The ‘silent killer’: Lake Point woman shares story of surviving carbon monoxide poisoning

Local News

LAKE POINT (ABC4 News) – Carbon monoxide poisoning can have deadly effects. But when it doesn’t have a fatal outcome, the health impacts can be permanent for survivors like Lake Point resident Dawn Quintana. Six years after surviving severe carbon monoxide poisoning, she said her life will never be the same.

Quintana’s near-death experience happened shortly after she moved to Utah from Southern California back in 2013 and started a new job. She began feeling sick and thought that she was just catching the flu.

“I had body aches, cold chills, a sore throat, headaches, and tremors. Food wasn’t tasting right. I was feeling really, really tired and all I wanted to do was go to sleep,” she said. “It was between January and March, so the flu was going around at that time. I went to the doctors and they thought I had a virus.”

She said she was actually suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and almost died on her way to the hospital. Although she survived, she said she will have permanent brain damage and won’t be able to work for the rest of her life.

“Doctors told me, ‘Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to get any gainful employment.’ As a result, they put me on permanent total disability,” said Quintana. “They said my recovery has been basically that of a severe stroke victim. I can no longer multi-task or work on numbers since I used to do accounting. I have a lot of memory loss since my accident. Some people say I’m like Dory from Finding Nemo.”

Experts call carbon monoxide, ‘the silent killer’ because of its colorless and odorless presence. As the weather gets colder, first responders and medical professionals are issuing reminders about checking your carbon monoxide alarms and following safe heating practices. They said Sunday’s leak at a Provo LDS church that sent dozens of people to the hospital was an alarming reminder of the importance of this.

“We want to keep this at the forefront of your mind. People think about their smoke detectors a lot and that’s good. When you check your smoke detectors, which we encourage you to do every time you change your clocks, you should also be thinking about your carbon monoxide detectors,” said Matthew McFarland with Unified Fire Authority.

Some tips McFarland provided to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your home, especially in areas where you sleep
  • Check the batteries in your alarm twice a year. Most brands have a lifespan of five to seven years
  • Get your furnace or heating system inspected once a year to ensure it’s operating properly
  • Never leave your car running in a garage, even if the door is open
  • Don’t use any fuel-burning appliances in an enclosed area without any ventilation

For Quintana, she said her symptoms have made a slight improvement over the past six years. But she’s still experiences severe side effects. She now leads the Carbon Monoxide Survivors of Utah page on Facebook to raise awareness and facilitate outreach to other survivors.

“It’s not a game and I’m not saying anybody says it is a game. But I don’t think people know the seriousness of it. Most people don’t survive it. You don’t hear from people like me, especially the high levels I was exposed to. I shouldn’t be here and I am,” she said. “A lot of carbon monoxide survivors are swept under the rug. I want people to know that there is help and resources out there for those who may have been exposed.”

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