On New Year’s Eve the long-running soap opera Coronation Street played a key role in helping to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by running a storyline in which one of the characters, Fiz Stape (played by Jenny McAlpine) collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
For a couple of days prior to her collapse, Fiz had complained of a headache, nausea and dizzy spells, which she put down to the flu. Whilst on the phone to her boyfriend Tyrone who is a car mechanic, she collapsed and lost consciousness. Tyrone rushed over to her house and when it was clear that Fiz was suffering from more than flu she was rushed to hospital. There, it was confirmed that she had succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.
A few days previously Tyrone had tried to fix her boiler when it wasn’t working properly. He wasn’t a qualified gas engineer and left it in a dangerous state. Since CO is an odourless gas with no taste, Fiz wasn’t aware that the gas was escaping into her flat and gradually poisoning her. She didn’t have a CO alarm fitted.
At hospital, once diagnosed, Fiz was rushed into a hyperbaric chamber, which is commonly used for treating divers for disorder such as the bends and for climbers suffering from altitude sickness. For people with gas poisoning, they receive 100% oxygen in the chamber and increased pressure which helps to eliminate toxic gas bubbles from the blood. Gradually the pressure and oxygen levels are rebalanced to normal air levels.
Fiz was lucky – she survived, although she is still receiving treatment in hospital. Tyrone may face prosecution for carrying out work on a boiler without having the relevant qualifications.
The storyline has been very good for raising awareness with the public of the dangers of CO poisoning. Coronation Street producers worked with the charity CO-Be Alarmed and the Gas Safe Register to get the facts and details correct. At CORGI Technical Services, we very much hope that this will encourage more people to be aware of the dangers of CO, to only use qualified gas engineers and to fit CO alarms in their homes.