Late Tuesday evening, a screeching alarm sounded in our house. The noise was followed with a computerized voice… “Carbon monoxide detected..” We looked at each other confused, as if we didn’t know what that was. While we hadn’t heard that alarm before, it was clear that our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors had detected carbon monoxide (CO). Our confused looks were more likely looks of “do we take this seriously?”
Because CO is odorless and colorless, the only way we really could know if it was present is by having these detectors. Could it be a false alarm? Could the detectors be malfunctioning? It would be easy to dismiss, but we’ve all heard stories of families perishing during the night because of CO poisoning. So, we opened a door to let some fresh air in and called the fire department.
The fire department arrived and scanned the one area of our house where the alarms were going off. His high-tech detector showed zero CO being present. The fireman suggested we switch out the batteries, which we did, and the alarms stopped shortly afterward. He indicated that the batteries must have been the problem and that the system must be malfunctioning. He suggested that if the alarms went off again that we should disconnect the system.
Right now, you should have several questions and concerns. There were several disturbing things that occurred. First, our alarm system is hardwired, and the batteries are merely backups in the event of a power outage. So, the batteries could have nothing to do with the alarms going off. Second, the fireman only scanned that one area of the house. I now know that it is common procedure for them to scan the entire house for CO. Third, the door had been open for quite some time at that point, which could clear out any CO in that area. This could explain the zero reading he was getting. Forth, and most bewildering, is the fireman suggesting we disconnect the system if it goes off again. Bizarre!
After the fire department left, the system continued to trigger on and off, declaring the presence of CO. While we wanted to believe the system was malfunctioning, being wrong could mean death. So, we ran to Wal-Mart, just as it was closing, and bought four plug-in CO detectors. They immediately indicated the presence of CO (there should be NONE present), but they were not sounding any alarms. So, we went to bed. At 1:30 a.m., all of the plug-in detectors began blaring, indicating that the CO level reached a specific level.
To make a long story shorter, we left the house at 2:30 a.m. We found out the next day that the exhaust pipes from the furnace and the hot water tank were both packed in snow and blocked.
I share this story for a couple reasons. It is important to have detectors/alarms to protect yourself from smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide. It is also important to know where those exhaust pipes are and keep them fully clear.
But the MAIN reason I share this story is because it made me think of our current healthcare system. Your body has built in alarm systems alerting you to problems. When your body has symptoms, such as pain, that pain is like the CO detector in the house. It means there is a problem. When a doctor prescribes a drug to block the symptom (i.e., pain pill), that is exactly like the that fireman telling us to disconnect the alarm system. It does NOTHING to correct the problem. The pain is not the problem, nor is the CO detector. They are there to alert you to take action. Only taking a pain pill merely blocks the signal, the pain. The underlying cause DOES NOT get corrected. In fact, that underlying cause continues to persist, causing more harm and damage over time. Disconnecting the CO detector would stop the noise, but the CO levels would continue to build up in the house.
It is time to focus on addressing the CAUSE of our problems, rather than masking the symptoms. Stop blocking the alerts and start fixing the cause. The mistake by that fireman could have been catastrophic. Had we disconnected the alarm system, we likely would all have been killed that night. Your doctor continuing to prescribe drugs that merely treat symptoms is allowing the underlying conditions to persist, ultimately causing more harm, or even death.
So… check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Then check the list of medications you take that are doing nothing to correct the underlying causes. Merely shutting off the alarm system is a terrible strategy. And YOU must be the one to take action, as the so-called professionals can’t always be counted on.