Fiona O’Loughlin given ‘7% chance of living’ after carbon monoxide poisoning

Fiona O’Loughlin knows just how dangerous a heater can be in winter and opened up about a near-death experience during a chat on radio. The comedian fell into a four-week coma and was given a seven percent chance to live after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

She shared the harrowing story with Gold104.3’s Jo and Lehmo and admitted her ‘demons didn’t help’ her pick up on what was happening.

“It went over the course of a month. I forgot things, I thought I was getting early Alzheimer’s. I was forgetting things, forgetting my kids’ names. But then I did forget I was an alcoholic,” she said.

Fiona goes on to explain she was ‘very, very unwell’ in hospital in a month-long coma. In fact, the carbon monoxide poisoning almost killed her.

“I was given a seven per cent chance of life. Guess what? I didn’t die,” she laughed.

Fiona has made a full recovery since and hasn’t experienced any of the long-term side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Fiona’s story is one that every parent should take note of because almost every family will have a heater on at some point this winter.

Dr Sam Hay spoke to Kidspot and explained: “Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, tasteless, colourless, non-irritating gas formed by hydrocarbon combustion.”

“CO stops oxygen from connecting to haemoglobin in the blood properly, which means not enough will get around the body, especially to vital organs like the brain,” he explained.

As the levels rise, oxygen drops and people will develop symptoms which are highly varied and non-specific.

“Initial non-specific complaints such as headache, tiredness, nausea, just feeling unwell, or dizziness occur,” explained Sam.

For many adults these general symptoms aren’t anything out of the ordinary, which is what makes diagnosing the condition difficult.

“When severe, people get really drowsy, become confused, or lose consciousness. Death is inevitable when the exposure is severe, but brain damage can be a lifelong disability if people survive,” Dr Sam added.

Winter is the most dangerous time of year

When you’re exposed to CO sources like fires, heaters, generators or engines unintentional poisoning can happen.

“During winter, there are increased numbers of poisonings across the world as people lock themselves indoors in front of heaters to avoid the cold,” said Dr Sam.

In Australia cases are less likely than throughout the northern hemisphere because it doesn’t get that cold here, although Dr Sam advises we still need to be vigilant.

“Check fireplaces and heaters regularly to make sure they’re working properly, but most importantly, keep rooms well ventilated,” he said.

Dr Sam believes that if you are worried about it go and see your doctor but if your symptoms seem severe go to the hospital because you may need oxygen therapy and close monitoring.

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