Home Lifestyle I was one bowl of pasta away from blowing up my house

I was one bowl of pasta away from blowing up my house

12
0

It was discovered that I had traces of carbon monoxide in my blood (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

Standing in the kitchen, my housemates and I waited nervously for the gas safety man to say something.

He’d been scanning the stairs, living room and kitchen of our house for a potential gas and carbon monoxide leak. But we were all sceptical.

Sure, we’d been suffering with headaches and sickness for about a week now, but as we were all in our final year of university it was probably just stress. 

‘There’s a significantly high level of gas and carbon monoxide in the air. If you’d tried to light the gas hob well, let’s just say it wouldn’t have been good.’

I was reeling. Was he truly implying that, if we’d turned the hob on to boil pasta, we could have caused an explosion?

Terrifyingly, the answer was yes, because of the high level of gas.

This whole thing had started about a month before in early March 2019 when our oven suddenly stopped working.

Luckily, our landlord was straight on the case and ordered a replacement that arrived the next day.

Within an hour the new one was set up raring to go, and for two weeks life was back to normal – our university life was once again complete with nights out and our trusty oven for drunken midnight snacks. 

Then, about two weeks later, I started experiencing headaches and migraines.

At first, Charlotte and her housemates put their headaches down to stress (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

At first it seemed like just another hangover. But when a few days had passed and my pain and vision problems worsened, I knew something was up. 

‘Do you feel really weird as well?’, my housemate texted me one day.

‘Yeah I feel rubbish,’ I replied.

Both of us were curled up in our beds feeling sorry for ourselves – we decided to bin off cooking for the foreseeable in favour of takeaways. 

After a few days the kitchen began to have a strange smell, which we put down to the concoction of pizza, Chinese and curries we’d been consuming. But by day five our headaches were the worst they’d ever been.

Now I just want others to be aware of the dangers (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

For me personally it felt like someone was stamping on my head constantly and there was a huge amount of pressure behind my eyes that it hurt to have them open.

When I told Mum one night on the phone about how I was feeling she said that, based on mother’s instinct, I needed to call Gas Safe Register for a registered engineer immediately and that it could be a potential gas leak.

My other housemate had spoken to her brother (who happened to be an electrician) and he told her to do the same.

Frankly, we were baffled. We didn’t even know who the Gas Safe Register were or how to get in touch with them, let alone that the symptoms we all had were tell-tale signs of a gas leak.

Mum said I needed to call Gas Safe Register immediately (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

After googling the words ‘gas safety’ we found the National Gas Emergency team, called them and they sent a registered engineer out the same day.

He scanned our house meticulously and his machine began beeping steadily first in the hallway by my room downstairs, then in the lounge and finally, in the kitchen. The leak was huge and he told us, in no uncertain terms, we had to move out, that day, while they searched for the source.

Our gas was switched off, we called our landlord, packed our bags and headed for home.

As I travelled back to my parents’ house in Reading, my mind was racing. Would we be allowed back home? Would our symptoms ease or would they have long term side effects?

Charlotte Meredith’s student house had a major gas and carbon monoxide leak (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

Mostly I wondered why I knew so little about gas leaks. Sure, I’d signed a lease at the start of the year and a carbon monoxide alarm was on the checklist, but no one had ever told us how to check if the alarm worked or how to know if there was a gas leak.

The stress combined with my headaches resulted in me having tight chest pains, even once I was back home. My parents took me to hospital where, following an ECG and blood test, it was discovered that I had traces of carbon monoxide in my blood.

Thankfully, the amount was nothing to be concerned about and I was told it should work its way out of my system in a few days. Had the levels been higher though, I could have needed oxygen and been at risk of damaging my tissue.

From that moment on I vowed to teach myself everything I could about gas safety. I read and researched everything I could so that, when I went back to university, I was prepared.

I vowed to teach myself everything I could about gas safety (Picture: Charlotte Meredith)

My migraines and chest pains stopped after a few days at home and three weeks later we were told by our landlord the house was safe to live in again.

When we returned, we learned that the gas and carbon monoxide leak was caused by the new oven not being fitted correctly – it turned out the man who had fitted it was more of a handyman rather than a gas safe registered engineer.

Our landlord was apologetic for the inconvenience this had all caused but that was about as close as we came to a real apology. We didn’t even get our full deposit back at the end of the year.

It was hard not to be annoyed and though we didn’t take legal action against the handyman or our landlord, being consumed with university life and work, the experience has stayed with me.

The first two weeks after coming back to the house, we were militant about never leaving the oven on for too long. If it was pre-heating, someone was always nearby. And we’d switch it off immediately after cooking.



Gas Safe Register’s Top Tips:

  • Check both sides of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card.
  • Have all your gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year.
  • If you rent your home, ask for a copy of the landlord’s current Gas Safety Record.
  • Know the six signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning: headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
  • Check gas appliances for warning signs that they are not working properly e.g. a lazy yellow or orange flame on your gas hob or oven, rather than a crisp blue one.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. 

Of course, we did eventually begin to relax again, but I never forgot how the leak had made me feel.

Even after I graduated and began house hunting for my first real place one of my first questions was ‘are all the appliances gas safe?’ I think that took the estate agent by surprise, but I never wanted to be in that position again.

Luckily the place I chose is a new build, meaning all the appliances are newly registered and under warranty, but I still make a conscious effort to check my carbon monoxide alarm every month.

Now I just want others to be aware of the dangers, especially if they are leaving their parents’ home for the first time. I went off to university not knowing a thing about gas and carbon monoxide leaks, and I feel confident in saying that will be the same for any student, but that needs to change.

Everyone should be taught about gas safety even at a basic level, at school or by student authorities as we navigate university life. 

It might not seem like the ideal topic to bring up at a Freshers’ party, but it might just save your life.

As told to Emma Rossiter

Charlotte is supporting Gas Safe Register – the UK’s official registration body for gas engineers and gas businesses. To ensure your home is gas safe and to find a local Gas Safe registered engineer in your area and for further gas safety tips, visit https://www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.


MORE : The doctor said I should go to the spa for my ‘stress migraine’. Days later I was in surgery


MORE : I didn’t know how to put in a menstrual cup – so I turned to porn


MORE : I had never heard of chemsex until my brother died from the drugs he’d taken



Source

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here