Quincy, IL – When the fall temperatures began to plummet a couple of weeks ago, Tammy Hoener and her husband, Dennis, did what most Quincyans would have done.

They turned on their furnace.

Not long afterward, they were fighting for their lives.

Only through the quick actions of Tammy’s sister, Penny Welty, and her friend, Jared Holman, are the Hoeners alive to tell their story.

“We live in an older home, and when we turned on the furnace, we smelled a little bit of ‘gas’ but didn’t think too much about it,” Tammy said.

She figured it was just a reaction of the furnace being turned on for the first time since last winter.

Not long afterward, Penny’s phone rang on the other side of town. It was Tammy.

“She was calling for help, saying she and Denny were on the floor (having been overcome by what were carbon monoxide fumes from the furnace),” Penny said. “Tammy was able to call me, because her cellphone was near where she had collapsed. She had me on speed dial. She couldn’t even (think to) call 911.”

Penny and Jared drove as fast as they could from the north side of town on Spring Street to the Hoeners’ south side home on Washington Street, arriving to find Tammy and Dennis passed out from the carbon monoxide fumes.

Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer,” and in this case, it was almost just that for the Hoeners.


The first thing Penny and Jared had to do was corral the Hoeners’ two dogs, both of German shepherd and black Lab mix. One weighs 90 pounds, and the other weighs 125 pounds. Making matters worse, the dogs were in a protective mode, worried and scared about what had happened. Penny drew the dogs into a bathroom, while Jared began moving the Hoeners.

Jared said the fumes, by that time, were almost intolerable.

“It was horrible,” he said.

Although only in the home a brief time, both Penny and Jared themselves were on the edge of passing out.

“It was like running into a brick wall,” Jared said of entering the Hoeners’ home. “It made you want to vomit.”

Once Penny and Jared got the Hoeners outside, medical help arrived in minutes. Penny had made the 911 contact once the call had come from her sister.

Both of the Hoeners spent the night in the hospital as a precautionary measure. Their hearts were checked, bloodwork was performed and their bodies replenished with oxygen.

Tammy said she could remember getting up from her chair in the living room and heading toward the kitchen.

“I remember falling to the floor when my legs began to feel like noodles,” she said. “I remember saying to Denny, ‘This ain’t right, we’ve been gassed.’?”

Furnace repairmen were at the Hoeners’ home shortly after the incident. Their near-death experience also affected Tammy’s sister, Penny.

“I also called to get my furnace checked,” she said.

A home’s furnace is like any other appliance or piece of machinery. A tune-up is needed for safety purposes.

With a furnace, a simple inspection by any heating and cooling professional should take care of any potential problem. While the professional can handle problems with the intricate working operations, homeowners can make sure their furnaces always have clean filters and check the intake exhaust pipes and change the thermostat batteries.

And, as the Hoeners can attest, it is always helpful to have a carbon monoxide detector. About 400 Americans each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fortunately, Tammy and Dennis Hoener were not two of them.