Jamie Carlisle sent a text to his son, Jeremy, to bring home some food one evening, hoping a hamburger would help him feel better.
It wasn’t a craving for a burger, but the hope that some food would improve the way he felt — he had been aching since the previous day and was feeling under the weather.
Some food, though, wasn’t the cure for his ailment.
Fresh air ended up being the required elixir for both him and his wife, Val, who also had been feeling ill.
It turned out if they would have stayed in their home another night, they likely wouldn’t have lived to see the next morning.
When Jeremy brought food home the evening of July 17, his mother, who was lying on the couch in the front room, told her son to call 911. Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Service came, and the Tonganoxie couple were taken to a nearby hospital. Paramedics tended to the Carlisles and eventually asked whether the couple smoked. When they said no, paramedics suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
Val’s percentage of carbon monoxide exposure in her blood was 38 percent; Jamie was at 33.5 percent, according to doctors’ tests.
“Zero is what you’re after,” Jamie said. “There’s no level that’s acceptable in your blood.”
Jamie, who is principal at Tonganoxie High School, also sells coffee beans and ground coffee as a second business. Though both commercial bean roasters in Carlisles’ home are electric, there was a freak occurrence July 16 in the roaster’s cooling unit. A charcoal filter had somehow caught fire inside the roaster and was emitting carbon monoxide.
According to John Callaghan, deputy fire chief for the Tonganoxie City Fire Department, thermal equipment determined temperatures inside the roasting unit were roughly 900 degrees.
“Standing next to it, you could feel the heat,” Callaghan said. “It’s very well-insulated, apparently.”
Callaghan said carbon monoxide calls usually are a result of a malfunctioning furnace, hot water heater or the occasional gas stove.
“We’ve never seen anything like that,” Callaghan said about the Carlisles’ situation.
Jamie said he initially planned to drive himself and his wife to the hospital when she was requesting an ambulance call, and Val’s persistence turned out to be a life-saver.
“So consequently, had I been stubborn, it would have been a fatal decision,” Jamie said.
Val said her body felt like “shifting sand” during her exposure to carbon monoxide. Jamie said he felt dehydrated and was aching throughout his body. He also had a headache, but he gets stress headaches “about 590 times a year,” he said with a laugh. When the Carlisles discussed how they were feeling, they suspected food poisoning or even meningitis.
Jeremy works outside much of each day, so he wasn’t exposed as much to the gas. He had about 5 percent exposure to carbon monoxide. A friend also was at the house for about 40 minutes the morning of July 17 and later said that he did not feel well after being in the home.
Since that weekend, the family has purchased three carbon monoxide detectors for the home. The faulty roaster isn’t being used, and Jamie installed a ventilation system to the other roaster, which ventilates through a wall to outside.
“I used to scoff at detectors in stores,” he said. “What a joke, are you kidding me? Who needs one of those? And now we have three.
“We now have the safest house in the four-state area.”