VAN BUREN, Ark. – An Arkansas woman says her dog Miley saved her life when she persisted in waking the woman from a carbon monoxide stupor.
Stacie Pitts, 30, said her 1-year-old pet was sleeping next to her and woke her up in the early morning hours of Dec. 7. Pitts says she had a headache and went back to sleep, but Miley persisted and woke her up again. Pitts says she was overcome with nausea and realized then that something was wrong.
"I couldn't hold anything down. I ran to the bathroom throwing up," Pitts said. "And I wasn't throwing anything up but chemicals. It tasted like medicine in the back of my throat."
Her fiance, Richard Childers, woke up with a headache and woke up Pitts' 6-year-old stepdaughter.
"It took a while (for Richard) to wake her up. And when she woke, she had a headache," Pitts said.
Childers then called an ambulance, which took Pitts to Summit Medical Center while Childers and the child, who had also thrown up, followed in his vehicle.
At the hospital, Pitts said, doctors found that Pitts had a carbon monoxide level of 25, Childers tested at 20-22 and Pitts' stepdaughter's level was 17. The poison permanently scarred Pitts' lungs.
"My doctor said I was just inches away from the deadly point. I was not comatose, but I couldn't open my eyes," she said.
The family was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning and released from the hospital.
"If it wasn't for her (Miley) waking me up and making me feel the sickness, I would have went to sleep and never woke up," Pitts said.
Arkansas Oklahoma Gas inspected the home and found a leaky home heating unit that Pitts said was "rusted and about to fall through the floor." Pitts said the home was not equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, but her landlord has since installed one and plans to put in a new heater.
Fire officials say anything that burns an open flame, such as heaters and gas ranges, has the potential to emit carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can accumulate inside a closed garage where a car is left running or in chimneys that have not been properly cleaned. Other sources include unvented kerosene heaters, gas water heaters, wood stoves, generators and tobacco smoke.
The gas is odorless and colorless. It accumulates in the blood stream, attaches to hemoglobin and displaces oxygen. Carbon monoxide initially causes fatigue and headaches, then can lead to vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage and death.
Pitts urges others to equip their homes with a carbon monoxide detector, even if it means spending more during the holidays.
"If it's Christmas or not, spend the extra money," she said. "Would you rather wake up with presents under the tree or not at all?"