Standing on the verandah, my husband Jake, 27, and I watched the thick grey smog draw closer.
‘Thank God the bush fires are under control,’ Jake said. ‘But the sky doesn’t look good.’
The res had destroyed several homes, but thankfully we were safe. But the local peat bogs had been burning for several days. The smell was horrible, like carpet burning.
Heading back indoors, we made sure the windows were closed to keep the smoke out.
‘Time for bed,’ I said to our daughter, Layla, seven.
But soon after, I heard her get up and go to the bathroom. She’s being sick, I realised.
‘I feel dizzy,’ she said to me. ‘And my head hurts.’
‘Oh no!’ I frowned.
Was this something to do with the smog? Or just a bug?
Then, 10 minutes later, Jake started throwing up.
‘I’m dizzy too,’ he mumbled.
Realising it could be serious, I bundled them both into the car and sped to the hospital.
By the time we got there, Jake couldn’t walk and had to be wheeled in a chair.
His heart rate was a very low 42 instead of at least 60, and Layla was still vomiting.
What’s wrong with them? I thought, frightened. They were given oxygen and rushed by ambulance to a larger hospital. I followed, frantic I was going to lose both my husband and my daughter.
‘They have carbon monoxide poisoning,’ said the doctor when we arrived. ‘It must have been the fumes from the burning peat bogs.’
‘Will they be all right?’ I asked.
‘Hopefully – they got here quickly,’ he said, explaining that carbon monoxide robbed the heart and brain of oxygen. Adding to our woes were Jake and Layla’s pre-existing conditions.
Jake had a hole in his heart, while Layla was asthmatic. I looked at my pale hubby, wired up to an ECG monitor, wearing an oxygen mask.
Please get better, I wished. Layla wasn’t as sick as her dad, but to my huge relief they were both discharged to nish their recovery.
‘Keep an eye on them,’ the doctor said, explaining they should stay indoors with the windows shut tight.
Back home, they still felt sick and dizzy. I put Layla on a mattress in our room and watched them both like a hawk until dawn. The next day, I sent Layla to stay with her grandparents, 10km away, as the air there was clearer.
Then we replaced all the seals around our doors and windows. We later found out more than 160 locals had to be checked for carbon monoxide poisoning before the smoke cleared.
Now, Jake and Layla have fully recovered, but next time we won’t be taking any chances.
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