can have real-time consultation with cardiologists," Commander Zapata added.

Each one costs a whopping $25,000. Austin Travis County has about 50, one in each unit.

"You see why it's been since 1999. It's a significant cost," Commander Zapata said.

Sunday's scare is the 2nd time the monitors helped detect carbon monoxide levels quickly. In December a cardiac call for a 10-year-old boy ended with everyone in the home being rushed to the hospital because of toxic exposure.

"So we ended up transporting the entire family because of a defective stove," said Commander Zapata.

It's just another example of why these paramedics say the advanced technology is worth every cent.

"It's going to help us save a lot of lives," Commanded Zapata said.

Paramedics advise everyone to put a carbon monoxide detector in their home.

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