In part one of this first-hand account, Lynn Griffiths, President of CO-Awareness gives a detailed and honest account of her family's experience with this poisonous gas.
My name is Lynn Griffiths, President of CO-Awareness and I am a widow with four children. I'd like to share my Carbon Monoxide Story with you. I was born in 1958 and since the age of two months I have suffered from Asthma. Due to the fact that my Asthma was aggravated when I retired for the night, I slept with a small window open. I am a non-smoker and have always had a dislike of alcohol.
These days however, I find I suffer with continual headaches, high blood pressure, dizzy spells, poor vision, memory loss, pins and needles in my finger tips, racing pulse, anaemia, eczema and arthritis in my back. On June 7, 2005 during a visit to Guy's Hospital I was informed me I now have cervical spondylosis.
In 1988 my husband Albert started to suffer from a bad chest. We considered it advisable to move to Runcorn along with our two young sons (Paul then aged three and Gavin, who was one and a half). This way we could be nearer to my family. I have always been safety conscious - like most mothers, I think safety becomes your number one priority once children are on the scene. For this reason I had no hesitation in taking out a 'Three Star Cover' policy offered by British Gas. We had a safety check on the gas fire and cooker when we first moved in and we also requested servicing of the fire by their qualified engineers.
My eldest son Paul is now twenty five and suffers from tinnitus, irritable bowel syndrome, severe headaches, nose-bleeds, pins and needles in his fingers, a very poor immune system and depression. All these ailments are associated with damage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. He has never been able to achieve the things he wanted to due to poor health.
In 1989, I fell pregnant again with my third child and only daughter Kelly, and my pregnancy was plagued with medical worries. Doctors were alarmed when I failed to put on any weight. My blood pressure was high and my pulse was always racing. When I voiced my concerns, I was told some people have racing pulses and not to worry unnecessarily. Numerous tests were carried out but nobody was able to confirm what was causing all these problems. The hospital issued me with a kick chart to monitor my baby's activity but I never managed to record ten kicks a day. This baby very rarely moved and on numerous occasions I left the hospital in tears, concerned for my unborn child's health. During my previous pregnancies the boys were always sticking their arms and feet into me - they were never still! I have recently found out Kelly may have been a twin as my GP notes lead me to now believe I may have lost a child.
On August 12, 1989, I gave birth to my 3lb 6oz daughter. She was breached and I was advised to have a Caesarean section, however I refused as I was aware I would require longer recovering from the procedure and there were two other children to care for. Kelly was taken straight to the special care unit, as she was eight weeks premature. When she was allowed home three weeks later she was the size of a Tiny Tears doll. For the first twelve months of her life she suffered from broncilitus and went on to suffer from Asthma. She would catch a virus every winter and would constantly bring up her feeds. Kelly is now twenty and suffers with headaches, pins and needles in her fingers and learning difficulties.
In 1990, my second son Gavin started school. He never seemed to perform well in his lessons and one teacher remarked in a letter to me 'Gavin is often found wondering aimlessly around the classroom, unsure of what he was meant to be doing'. She stated 'It seems like the message gets lost on the way to his brain.'
Disturbed by her remarks I took Gavin to the doctors, he informed me that these observations were a sign of behavioural problems. Gavin was given extra help at school but nothing seemed to help. He was an extremely clumsy child and would regularly run into walls and fall over objects. He has always suffered from Asthma and each winter he would be diagnosed with one virus after another.
The winter months were very stressful and spelt bad news for all the family. The children were always ill with one virus after another and all involved a lot of vomiting. My definition of Virus took on a new meaning - we didn't know what caused it, so we simply called it a virus. My husband dreaded the winter as his chest was always more painful in the cold months. Doctors confirmed that they often found that this was the case in other patients.
In 1996 I was delighted by the news that I was pregnant again as we had always wanted another child. Unfortunately my happiness was short lived. My pregnancy became a constant round of extra medical appointments, extra scans, extra blood tests, extra everything. The midwife was even visiting me at home three days a week. At one point they feared my baby might be born with Cystic Fibrosis or a bowel disease. I dreaded my hospital visits, always concerned about what I might hear next, they always ended in tears. Before the birth doctors informed me that tests would be required as soon as the baby was born.
On June 28, 1996, I was admitted to hospital with high blood pressure. The midwife had grown concerned for the safety of both my baby and me. My son Craig was born the next day (June 29), three weeks premature. I recall little of the actual labour as I was so tired. I slept through most of the labour pains and woke up just as the need to push became stronger. My only pain relief came from an injection, which included something to stop me feeling sick. My husband could not believe it when I rang up an hour after the birth to tell him he had another son. Sadly our joy was to be short lived and later that day Craig was rushed to Alder Hey Children's Hospital. He would not take his feed and tests on his bowels had to be carried out.
We visited the hospital every day, afraid that we were going to lose him.
On one of our visits I remarked to the nurse that Craig's breathing sounded different from normal; the may read strangely but his breathing sounded the way I felt he was breathing during late pregnancy. Tests were due to be carried out the next day and we still had our other three children to look after at home so we left. We had just put the key in the door when the phone rang. It was the hospital phoning to let us now Craig had been rushed into Intensive Care. I now believe they had actually been resuscitating my baby. We immediately headed back to the hospital where medical staff was still trying to stabilise him. It seemed like he had tubes and needles sticking out of every part of his body, even his head. It was a heartbreaking sight. Six days later an operation was carried out for a condition known as Coarctation of the Aorta. We were delighted when we finally got the go ahead to take him home. Shortly after his return home the main artery to his heart started to shut again and he had to return to hospital to have two catherisations to open the valve. He spent all of August in hospital.
Finally Craig was allowed home once more but doctors still wanted to carry out yet more tests. They were concerned that he might have Arthritis in his hip, which is very painful. Craig was a very sick baby. You could feed him one minute and the next minute the whole feed would come back like a fountain, so he would need feeding again. The doctors reassured me that he would grow out of it but it continued until he was four years old. Craig is now thirteen years old and receives regular check ups on his leg at Alder Hey Hospital. His right leg is shorter than his left and he requires a 5cm build up to be added to all his footwear. Still, he is a happy child who rarely complains of pain (even though it is painful). He never lets it get him down or restrict him from joining in sporting activities with his friends. Craig has had the first of a series of six operations to alleviate the problem.
By this stage, we badly needed an extra bedroom and downstairs toilet. My husband's chest condition had grown worse and he found it difficult to just climb the stairs. There was nothing for it but to move once more. In preparing the house for sale, I decided a new gas fire would be more appealing to potential buyers so I purchased a new Valor fire. Like most people, I considered British Gas to be the experts when it came to fitting gas appliances and had no hesitation in arranging for it to be installed by them. The fire worked fine until the end of 1998, when we had strong winds over the Christmas period and into the New Year.
The fire started to cut out while it was alight, so I rang British Gas. They told me to ring Valor and finally - on January 22 - a Valor engineer arrived.
Part two of Lynn's account will be on the website this Friday, 26.11.10