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Longview family recovers after carbon monoxide scare

By Richard Yeakley
Nov. 3, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Michael and Donelle Middleton sat hand in hand on the bare floor of their new living room, with children ranging in age from 2 to 15 playing on the ground around them.

The parents and several of the children understood how blessed they are. One week ago, the family of six was one hour away from never waking up due a heater leaking deadly carbon monoxide into their home.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that kills hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more - like the Middleton family - ill. The gas is undetectable without the use of a carbon monoxide detector. Such a detector was installed at the Middleton's home on Wylie Circle, but had malfunctioned and did not alert the family of the impending danger.

"It's a miracle. God protected us, plain and simple," Michael Middleton said.

"It was the first cold night, and they were using their heat. It wasn't functioning properly, and they got carbon monoxide poisoning," said Fire Marshal Johnny Zackary. "Of course, heaters can also start fires, but if it's a fuel - like natural gas - or a fireplace, you have to have a carbon monoxide detector."

It began with headaches, Donelle Middleton said.

Along with the headaches came fatigue. The gas began flowing into the home Thursday and by Friday afternoon the children laid down for a nap at 1 p.m. and woke up around 6 p.m.

"I asked the kids what they wanted to eat, because I had hamburger meat thawing, and they said they weren't hungry. That doesn't happen," Donelle Middleton said.

The family took 6-year-old Elijah to the hospital that evening because he was vomiting incessantly and he said he "needed a new head."

But Elijah was released and the family returned to spend another night in their home.

Donelle Middleton said it was clear everyone in the home was in poor condition when Michael Middleton woke up to go to work Saturday morning.

Frank Miller had blood shot eyes and was sick to his stomach, Leila lay in her bed mostly unresponsive and Donelle Middleton couldn't stand upright.

"I got up with him because we like to drink coffee together. I was staggering and blacked out," Donelle Middleton said.

At that point, Michael Middleton called for ambulances and the family was rushed to Longview Regional Medical Center. When paramedics arrived, carbon monoxide was measured at 200 to 300 parts per million.

The family spent Saturday in the hospital, but were released after doctors observed the carbon monoxide level in their body was lowering.

The Middleton's landlord let them move to another property she rents.

Zackary said the close call should serve as a wake-up call as cold weather causes Longview residents to turn on their heaters, something the Middletons wholeheartedly support.

"I would say get a detector. Have your heater serviced, especially in an older house," Donelle Middleton began.

"At the beginning of every year you need to have your furnace checked. It doesn't matter what it costs, because it will save you in the long run. Trust me, I know," Michael Middleton chimed in. "A few dollars is a lot less than your life. You cannot replace family, but you can replace that furnace."



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