WARE — Colleen Duprey, triage nurse from BMP – Quabbin Pediatrics, took a phone call just before 11 a.m. on Dec. 31 from a mother complaining that several members of her family were sick and were passing out. Immediately recognizing symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning, Duprey recommended they get out of the house and call 911.
“Colleen’s recognition of the problem and immediate call to action clearly saved the lives of this family,” said Dr. Scott Siege, medical director of BMP – Quabbin Pediatrics. “Breathing carbon monoxide (CO) harms your blood’s ability to transport oxygen. Although everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, it is particularly dangerous for children because they breathe faster and inhale more CO per pound of body weight.”
He went on, “as triage nurse, Colleen answers a number of calls each day. Families call for various reasons, and many concerns are managed with reassurance, instruction, or an appointment to come in and see a healthcare provider. There are very few calls that are emergencies, and what is outstanding is that Colleen was able to immediately recognize the emergency this family was facing and instruct them to take quick action.”
Because the symptoms of prolonged, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning mimic the symptoms of common winter ailments (headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and even seasonal depression), many cases are not detected until permanent damage to the brain, heart, and other organs and tissues has occurred, Siege explained.
“Once at the hospital, treatment depends on the severity of the carbon-monoxide exposure. Mild exposure is treated with oxygen and monitoring of carbon-monoxide levels. Severe carbon-monoxide poisoning may require high doses of oxygen therapy. In this case, the children were admitted to the hospital and discharged the following day after evaluation and treatment.”