LOCKPORT, N.Y. - Carbon monoxide poisoning is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths, according to the CDC.
It accounts for nearly 500 deaths every year in the United States.
A Lockport family experienced the poisoning themselves this winter.
"I was holding my head like this outside on the front porch, waiting for 911 to come," Laurie Pinzel said.
It was an ordinary night in their home.
Pinzel said she woke up to use the bathroom. At some point during her trip to and from bed, she fell and smacked her head.
When she came to, she pulled herself back into bed and tried to sleep.
"My head was just pounding, pounding and my face was just hurting," Pinzel explained.
After an unsuccessful attempt to sleep it off, she found out it was not just her. Both her husband and son woke up with similar symptoms. The symptoms were almost flu like, including headache, dizziness and confusion.
"Then my husband is in the hallway saying 'wait, three people are sick. Something's wrong,'" Pinzel said.
Something was very wrong. The three were unknowingly breathing in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
They managed to call 9-1-1 and get the dogs and themselves outside.
Based on their symptoms, paramedics took a carbon monoxide reading in the house and found levels of 800 parts per million.
Laurie said they later found out their radiator cap broke off.
"I know the cap fell down and then the carbon monoxide couldn't get out of the house," Pinzel said. "And it's so freaky."
The only thing freakier for the Pinzel family was the news from doctors hours later.
Pinzel's husband and son were fine and released after some preventative scans and oxygen treatment.
Pinzel, on the other hand, was kept back because of a concern on her cat scan.
Separate from the carbon monoxide poisoning, doctors found an aneurysm.
"Carbon monoxide poisoning saved my life," Pinzel said.
Doctors are monitoring the weakened blood vessel in her brain and she goes back at the end of the month for an angiogram.
She will either have surgery or be on medication the rest of her life.
Though she would not wish this experience on anyone, she said it has given her an opportunity to share a life-saving lesson: install a CO detector in your home.
The Pinzels actually had a carbon monoxide detector in their home at the time of all this but had taken it out just the night before to change the battery.
They got it after watching the story of Amanda Hansen, a teen who died from CO poisoning in 2009.
Her story inspired Amanda's Law, requiring CO alarms in most New York homes.
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