‘Lucky to be alive’: carbon monoxide close call prompts warning from family

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman is breathing a sigh of relief after an emergency situation almost ended in tragedy.

Melissa Feniuk and her three kids woke up on New Year’s Day feeling very tired and with bad headaches.

Later in the day, Feniuk’s oldest daughter Kia found her younger sister Alexis unresponsive.

“Alexis is passed out on the floor of her bedroom, and I was like, ‘oh my God,'” said Feniuk. “I jumped out of bed, went to Alexis, couldn’t wake her, so I called 911.”

Feniuk’s daughter Alexis has anemia, a condition that affects red blood cells in the body. Alexis has passed out before due to the illness, and Feniuk believed this was a similar situation.

When emergency crews arrived, the real issue became apparent.

“All of their little carbon monoxide detectors on their packs all started going off, and that’s when they knew right away we have to get out of the house.”

Feniuk said the entire family was rushed to the hospital and put on oxygen. They stayed throughout the day until their CO (carbon monoxide) levels returned to normal.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education is a group that works to educate people on the dangers of carbon monoxide gas.

Executive Director John Gignac said many household items could cause carbon monoxide leaks, including gas dryers, stoves, and furnaces.

“We have to remember it’s the silent killer, you can’t see it, taste it, or smell it,” said Gignac. “The only way you’ll ever know it’s in your home is to make sure you have a working CSA approved CO alarm.”

In 2015, the province of Ontario passed the Hawkins-Gignac Act, requiring all residential homes to have a working CSA approved CO alarm.

Gignac believes the Act should be implemented Canada wide.

He recommends every home install a CO alarm outside of their bedroom and that all household appliances be checked regularly by a qualified technician.

Emergency crews told Feniuk that her daughter passing out might have saved their lives.

“They said if we would have been another 30 minutes or so in the house, we all would have been passed out and possibly dead,” said Feniuk.

Feniuk’s furnace was the cause of the CO leak and is being repaired.

She said her home had a CO alarm, but it wasn’t working correctly. Now she’s reminding people to check their alarms regularly and make sure it’s working at all times.

“[CO leaks] can happen very quickly, and it’s scary, and we’re very lucky to be alive,” Feniuk said.

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