THIRD year History student Kat Edgar tells her chilling story of being poisoned by carbon monoxide leaking into her flat.
My flatmates and I had always joked how terrible our flat was. Obviously, as students on a budget, we never expected to be living in a lap of luxury.
We soldiered on with a leaking ceiling, mice, poor central heating and an inattentive landlord, putting it down to a fact of student life. Yet when we all started falling ill with, what the doctor diagnosed as a virus, we never thought it was because of carbon monoxide seeping into our flat.
At the end of the second week of having a ‘virus’, and with my flatmates Emma and Megan suffering from the same thing, I was beginning to feel increasingly frustrated. Two weeks seemed to be a long time to have a virus and I had missed two weeks of university, which, with my dissertation deadline fast approaching, was quite stressful.
‘I thought I was being a hypochondriac’
The ‘virus’ was completely draining; we all had splitting bad headaches and I was constantly feeling nauseous and out of it. I began to wonder whether the cause of our symptoms was environmental. I googled ‘carbon monoxide poisoning’ and found that we conformed to symptoms indicative of carbon monoxide.
At this point I thought I was being one of those hypochondriacs reading up on symptoms online and assuming the worst. We’ve all done it. I called the emergency gas engineer who confirmed we did have a gas leak. The gas engineer turned our gas off straight away and after finally getting through to our landlord his assistant, who has been likened to a secondary cousin of a reptile, came round.
The gas engineer told him the severity of the situation and he whisked us off to hospital to undergo tests. After being given the all clear we returned home to a flat with no hot water and heating. We had been calm during the day but now the potential severity of the situation began to dawn on us.
Home is supposed to be a place of retreat and where you should definitely feel safe; for us our flat had become the total opposite of this. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and it was at this point that it sank in how lucky we had been. We had put our trust, without question, in our landlord to provide us with gas appliances that were safe.
‘Forced to live somewhere we feel unsafe’
This trust had been totally uprooted. The fact that the gas meter was from 1972 speaks a thousand words for how well maintained the system was. It’s scary to think that if I hadn’t thought about carbon monoxide poisoning the situation could have potentially been a lot more serious.
It took nearly a week for us to have a functioning boiler again and even then our flat will hardly be winning interior design awards with the surface level piping going around the walls. I personally am counting down the months until our lease ends and we can move out.
I was angry that we have been placed in this situation. Our landlord, with our money, can live somewhere where he feels safe and secure, whilst we are forced to live somewhere where we no longer feel safe. Even though the new boiler has been tested, there is an underlying worry and uncertainty of what will go wrong next.
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For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning check out NHS Choices here.