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Two pet cats save the lives of a heavily pregnant mother and her unborn baby from carbon monoxide poisoning after raising the alarm by crying

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  • Elaine Hilton, 39, thought her drowsiness was symptom of her pregnancy
  • Alerted to lethal gas when her cats Tinker and Bell howled and collapsed
  • Rushed to hospital after firefighters found high levels of gas inside house
  • Specialists on standby at birth but daughter Amber-Louise given all-clear
  • The leak was caused when soot began blocking an air vent in her boiler

By Simon Tomlinson

PUBLISHED: 06:33 EST, 5 June 2013 | UPDATED: 06:53 EST, 5 June 2013

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Lucky escape: Elaine Hilton with her daughter Amber-Louise who owe their lives to their two pet cats who alerted them to a potentially lethal carbon monoxide leak in their home

Lucky escape: Elaine Hilton with her daughter Amber-Louise who owe their lives to their two pet cats who alerted them to a potentially lethal carbon monoxide leak in their home

The lives of an expectant mum and her unborn baby were saved from carbon monoxide poisoning after her two cats raised the alarm.

Elaine Hilton, 39, was 40 weeks pregnant when her old-fashioned boiler started leaking the lethal gas into her home in November last year.

She put her drowsiness was down to her pregnancy until her three-year-old cats, Tinker and Bell, started crying and then collapsed, alerting her to the danger.

'I owe everything to them,' she said. 'They literally saved my life. My cats have been spoilt rotten since it happened and I just love them to bits.'

Elaine, a receptionist, explained: 'It was a nice quiet Sunday afternoon and I was lying on the sofa watching some TV while my ex-partner was cooking in the kitchen.

'I'd put the heating on a few hours before because I was going to have a bath and soon after I started to feel funny and light-headed.

'I felt really dizzy, but I assumed it was caused by my pregnancy so I was planning to have a nap on the sofa.

'That's when my cats started crying. They were making really high-pitched whimpering sounds, almost like a baby, which was really unusual.

'At first I thought they might just be hungry but then I realised something was wrong.

'They went and hid behind the sofa, where they collapsed. It was as if they were too weak to hold up their own weight.

'One of the cats was fitting. Her eyes were rolling and her body was shaking.

'We were going to phone the vet, but they never acted like this before so alarm bells started ringing.'

Elaine and her then-partner, Geoff Lilly, 53, phoned the fire brigade and carried the cats into the garden where they waited until firefighters arrived.

Pet rescue: Elaine's three-year-old cats Tinker and Bell (above) inadvertently raised the alarm after they began crying and then collapsed from exposure to the lethal gas

Pet rescue: Elaine's three-year-old cats Tinker and Bell (above) inadvertently raised the alarm after they began crying and then collapsed from exposure to the lethal gas

Distressing: Elaine was rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary with carbon monoxide poisoning and worryingly, no one knew if her unborn baby, Amber-Louise, now four months, had been affected

Distressing: Elaine was rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary with carbon monoxide poisoning and worryingly, no one knew if her unborn baby, Amber-Louise, now four months, had been affected

Firefighters took readings from inside the house in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, which showed high levels of carbon monoxide in the air, caused by soot blocking an air vent.

Elaine was rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary with carbon monoxide poisoning and worryingly, no one knew if her unborn baby, Amber-Louise, now four months, had been affected.

Elaine was pregnant with her first child after being told seven years ago that she could never get pregnant.

She said: 'My baby was my main concern. I never thought I would ever have a child and I was terrified at the thought she might be in danger.

'The hospital said they'd never dealt with a pregnant woman suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning so they had no idea if my baby would be OK.

'The only thing they could do was monitor the baby's heartbeat. They kept me in for four days and gave me air to try and flush out the carbon monoxide from my system.

Joy: Elaine was expecting her first child after being told seven years ago that she could never get pregnant

Joy: Elaine was expecting her first child after being told seven years ago that she could never get pregnant

All's well that ends well: When Amber-Louise was born, a paediatrician was put on standby just in case there was a problem with her health, but she has been given the all-clear

All's well that ends well: When Amber-Louise was born, a paediatrician was put on standby just in case there was a problem with her health, but she has been given the all-clear

'They couldn't do anything more and I was told they would only know if my baby had been affected once she was born.

'I had to wait another two weeks until I gave birth. It was an incredibly stressful time. It was a waiting game and the whole time I was worrying about it.

'I thought if it made me feel that dizzy and weak then it must have had an impact on the baby. I was terrified my baby would be brain damaged from the carbon monoxide poisoning.

'Even thinking about it now makes me feel very emotional. It was incredibly traumatic.

'When my daughter was born they had a paediatrician on standby just in case but she was fine. She was healthy and she's been fine ever since.

'It's a miracle that my baby is perfectly healthy. It could have been a lot worse. Both of us are so lucky to be here.'

Elaine is now helping the Doncaster Carbon Monoxide (CO) Partnership to raise awareness of the 'silent killer', which has no colour, taste or smell.

She said: 'Get a carbon monoxide detector for £15. That's all it costs and it's worth spending that money. It could save your life one day.'

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn completely.

The most common cause of this is when an appliance such as a boiler or cooker is installed incorrectly or poorly maintained.

Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

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