MY SON WAS KILLED BY A LEAKY BOILER // the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning

Project Shout carbon monoxide poisoning Stacey pic

• trigger warning – deals with child loss •

Stacey Rodgers was just 15 when she discovered she was pregnant, and 16 when her son Dominic was born.

They grew up together, more friends than mother and son. ‘We were so close,’ she explains. ‘We just loved each other’s company.’

By the time he was 10, Dominic was football obsessed, with big brown eyes and a cheeky grin. ‘No one could ever stay angry at him,’ Stacey remembers, ‘he got away with everything.’

It was a normal Wednesday night in 2004 when he headed upstairs to play his with his Playstation and to watch a new football programme.‘Muuuuuuuuuum!’ she heard him call. ‘This is NOT about football!’

She opened his bedroom to see the saucy soap opera Footballers’ Wives playing. ‘Bedtime,’ she laughed. ‘Love you, see you in the morning.’

THE HOUSE WAS STILL AND SILENT

Project Shout carbon monoxide poisoning Dominic h&s

When she woke the next day she immediately knew something was wrong.

Dominic was always up before her, noisily getting ready for school, but the house was still and silent. He’s messing about, she thought – it was a favourite joke of his to play hide and seek. But when opened his bedroom door she could see he was still lying in bed.

‘Come on Dominic,’ she called, ‘time to get up for school.’

She reached out to give gently shake him awake, but quickly pulled her hand back; his skin felt strange, cold.

It had been a chilly night, and her first thought was that he’d somehow frozen. She knew that didn’t really make sense, but her brain just couldn’t work out what had happened; she’d left him healthy and safe just a few hours before, and no one had been in the room since.

She turned him over to see vomit around his mouth. ‘Dominic, wake up,’ she repeated, panic turning her body cold. Fingers trembling, she dialled 999. ‘It’s my son,’ she cried. ‘He’s not moving or breathing.’

The emergency operator began telling her how to perform CPR. At one point she thought she felt Dominic’s pulse, but it was just her own heart – beating so hard she could feel it through her whole body.

It felt like such a long time – but it was really only minutes – before she heard the wail of ambulance siren. Stacey ran downstairs and frantically waved the paramedics inside. ‘Please help,’ she begged.

She waited downstairs, still struggling to comprehend what what going on, but they came back down just minutes later. Stacey could see from their faces what they were starting to say, and cut them off: ‘I know,’ she told them.

Her little boy was gone. 

WHY WASN’T I DEAD TOO? 

She grabbed a photo of Dominic, and began pulling at her hair, desperate to wake herself up from the nightmare. She noticed the paramedics opening windows, but didn’t have time to wonder why before people began to arrive – first the police, then her parents, who lived just a few minutes away.

As soon as she saw them and broke down: ‘I didn’t do anything,’ she cried. His death was so out of the blue, so unexplained, she thought people would think she’d hurt him.

She was taken to her parents’ house while the emergency services worked.

It didn’t take long for news of Dominic’s death to spread through the neighbourhood, and people began to arrive at their doorstep – neighbours, school friends, mates from his football team – all devastated by the news.

Later that afternoon his football manager came to pay his respects. ‘I opened the door he just stared at me,’ Stacey remembers. ‘Then he was overcome with emotion, and walked away without saying a word.’

It was nine long, terrible hours before she got a call from the coroner, who told her Dominic had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

‘I didn’t know what it was,’ she admits. ‘I just had more questions – if this gas was poisonous, why wasn’t I dead too?’

Stacey doesn’t remember much of the following hours – it was two days before she was able to return to her home for a change of clothes, where she confused to see a gas engineer in the house next door. Why, she thought, when the gas leak was in our home?

She distracted herself planning Dominic’s funeral and picking out his favourite songs – Glory Glory Man United, Where is the Love and Bittersweet Symphony – but at night the grief would close in on her, and she’d walk aimlessly up and down the road, until her father called her inside.

THE SILENT KILLER 

After the funeral Stacey returned home one more time, but was unnerved when she entered the living room and the light bulb exploded overhead. ‘Get Dominic’s stuff and leave everything else,’ she instructed a friend.

She closed the door, and never returned – not even to collect her furniture.

From her parents’ house, she began to demand answers. She went to the local computer club and started searching about carbon monoxide poisoning, and was shocked by what she found.

Carbon monoxide gas cannot be seen, smelt or heard, and has the nickname the ‘Silent Killer’.

When fossil fuels such as coal, wood, oil and gas are burned, carbon dioxide is a natural by-product. However, if they don’t burn properly (due to a blocked flue, or lack of oxygen, or a faulty appliance) carbon monoxide can be created instead.

According to Department of Health statistics (2011), carbon monoxide poisoning kills 50 people every single year: another 200 are hospitalised with symptoms that can result in permanent disability, and 4000 end up in A&E with flu-like symptoms, including sickness, fatigue and persistent headaches.

When she read that children were at particular risk of poisoning and death, because of their lower body weight, Stacey knew she had to do something.

‘I knew if I could save even just one life, it would help me to keep going,’ she says.

She was working full time as a factory supervisor, so after work she’d fire emails off to anyone she thought might be able to help. ‘I figured there was no point going through the middle men,’ she says, ‘so I’d write to the head of British Gas to tell them my story.’

OBLIVIOUS TO THE DANGER HE WAS IN

Meanwhile, an investigation discovered the property next door to Stacey’s had a faulty boiler. Carbon monoxide had been pouring out of it and seeping through the walls, straight into Dominic’s bedroom.

What made this night lethal was a perfect storm of factors: the boiler’s flue was situated right under his bedroom; it was a cold night so the windows were tightly sealed; the wind was blowing in a direction that further pushed the gas up into his room.

A concentration of 500 parts per million (PPM) of carbon monoxide is dangerous – Dominic’s room measured 20,000 PPM.

The only comfort Stacey can take is that her son had been oblivious to the danger he was in; he was probably unconscious within minutes of her kissing him good night.

‘He was a sitting duck,’ Stacey says. ‘He didn’t stand a chance.’

Despite her devastation, she continued to push forward with her campaigning, and set up the Dominic Rodgers Trust. ‘I couldn’t let this happen to anyone else,’ she explains.

She was relentless – often staying up until two or three in the morning – fighting for awareness of this silent killer. And her voice was heard – as a direct result of her son’s death, regulations and safety requirements were tightened and awareness grew. ‘I know Dominic would have been proud of me,’ she replies modestly, when asked.

As the years passed, her drive never faltered – if anything, it grew.

Today she continues to work with schools, campsites and universities to spread her safety message. She’s contributed to parliamentary debates and health forums, and is currently working with PROJECT SHOUT, a charity dedicated to raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning. By 2020 they aim to have carbon dioxide alarms fitted in 10 million homes.

So when will Stacey stop fighting? The answer comes firmly and quickly:

‘Not until EVERY home in the UK has an alarm.’

• you might also like to read Fiona’s story, and how an £11 test could have saved her baby’s life (trigger warning – deals with baby loss), or how Annika turned her breast cancer diagnosis into a way to help others.

TO MARK #GASSAFETYWEEK YOU COULD WIN A PROJECT SHOUT SUMMER ESSENTIALS KIT, INCLUDING A FIRE ANGEL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM

Project Shout carbon monoxide poisoning giveaway

e:23.59, 2/9/17, prize is 1 x CO alarm, travel book, 3 x sun care products, 1 x beach ball. UK only, promoter takes no responsibility for prizes lost or damaged in transit, promoter’s and winner’s details available on request. Prize will be fulfilled within one month of randomly selected winner replying with their delivery details.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

82 Comments

  1. I would like to win this for my house x

  2. I would like to win it for us, we don’t have one and that article has just made me realise how important it is.

  3. Oh gosh, this is absolutely tragic, it broke my heart to read about Dominic but what an amazing thing his Mum is doing to raise awareness. Much love to the family and thank you for sharing this with us. xxx

  4. Any good home improvement store will not only sell fire alarms but also carbon monoxide detectors…sad that Stacey lost her son this way.

  5. I have four little ones, including an 11 year old. This story had a huge impact on me. Even if I don’t win, I’m going to go and buy a carbon monoxide alarm as soon as I can.

  6. That is such a sad story, and I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to lose a child to something like this x

  7. Would love to win this to take with us on holiday with the grandkids

  8. Stacey is extremely courageous. What’s horrific is that these deaths can and do still happen. See http://hvpmag.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/5148/Derbyshire_installer_rescues_resident_from_CO_poisoning.html where a registered installer found a dangerous boiler while attending to another property. There needs to be more awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from ALL carbon based fuels (gas, coal, wood, petrol, diesel etc.).
    Stacey had no real victim support. We advised her to get a lawyer to represent her and help her through the inquest but she has only recently had counselling. I should have suggested that at the start but she was coping so well and people need to pick their own moment for counselling.
    There is still no properly funded victim support and no data collection of deaths and injuries from ALL fuels other than what we do and we are an independent charity with no guaranteed funding. Industry and government need to do a great deal more. We cannot understand why more isn’t being done. As well as the obvious tragedies, deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide cost the UK taxpayer £178 million a year http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmcomloc/50/50iii132.htm
    The smart meter roll out is such an opportunity to test all gas appliances for CO at least. We suggested this in 2011.
    Well done Stacey. I really admire you.
    Stephanie
    CO-Gas Safety

  9. My heart truly bled for Stacey, I can’t imagine what it is like to lose your child and she is so brave to share her story with you. I entered the competition to raise awareness of this silent killer. My only solace is that he wouldn’t have been in pain and I know he would be proud of his mum for taking the steps to raise awareness. My thoughts are with her and anyone else that has been in this situation x

  10. Amanda Baggott - September 19, 2017 reply

    I would like to win this for my house 🙂

  11. This is such a sad story, it totally breaks my heart. We have a carbon monoxide monitor in our house because I’ve heard stories like this before.

  12. I can’t begin to imagine how terrible that must be, so sorry for Stacey’s loss. It made me double check the batteries on ours to make sure we’re safe x

  13. my mother in law as she doesn’t have one

  14. Our home, with a new born baby on the way it would be perfect to make sure the house is safe!

  15. cheryl hadfield - September 20, 2017 reply

    I would love to win for our home, to protect my family from this silent killer

  16. I think learning about carbon monoxide poisoning should be more readily available. When I was a teenager and live at home, everyone in my family started getting headaches. It turned out we was suffering the effects from carbon monoxide poisoning from our gas fire. We was the lucky ones and we then got our house fitted with alarms.
    Natasha Mairs recently posted…Meet Boris the Fingerling – The New Cute Monkey ToyMy Profile

  17. oh my! I am so sorry 🙁 I think talking about it and making others aware will hopefully prevent more deaths.

  18. Here in Toronto it has become standard to have a carbon monoxide detector in basement rentals. And others install them in their homes as a precaution for the very reasons you’ve wrote about. It is with sadness and condolences that I write this. My thoughts and prayers are given. RIP.
    Jacqueline recently posted…Positioning Statement? What Is That? Why Do I Need One?My Profile

  19. So heartbreaking. I’d love to win this for my family, gives us good piece of mind and protection!

  20. This is such a heartbreaking story, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like that morning for Stacey. She is so brave to tell her story and spread awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning. We have alarms fitted in our house.
    Helen recently posted…What’s inside my bag *My Profile

  21. For me and my family.

  22. What a sad story – I can’t even imagine how terrible that must be for her.

  23. Niece. Keen to keep family and pets safe.

  24. This was a really hard read… Well done and thank you to Stacey for sharing this.

  25. My house, always best to be safe than sorry! Heartbreaking story.

  26. STUART HARGREAVES - September 21, 2017 reply

    For our home we should buy one anyhow

  27. christine shelley - September 21, 2017 reply

    my daughter who is just moving into her first flat

  28. for my brother, this is really a horrible story i cant iimagine her pain

  29. I’d like to keep my granddaughters safe

  30. I would like this for my house and to put in my daughters room as she has got a boiler in her room

  31. Anthony Harrington - September 21, 2017 reply

    I would like this as a spare for our home, very important

  32. We have one but I think two might be more life saving

  33. Ashleigh Allan - September 22, 2017 reply

    Would love to win for my house

  34. I was actually in hospital for the same thing – many years ago we gad a faulty gas heater and it went out, I managed to get up but very drowsy and sick and knew something was wrong – spent a night in hospital on oxygen. Would win this to put in my kids room – we have one downstairs but want one upstairs

    Laura x

  35. Farhana Chowdhury - September 24, 2017 reply

    For my home

  36. My parents

  37. My family 🙂

  38. Such a heartbreaking, tragic story. It really makes you think and hopefully a lot of people will act by making sure they have a fully functioning Carbon Monoxide alarm fitted. I’ve got 2 already – so one backs up the other and it’s important to check them. I’d like to win this one for my brother and nieces. x

  39. For my Dad I worry about him being safe

  40. I would like to win for my niece who is just moving to a new home.

  41. That’s a sad story with a bad ending. Nightmare death of a boy. My main fear is to lose my child.
    I’ve never heard before about carbon monoxide alarm.
    I live in Russia. I know the same stories here. I’ll try to buy the alarm in my city. Or to order from Amazon.
    Roman from Rims And Tires recently posted…Top 5 electric pumps for bike tires. What will be the best for your needs?My Profile

  42. I would like to win this for my house.

  43. Kayleigh Watkins - September 25, 2017 reply

    I would love to win this for myself, our boiler is in our bedroom cupboard, we share our bedroom with our 6 month old daughter, we also have a 5 year old daughter and 13 year old son, this would definitely bring peace of mind, what an horrendous thing to have to go through xXx

  44. This would be useful in the house

  45. i need this for my new house

  46. Allison Sherwood - October 1, 2017 reply

    I would like to win it for my son, his gf and their new baby as they are moving to their own little place soon x

  47. this would be a great little gadget for my home

  48. I would love to win this for our house to protect my family from this silent killer

  49. Essential for every house!

  50. For myself

  51. Lisa Wilkinson - October 1, 2017 reply

    For my cousin who is looking for her first home

  52. Kayleigh Robinson - October 1, 2017 reply

    This is absolutely devastating, I can’t even imagine what that must of been like to lose her gorgeous boy. We have an alarm in our bedroom but I’d like to win one to put downstairs. They could be the differnce between life and death

  53. Paula Phillips - October 1, 2017 reply

    I’d like this for myself as my boiler is several years old and I’d like to know it’s safe.

  54. Jo McPherson - October 1, 2017 reply

    For my daughter who is just moving into a new house

  55. I would like & my family

  56. *to win this for
    Sorry, my laptop keeps freezing

  57. For the house, so I can have peace of mind with the kids. Thankyou for the competition x

  58. Nicola Phipps - October 1, 2017 reply

    I would really like to win this for our home.

  59. Gemma Holland - October 2, 2017 reply

    I’d like to win for myself please

  60. paula cheadle - October 2, 2017 reply

    I would love to give this to my son, as he has a small baby girl

  61. Tracy Gladman - October 2, 2017 reply

    I would like to win this for my friend who is due her baby in a couple of weeks time.

  62. I would love to win this for our home. I keep meaning to purchase one as we have small children in the house but I just keep forgetting!

  63. Jeanette Leighton - October 2, 2017 reply

    Would love to win for my house have been meaning to get one as I have 2 little ones

  64. Michelle Carlin - October 2, 2017 reply

    What a devastating tragedy. I’d give it to my son for uni.

  65. carla carthy - October 2, 2017 reply

    i would like to win this for my home

  66. Linda Curtis - October 2, 2017 reply

    Its very scary how this is such a silent killer with no warnings
    i would love this for my elderly mothers house ,
    as she is on her own and it gives me one less thing to worry about

  67. To use in home

  68. Karen Richards - October 2, 2017 reply

    Need this for my home. Been meaning to get one. This is such a sad story.

  69. Rachel White - October 2, 2017 reply

    I would like it for our living room as we have normal detectors but not the cm detection units. Thanks for the chance

  70. Leanne Perrett - October 2, 2017 reply

    i would like to win it for my mum so i know shes safe

  71. Simone Griffin - October 2, 2017 reply

    I would like it in my house so I would have peace of mind with my children x

  72. Cathryn Crawshaw - October 2, 2017 reply

    would love to win for our home

  73. Carly Belsey - October 2, 2017 reply

    Our house, we do have one but it’s really old and needs changing im sure. Thank you

  74. Sarah Robinson - October 2, 2017 reply

    Would like to win for my family and I.

  75. I would like to win this for myself, its something I always intend to buy but never get around to

  76. I would like to win this for my son & his girlfriend as I’m pretty sure they don’t have one

  77. Sarah Parker - October 2, 2017 reply

    I’d love for my house

  78. For our home

  79. Scott Fallon - October 2, 2017 reply

    My family, I want to keep them as safe as possible.

  80. Sarah Wilson - October 2, 2017 reply

    My sons rooms, this is terrifying!

  81. I’d love to win for my house x

  82. Lisa Mcalley - October 2, 2017 reply

    Myself and my 3 kids as i am at home and have no sense of smell or taste.

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