By jordyn grzelewski
Robert Casey came home last Thursday after going out to eat, parked his car in the garage, and then went inside and went to bed about 8 p.m.
Twelve hours later, police were at his door and township firefighters were forcing their way in after Casey’s concerned daughter was unable to reach her parents on the phone.
“If it wasn’t for her ... my lovely wife and I would be gone,” Casey, 74, said, recalling the series of events that almost led to the deaths of him and his wife, Jackie.
Before going inside the house and going to bed, Casey forgot to turn off his car, which ran for the entire night and leaked carbon monoxide into the Caseys’ home on Paulin Drive. Their daughter, Jennifer O’Hara, tried to call her parents the next morning about 7 on both their land line and cellphone. After failing to get hold of them, O’Hara, who lives in Florida, contacted their neighbors, who called 911 when the Caseys did not answer the door.
“Jennifer ended up saving our lives because she started calling around, and we did not have a carbon-monoxide detector in the home. She called around and got people on the phone,” Casey said. “I owe her my life. ... If she had called on Saturday or Sunday, we would be dead.”
Police Chief Jack Nichols said the couple is very lucky to be alive, as carbon-monoxide poisoning usually would kill someone in a much shorter amount of time.
“It’s fortunate that although it was an attached garage, there was enough of a seal between the garage and the house that it trickled in slowly,” Nichols said. “They were very lucky. Thank heavens the daughter followed it up.”
“Everybody told us, if we weren’t caught when we did, we would be dead a couple hours later,” Jackie Casey, 66, said. “With the low level of oxygen I had, I should not have survived.”
She said their daughter calls every weekday on her way to work, just to check in on them.
“It’s our time together,” Jackie said. “We just always talk every morning.”
Both Nichols and Fire Chief Mark Pitzer said it is important to check in on elderly family members and friends.
“We always recommend ... any elderly person who lives by themselves, that their friends and relatives check in on them just to see how they’re doing, once a day,” Pitzer said.
Pitzer also stressed the importance of having a carbon-monoxide detector in the house.
“We always recommend that people put a CO detector in their home. You can purchase those at your local hardware store. You won’t be able to see it or notice it, if there is CO in your home,” he said. “We always recommend the type that can plug in and has a battery, because people tend to forget to change the batteries.”
Pitzer said the biggest danger of carbon-monoxide leaks comes from gas appliances such as furnaces and hot-water tanks.
“I think it’s very important that we improve people’s awareness. It’s definitely very important that people have CO detectors,” Pitzer said.
The Caseys now have a detector in their home, and have encouraged their friends and relatives to have them installed as well.
“I think from this we saved someone’s life,” Jackie said.
“I hope,” Bob added.
They both expressed gratitude for the actions of the doctors at St. Elizabeth Health Center, their neighbors, and especially their daughter, who flew in from Florida immediately after discovering what had happened.
“I could never thank her enough. She’s always been a great daughter, but wow,” Bob said, tearing up. “This was just over the top.”