Ketchum, ID – Eldon and Carolyn Wicklund have championed plenty of causes in the Wood River Valley, from St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center to the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.
Now the Ketchum couple can undertake a new mission – making sure everyone equips their homes with carbon monoxide detectors.
The couple had a close brush with death last week when the filter on their furnace became clogged, resulting in a carbon monoxide leak that poisoned them. It was the second case of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Wood River Valley this year.
Four Hailey residents were airlifted to Boise for treatment in January after a malfunctioning boiler caused a leak of the colorless, odorless, gas that can cause flu-like symptoms or death at high concentrations.
Carolyn Wicklund, 77, said she went out briefly the morning she was poisoned to move her car because of a road surfacing project on Saddle Road. Not feeling well, she returned to take a nap at 10 a.m. – something she said she never does that early in the morning.
Eldon Wicklund, 78, meanwhile, returned home from a meeting at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden and was reading the newspaper on the couch when he dozed off.
Awakened by a noise, he found his wife unresponsive in the bedroom.
“She wasn’t blue, but her arms were so rigid I couldn’t move them,” he said.
Firemen called to the scene just before noon said their carbon monoxide detectors immediately detected high levels of carbon monoxide in the couple’s home.
Carolyn came to en route to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. Both she and her husband were airlifted to Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise. There they were placed in sealed, pressurized hyperbaric chambers for four hours and given oxygen, which forced the carbon monoxide out of their body as the new oxygen took its place.
Carolyn said she had felt ill a couple weeks earlier when a spate of cold weather prompted the furnace to turn on automatically, but had attributed it to a touch of flu.
“I outfitted the Habitat for Humanity home that we built in Bellevue last summer with carbon monoxide detectors, but I didn’t think about it for our own home,” said Carolyn, an architect. “Now we have three – we bought two on the way home and our daughter sent us one for a birthday present.”
Carbon monoxide detectors cost about $25 each, a cheap investment to save a life, said Mike Bauer, fire marshal for the Hailey Fire Department. One should be placed on each level of a home, he said.
The batteries in carbon monoxide detectors should be changed yearly, along with the switch to daylight saving time, just like smoke detectors, he said.
But carbon monoxide detectors should be placed at ground level, unlike smoke detectors, which are placed on the ceiling.
“Carbon monoxide is heavy so it settles. Smoke is light so it rises,” he said. “Because of that I advise against getting the combo detectors. It’s best to get separate detectors.”