Carbon monoxide detector alerts Harvey homeowner to potentially deadly leak

Carbon monoxide detector alerts Harvey homeowner to potentially deadly leak
Carbon monoxide detector (Source: KAIT-TV)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Harvey homeowner feels fortunate to be alive after a brush with what is often called an invisible killer. Now he’s urging others to install the same device that he said saved his life.

“It was scary,” said John Stiltner. “I think about what could've gone wrong.”

You could almost call it a near-death experience.

“I kept smelling it, and I was getting headaches and I was sleepy,” Stiltner said.

For weeks after he turned on his heater, Stiltner wasn't feeling like himself. When it came time to replace his smoke detector a month or so later, he chose one with a carbon monoxide monitor.

“Why not spend the extra $15 to $20 to protect myself, and thank God I did,” he said.

Two days passed.

"After I climb out of the shower, it started screaming," said Stiltner. "So I said, this ain't right, and so I took it down, went into the kitchen, put my glasses on and looked at the back of the thing. It said four times, carbon monoxide. So I stepped outside."

Stiltner called 911. The fire department showed up in full gear to screen his house. That's when Stiltner learned he was slowly being poisoned with carbon monoxide.

“They said it was high,” he said. “It freaked me out.”

“He was very lucky,” said Harvey Fire inspector and investigator Michael McAuliffe.

McAuliffe said firefighters quickly narrowed down the cause of the leak - or leaks, to be exact: Stiltner’s heater.

“It wasn't getting flow of the stuff going out where it supposed to go out into the atmosphere, and it was causing it to back up,” Stiltner said. “So it was like a triple whammy. I was getting the leak, the pipe leak, plus the backflow at the top.”

McAuliffe says things could've turned out a lot differently had he not gotten a carbon monoxide detector.

He may have had carbon monoxide in his home all the time prior to this and been undiscovered,” said McAuliffe.

But because you can't see or smell it, Stiltner had no idea.

“I figured I was just getting old and tired,” Stiltner said.

“Carbon monoxide gas gets into the blood system and it starts to deplete oxygen to the brain over time, and the onset can be gradual, depending on the amount of carbon monoxide in the environment or in the room,” McAuliffe said.

Now, Stiltner is telling everyone who will listen how a $40 device was the difference between life and death.

“This thing saved my life, I suppose,” he said.

All open-flame devices emit carbon monoxide, which means leaks can happen in almost all homes.

On Saturday (Dec. 8) there’s a millage renewal on the election ballot which will allow Harvey Fire to continue offering emergency services and education in the community.

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