Imagine suddenly being unable to speak. Or walk. Or feed yourself. Or think clearly. Frightening, isn’t it? And no, you haven’t suffered a stroke, by the way. Imagine losing only one of those functions. I invite you to remain silent for just an hour. (No cheating, you lot, I almost heard you thinking you do it all the time!) I mean unable to share a joke or concern, or read to your child, or talk to your grandchild. Meetings at work or socially are impossible; in other words, life as you know it is snatched from you.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Fantastic Frank Johnson, a truly inspiring gentleman who was taken from his fire-ravaged restaurant in a body bag. When he came to, everything but his life had been snatched away. The silent killer hadn’t extinguished life but, with three times the level of carbon monoxide usually considered lethal, he was hanging by a thread. The body starts replacing oxygen with carbon monoxide which may lead to death. For Frank, it caused a traumatic brain injury. The life-saving tracheotomy damaged his larynx which means he’ll forever struggle to speak. But what I really appreciate about this gentle gentleman is that he chooses to be “differently-abled” rather than disabled. Isn’t that terrific?
The path from successful chemical engineer, through painful and painstaking rehabilitation, to inspirational speaker and successful author has taken courage and humour. Don’t take life-enhancing skills for granted just because they silently serve without your conscious thought.
At the very least, fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home or workplace. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – death by this noxious substance requires no flames and it’s colourless, odourless and poisonous! Know what really surprised me? We’re coming into a high danger season for deaths from this. Yes, I thought it would be a Winter only thing, too. Produced naturally when charcoal, gas or petrol burns incompletely your appliance doesn’t even have to be faulty. Be warned: barbeques produce carbon monoxide even when they’re working well.
Gosh, there’s lots to think about during our care-free Summer days, isn’t there? Stay ‘safe in the sun’, yep, got that one. But stay safe in your tent or awning’s a new one on me! And I’m not joking. Here’s a few tips from The Camping and Caravanning Club to ensure your sausages sizzle safely and your brain doesn’t fry alongside them.
- Never take a barbecue into a tent, awning, caravan or motorhome. Even a cooling barbecue gives off plenty of poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), which can kill.
- Never use a fuel-burning appliance to heat your tent or awning. Gas and kerosene heaters – unless they are permanently fitted in a caravan or motorhome – should only be used outside. Stoves and barbecues are designed for cooking not space heating.
- Never run a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside a caravan, motorhome, tent or awning. Make sure fumes from a generator don’t blow into your unit or anyone else’s from outside either.
- Don’t cook inside your tent or awning
- Don’t use any other gas, charcoal, liquid or solid fuel appliances inside a tent or awning. Gas-powered fridges and lamps, for example, also need plenty of ventilation to prevent them producing poisonous carbon monoxide. Tents and awnings aren’t generally designed with this in mind.
- Consider using a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, provided it is suitable for the condition you intend to use it, check with the supplier/manufacturer, though it should never be used as an alternative to the precautions above.
- Always have gas appliances in your caravan or motorhome serviced regularly.
Spotting the danger signs of CO poisoning
You can’t smell, taste or see carbon monoxide but it can kill quickly and without warning. Early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning can give symptoms similar to food poisoning or flu, though without a high temperature.
- Look out for: Headaches; dizziness; feeling sick; tiredness and confusion; stomach pains or shortness of breath
- Higher concentrations can give more severe symptoms: Symptoms of intoxication; vertigo, as if the environment is spinning; loss of coordination; breathlessness and high heart beat rate; seizures or unconsciousness leading to death
I have the greatest respect and admiration for Frank. Resolutely upbeat, he’s dedicated to helping others with traumatic brain injuries and invests much time and energy inspiring young people. Frank’s life is very, very different now and not without daily challenges but he tells me it’s far more fulfilling than it used to be.
Happy and safe camping and, yes, take a carbon monoxide detector as an essential part of your camping equipment.
Frank’s demonstrated that ANYTHING is possible if you have the will to achieve it. What have you left on the back-burner for ‘one day’ or ‘some day’?