Niagara Gazette

Communities

January 27, 2014

Local family warns of invisible killer

Niagara Gazette — A North Tonawanda family says they’re lucky to be alive after exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide Jan. 5 in their Niagara Parkway home sent several people to the hospital. 

Retired teacher Kathy Hazuda said the first signs of poisoning arose several days earlier, when her mother, Bernice, who lives with her, took a sudden fall at a local supermarket. 

A few days later as the family was preparing to head to Sunday mass, it happened again.  

“I woke up for church, had breakfast and tried to get my niece out of bed,” Hazuda said. “I was downstairs when I heard a bang.”

That bang was Bernice hitting the floor for the second time in three days, while Hazuda herself also displayed symptoms related to extremely high levels of carbon monoxide, including headaches and stomachaches. Her niece, who had just arrived in town and was sleeping upstairs, described feeling overly tired. 

The fall caused Hazuda to call 911, while the combination of illnesses initiated her request to North Tonawanda fire officials to check carbon monoxide levels.  

“It was off the charts,” she recalled. “They said, ‘get out of the house.’” 

The family members spent the next several hours receiving oxygen at DeGraff Memorial Hospital and stayed that night at a relative’s home. A series of visits from contractors and fire officials soon followed. 

But while many people ignore threats in their home, the Hazudas had done just the opposite. 

They routinely checked their smoke alarms, had their boiler regularly serviced and annually inspected the lone carbon monoxide detector installed in the home in 2006. It never occurred to Hazuda that they’re might have been a danger lurking. 

That scenario plays out dozens of times each year in the Lumber City said Assistant Fire Chief Tom Croop, though most often with less preparation. And while there have been no local deaths recently attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure appears to be on the rise. 

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