Let’s talk about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Some things never go away, and sometimes that’s a good thing. I lived to tell the story and as time progresses things come to mind which make me wonder if it was all a part of the same thing. So let’s revisit that time we had a carbon monoxide leak.

It was 2015 going into 2016. I was feeling tired all the time; understandable, it had been a busy year and I was probably doing too much as usual, everything at once, so ended up feeling quite burnt out. So that’s PTA, Rainbows, knitting, swimming, football and more – then there’s work and school and the juggling between the two. So I felt tired? Welcome to the club Jo. It was no big deal, we were all tired.

There was nothing which seemed odd and okay, I was forgetful. This much I do remember. I remember being told things verbally and not retaining that information. But I’m old. Probably just the old menopausal brain fog, eh? There’s a perfectly reasonable reason for everything when you find it. Nothing to worry about.

Then of course there’s the Christmas crash. No work for two weeks and just stopping – and it all catches up with you. Family time, having fun, being really tired as you’ve had a busy year. All the normal things everyone goes through.

But it wasn’t that was it. It was probably something else. But I’ve no idea, no indicator when it started.

By early January I was feeling groggy most mornings. I’d wake up with a dull head, a dizzy head, I’d get out of the house and I’d make my way to the station and feel like I was staggering all over the path, couldn’t walk in a straight line.

Ah but I obviously overdid it leading up to Christmas, maybe I’ve not had enough time off to feel normal again. Maybe this is parenthood? We just feel this way all the time and get on with it? Don’t moan, just try stronger coffee, it’ll pass, it’s a virus. If it goes on for too long I’ll go to the doctor, although the last time I went to the doctor they said “it’s a virus, it’ll pass, we can’t do anything about it” so maybe it’s not worth wasting their time. So let’s just leave it, put up and shut up.

I took a day off sick in early 2016. I felt rubbish, I had a day in bed all nice and cosy and warm and tried to rest and sleep it off. Not that being off sick means you stay in bed all day – you have to head to school for pickup and all those things because your child can’t walk themselves home at age six.

It didn’t really help, I still felt odd the next day. Okay, let’s just power on through it. Get on the train, get to work, get a nice strong coffee and another one to really wake me up and then somewhere around the magical 11.30am mark a wave of normality hits you.

The only thing I can describe it as is the moment the headache from the hangover goes. That sudden wave of normality again.

But it’s not a hangover – I only have a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday and Saturday night; that’s not the kind of volume which makes you feel unwell like this. It’s just a virus. A strange virus.

Slowly January turns to February, to March and I’m still feeling unwell. H has an invite to a birthday party – we’re all sat on our bed, H wanted to come and snuggle with us, she’s sat on top of the duvet when all of a sudden she opens her mouth and vomits all over it. This isn’t like her at all – she doesn’t get sick very often. Particularly not like this. “Maybe it’s an ear infection?” I suggest so we try olive oil drops which do little or no good, the dizziness stays.

Everything is so completely, utterly normal. We live our lives. As a family, we go out to places, though I’m really forgetful from time to time – a typical menopause symptom of course.

We dream of moving out of our house, but we have great neighbours and moving means new neighbours – but we’re not fans of our house. The landlady doesn’t really want to spend money on things like new curtains or carpets and we had lived there a few years by this point. We have an awful heating system – it blows hot air into the upstairs landing and into the kitchen and front room. It’s a proper old fashioned heating system – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the last house with that sort of heating in the area.

You switch it on, you wait about five minutes and then the noise of a fan starts, and heating comes out of the vents. Our bedrooms are often cold because of the heat distribution so we often keep the doors open in the hope they’ll catch some warmth from the vents on the landing or if we’re feeling extravagant we’ll pop an electric heater on. The landlady increased our rent by over £230 the previous year so money is a little tighter than normal.

So, there’s absolutely nothing going on in our very ordinary lives other than I feel rubbish every morning and there’s no reason why, but I’m too busy to find out why because I’ll be told the virus will go when it’s ready, so why bother?

Of course, if you know the story, you know what happens next. We had our Gas Safety Check – in April. It was due in the January. The engineer went into the loft and came down pretty swiftly. The heater was condemned, switched off and we were instructed never to switch it on again. When I asked the engineer “What’s the worst case scenario here?” (meaning, how long would we be without hot water or heating) and he replied “death” I didn’t really understand what he meant.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler, Gas Safety Week 2017 Carbon Monoxide poisoning,

But now I do. Now I understand what happened. Those types of heaters go up into the loft. There’s a pipe, the flue which pumps out all the bad fumes into the air outside. Ours had rusted and had broken away. Those fumes were pumping into the loft. The loft hatch? Right outside my bedroom door.

Almost every night I take myself off to bed early, and Shaun stays downstairs watching tv with the heating on, as you would. So the heating is on, I’m in bed, the fumes are being pumped… I mean, it really doesn’t bear thinking what could have happened.

We are extremely lucky.

What could have made a difference here? A few things.

  1. Recognising the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most of them are easily mistaken for something else.
  2. Having an annual Gas Safety Check. I don’t know why ours didn’t happen when it should have.
  3. Having Carbon Monoxide detectors in all the right places in your house. It never occurred to me that the fumes were being pumped into the loft and outside from there – so all our detectors were downstairs.

We never took the time to study and understand our heating system – well, why would you? But actually, it could save a life – knowing where to put a carbon monoxide detector is important. Everyone will think about the kitchen and near the boiler – but it never occurred to us we should have one upstairs as well.

Needless to say, we’ve moved, we know what is what in this house. We part-own our house so all Gas Safety Checks are organised by us – and I keep on top of when they’re due thanks to the alerts you can sign up for at gassaferegister.co.uk

I will never stop talking about what happened as it’s so important to spread the word. You don’t think it would be you – none of us do. However, it so easily can be.

2017 – Our Year in Review.

2017 hasn’t been our best year. I’ve been the one who has sucked the joy out of the party like a death eater (Harry Potter reference there, folks). I’ve been the one who when asked how I’m doing, has someone close to me who isn’t doing well. It has been one of those years. Something I’m very conscious of. So from now onwards, let’s focus on the good, or at least try to.

hever castle
In 2017 we took out a Historic Houses Association membership and discovered loads of new places. That was a REALLY good move, and one I’d recommend. We still have our Royal Historic Palaces, English Heritage and National Trust memberships too. We’ve been to Hever Castle and rowed on the lake for my birthday, to visiting Alnwick Castle and doing Harry Potter related things.
Alnwick Castle Broomstick training
Australia will have to be mentioned because, well, it’s Australia. We had an unexpected trip after a death in the family. My work were brilliant, and I managed to work remotely from there while doing everything else. We were able to visit places in between working and I found a happy medium without having to dump everything on my workmates while we were out there. I love Australia and still dream of moving out there one day.
cuddling duck at Coombe Mill

The summer holidays felt like they were a long way away, so when they came it was good to stop.

Coombe Mill was our Cornwall base, followed by Woodspring Farm Hut near Weston Super Mare. It was where H grew in confidence – and she wasn’t pushing herself, just following her own instincts.
Woodspring Farm Hut
H started in Year 4 and for a short while I became “that mum” – the one who insists she stepped out of her comfort zone and attend an after school club, doing Young Voices. Up to now she hadn’t had any interest in singing in public so it was quite a jump. The added bonus was her teachers from last year run it.
She came out having had the most wonderful time and is looking forward to joining lots of other schoolkids and singing at the O2 in January. I’m really looking forward to trying to find her! It works out cheaper than a gig too, so I think it’s a win-win situation.

H is still swimming and switched classes again. By the end of 2017 she had gained her Bronze award. I know she’s ready to move onto a bigger pool and depths, though she has swimming with school this year so we’re holding off until September. At the moment she’s working on her 800 metre badge, so we’ll see how that one goes!
H gets her bronze swimming

It goes without saying, football has played a big part of our lives in 2017.

We worked with the FA to help promote women’s football, and H started playing every weekend with Crystal Palace Wildcats.
SSE Wildcats Girls Football Club, FA Girls' Football Week 2017
She’s starting a new term there from January, has made lots of new friends and they all even got to be mascots at a Crystal Palace Ladies game which was great fun (and very cold). While she may never play football competitively, she’s having so much fun. I like that she’s doing an activity where she didn’t know anyone at all and has made new friends.
We’ve watched Tottenham Ladies a couple of times now and our aim for 2018 is to catch a Tottenham game at Wembley just the once.
We bought a new car in 2017. After having had an old Vauxhall Astra, we switched to a Skoda Fabia. I love it! The car suits me and my driving – it’s not too big and not too small. It fits quite a lot in it and has sensors for parking too. My downfall in our last car was when I reversed into a bollard and dented it…
We took out a PCP deal to buy the car, and with Shaun working from home this meant the money we save in him travelling to the office now pays off the car. We’ll do more trips next year as my biggest problem with getting anywhere was whether our old car could do it. Oh, and we had a carbon monoxide problem with the car too.
Gas Safety Week 2017 poster, 2017
Carbon monoxide. That was a busy week. I was one of the case studies for Gas Safety Week 2017 (it doesn’t mention this blog at all so you wouldn’t know), speaking about my experience of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. I intend to work with Project Shout Co in 2018 too. We have to keep shouting.

Our year ends on a quieter note, with a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and a trip to see Hogwarts in the Snow at the Warner Brother Studios. There will be reviews to follow in the new year, and always photos on my Instagram.

I get the feeling that while I will never stop blogging, this slower pace of updating is where we are. Essentially I am now working four jobs – my dayjob, this blog, my PTA responsibilities and finally of course the work I do with Brownies as a Leader in Training. Oh, and parenting too.
2018 will be about finding a better balance in my work – home life. We’ll get out more and I’ll blog about it more.
We’ve enjoyed staying in a yurt and a shepherds hut this year. I’d love to think we’ll go camping at some point too.
I never do resolutions, mainly as I’d forget them. We can leave 2017 with our heads held high and know that we’re out of it intact and that’s all that counts.
Happy New Year, and all the best for 2018!

What Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Feel Like?

This last week I’ve talked about my experience when we had a Carbon Monoxide leak. The question I’m asked the most is What does Carbon Monoxide poisoning feel like?

What does Carbon Monoxide poisoning feel like?

what does carbon monoxide poisoning feel like

You wake up and your head feels like there’s a lead weight in it. You get out of bed and you can’t stand up straight. Trying to stand up straight is difficult, you wobble about all over the place and try to focus. It feels a bit like a head cold crossed with an ear infection when you lose your balance.

The room spins a bit too.

Then a bit more.

You can’t remember what day it is. It’s very confusing. But the alarm went off so it must be a work day.

You get dressed and get out of the house because you want some fresh air. The penny doesn’t drop though, it’s just fresh air feels nice, even if this is London fresh air.

By the time you’re on the main footpath to the station you realise you’re not walking in a straight line. You hope there’s nobody behind you because they might think you’re drunk. You then think “hang on, what am I doing anyway?” because you’ve forgotten. It helps to write as much as possible down because you forget everything.

There are things you remember. Where to stand on the platform so you have a good chance of getting a seat. Seats are important when you feel so rotten.

You assume it must be caffeine withdrawal; you’ve had to start drinking coffee again to wake up every morning, a nice strong filter coffee too. You look at your phone for a bit, try and do some brain training but you can’t really focus because you feel so odd. It feels like travel sickness like the kind you got when you were nine or ten – but on the train. Maybe it’s a virus?

Your train pulls into Clapham Junction (“the busiest station in the UK” they proudly say), and now you have to deal with too many people. They seem to fly into you from all kinds of places like a Quidditch match in full swing. You just need a clear path to walk along to get out of there; to the comfort of your desk and a good, strong coffee.

But first you have to deal with the bus to work. Fighting for space with the schoolkids, trying to get a seat as you’re feeling a bit less giddy, you know it’s nearly coffee time. Yes, that’s what it must be. You need coffee and it’s affecting your sleep at night which is making you so giddy in the morning. Doctor Internet doesn’t need to tell you that.

You finally arrive at work, feeling pretty dizzy. You get on with your job because that’s something you can keep your head down and get on with, it’s always busy.

By mid-morning you feel fine again – those coffee’s have fixed the weirdness.

Repeat every single day.

Meeting up with people is almost impossible because you forget where and when people are meeting, especially when told verbally. Facebook and emails become your social organisers if you can remember what day it is.

People think you’re a bit flaky. You prefer an early night tucked up in bed as you feel so unwell every morning. Besides, it’s nice and warm at home, even with the terrible hot air heating system.

Then you have a Gas Safety Check and the boiler gets switched off. Apparently with hot air heaters the fumes and stuff go outside via the loft. Something is loose up there and it isn’t good.

That’s okay because it’s April. You’re not entirely sure what the man said when he stuck that big danger sign on your heater because you feel a bit confused.

You ask him a practical question which makes lots of sense to you, and he replies, very seriously, with the word “death”. That seems a bit extreme, you think.

You wake up the next few mornings and think brilliant! I’ve finally cracked this virus!

Then the penny drops.

That time H was sick all over the bed.

The feeling the way I did every morning.

So you google what does carbon monoxide poisoning feel like?

Our bedroom is next to the loft hatch so actually, if carbon monoxide is leaking in the loft, the first place it’s going to head is the bedroom.

I may have sworn a few times.

And a few more.

We were all extremely lucky. Especially as we switched on our heating manually every day, never relying on a timer.

This was written for Gas Safety Week 2017  – 2018 is almost here. That was my story.  I’ve spoken on the radio a few times and appeared on London Live to speak about it.

If I’m ever asked what does Carbon Monoxide poisoning feel like? I reply with all of this.

When Your Gas Boiler Leaks.

Anyone who knows me knows how I’ll often blog about most things, but I’ve struggled with this one – mainly because everything is still processing in my head. This is what happens when your gas boiler leaks.

Gas boiler leaks aren’t something that ever crossed our minds. We have a Carbon Monoxide detector next to the boiler, that’s enough, right?

We rent, and in doing so receive an annual Gas Safety Check, to make sure everything is safe. Ours was the Saturday morning – the man came really early, earlier than he’d planned and yet again I got up to deal with it, feeling groggy and a bit dizzy as the virus I’ve had since January didn’t seem to want to shift.

He asked to have a look in the loft. Shaun let him up there, and he came back down pretty quickly. This got placed on our boiler.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler, Gas boiler leaks

Apparently the flue which links the boiler pipes from inside the house to outside have come away – rusted or rotted or something, but away. Fumes have been living in our loft, being inhaled by Shaun, H and I.

This is what happens when your gas boiler leaks.

Which explains a lot about my dizziness I’ve felt every single morning. Some mornings I’d stagger to the train feeling like I was drunk, not understanding why the virus wasn’t shifting as I’d definitely had nothing to drink so couldn’t blame that. The idea that it could be carbon monoxide didn’t even occur to me. I had no idea that such a thing was in the loft anyway.  You know when you’re ignorant to things, not because you choose to be, but because it’s not the kind of thing you’d think about. That’s me. I mean, it makes perfect sense the fumes have to leave the house somewhere. But it’s not the kind of thing I’d think about.

Because I was too busy, too dizzy with work and life to go to the doctor to get checked out. H kept saying she felt sick without actually being sick. Because Shaun was tired a lot. It was “the virus that wouldn’t shift”. Right?

Now, I don’t think things were at a critical level, but I do believe we’ve been affected by it. Fortunately we get out of the house and open the windows, and with this winter being so mild, there has been plenty of air circulating around the house. (I even had washing out on the line in January)

Had it been colder, it doesn’t bear thinking what could have happened. I’m trying not to think what could have happened – but the reality is in that Sliding Doors other universe it really could have happened and we didn’t realise.

We have a Carbon Monoxide detector downstairs next to the heater (and it’s an awful hot air style heater – with air vents upstairs and downstairs) which didn’t react – obviously because it’s all going on up in the loft. So we’re lucky in that respect. We’re getting another Carbon Monoxide detector in the loft as a matter of priority.

But yet again, I hadn’t thought about it and just assumed you’d need a detector near the boiler, which makes sense.

Since our gas got turned off I haven’t felt dizzy once. H hasn’t felt sick, although Shaun is still sleepy – then again, he’s always been a bit sleepy! Which is when the penny dropped really, that and thanks to Facebook friends pointing it out.

So now we have to wait for our landlady to decide what she’s going to do. After our £230 monthly increase last year, I’m pretty sure we’ll get another whopping great big rise this year to pay for this; the joys of renting privately.

I have the clearest head I’ve had in a long time (I started feeling ill in January), and I’m not sure what to do next. Thank goodness we don’t spend a lot of time at home and get out quite a lot. That the weather was good. Thank goodness it was in the loft and not in the house. Thank goodness we had a Carbon Monoxide detector downstairs.

I am relieved we get an annual Gas Safety Check. If you’re reading please make sure you do. Please don’t put it off. My friends who own their place pay for British Gas to check theirs – and I’m sure plenty of other companies offer this service.