Shelton, NE – By Sarah Schulz, Grand Island Independent

Larry Brannagan wants everyone to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that sickened him and his family.

After the family of four became ill from carbon monoxide accumulating in its Shelton home, Brannagan bought two additional carbon monoxide detectors. He also made sure the device the family already owned was plugged in, which it wasn’t Saturday night.

Larry said the family had been out of town for two days and shortly after the returned home Saturday, his wife, Joanne, and daughter, Kalli, 12, went to bed with headaches.

At about 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the Brannagans’ daughter, Kalyn, 9, woke up sick. She vomited and woke her dad to let him know she was ill.”I knew it wasn’t a normal flu,” he said. “She was really shaking and she was disoriented.”

He said Joanne went to the kitchen to get a wet towel to put on Kalyn’s forehead because she said she was hot. He ran a cold bath for her and then went to the living room because he was light headed. Larry passed out on the couch and when he came to, he found his wife unconscious on the kitchen floor.

When he asked what had happened, she said she didn’t know. He began to suspect something was wrong inside the house and went to wake Kalli up before calling 911.As he was making the phone call, his wife and Kalli tried to go downstairs but passed out and fell, he said.

According to the Web site, www.carbonmonoxidekills.com, carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of a fossil fuel. Dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide can accumulate due to poor installation or maintenance of a fuel-burning appliance, or if a furnace room is not properly ventilated.

Carbon monoxide detectors are the only safe way to alert someone to increasing levels of the gas in a home. The devices should be placed in or near rooms where people spend the most time, according to the Web site.

As the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air rises, a person can develop a headache, followed by dizziness, nausea and convulsions, according to the Web site.

After calling 911, Larry said, he opened doors and windows to let air into the home and began to feel better. The family was taken by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital, where they stayed for six hours and received oxygen treatments. Once the carbon monoxide was out of their systems, Larry said, they all felt better.

The Brannagans stayed with Larry’s parents in Grand Island for a few days while a gas company employee checked their furnace.

Larry said he’s unsure what the carbon monoxide level in the house was, but the gas company employee told him it was high. The employee recommended Larry remove the door to his small furnace room and clear the area around the furnace so air could circulate more freely. The Brannagans’ furnace is about 25 years old and older furnaces need a natural air flow to function properly, he said.

Larry plans to cut vents in the furnace room door and replace it, something he said anyone with a closed-in furnace room should do.

Tuesday night was the family’s first night back home. Kayln was a little anxious but having the additional carbon monoxide detectors, along with a plan of what to do if the devices went off, helped settle her nerves, he said.

“The doctor said if my 9-year-old hadn’t gotten sick, there might not have been a reason for anyone to get up,” Larry said. “We call her a hero.”

Tips box:

Information from www.carbonmonoxidekills.com

Check the color of the flame on appliances. If it is orange, there is a problem and a technician should be contacted. Appliances, such as stoves and furnaces, should be checked annually.

Get adequate ventilation to all home appliances.

If you or a family member suffers from unexplained illnesses, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea or headaches, see a physician.

Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors inside the home. If the alarm goes off, turn off appliances, open windows and doors and get to a location with fresh air. Call a technician to have the problem fixed.