Barriere family airlifted to Vancouver due to carbon monoxide exposure have now returned home

A family of five from Barriere was transported to Vancouver for medical treatment after high levels of carbon monoxide were detected in their house. Ashley Wohlgemuth, fire chief with the Barriere Fire Department, said a call was received at roughly 7:30 a.m. on Thursday Dec. 6, and when the fire department arrived the family had already made it out of the house and into the ambulance.

“The levels of carbon monoxide were quite high inside the house,” said Wohlgemuth, and because of that the family was airlifted down to Vancouver to get further treatment.

“Vancouver has something called a hyperbaric chamber, so there they can do therapy for decompression sickness, and with carbon monoxide poisoning quite often they’ll have to do that; if the levels are quite high, they’ll have to use the hyperbaric chambers to make sure their oxygen levels are all up to par,” said Wohlgemuth.

Those exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide will feel drowsy, but generally will not realize the gas is even in the air.

“You just get really tired from it,” said Wohlgemuth.

She noted that Rob and Rainy Wittner and their three children were in stable condition when they left Barriere.

Medical personel in Vancouver praised the fast work of first responders saying, “It was all like clockwork.”

One medical professional working with the hyperbaric chamber stated, “This is the fastest most coordinated effort I have seen in a carbon monoxide poisoning effort, from Barriere and all down the line.”

He also noted that treatment in the hyperbaric chamber involved all five of the Wittners inside for two-and-ahalf hours, then a 30 minute break, and then back in again for another two-and-a-half hours. A hyperbaric chamber is pressurized in such a way that massive amounts of oxygen go through your system and replace the carbon monoxide in your body.

The family were able to return to their home in Barriere on Friday.

“Luckily there was a working carbon monoxide detector in the house,” she Wohlgemuth, and this case is a good reminder for others to make sure they have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

“This time of year it’s not uncommon for these kinds of things to happen with people using more heating sources.” Wohlgemuth added the cause of the carbon monoxide leak was unknown at the time, but an investigation was being done.

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