A Coweta family was minutes away from dying, when they realized their home was silently filling with carbon monoxide.
Chris and Jennifer Shultz had been sick with headaches and nausea for a few days. Jennifer had even gone to a minor emergency room.
She said doctors thought it was ‘the crud,' gave her some medicine and sent her home; but the more they stayed at home, the worse they felt – that's because their house had turned into something more like a gas chamber.
“Not just me, my entire family was almost wiped out,” Jennifer said.
That's a reality she is having hard time coming to terms with, even though laughter and life have returned to their home.
“The kids keep us hopping,” Jennifer said. “Basketball, football, you name it,” Chris chimed in. “Band, church,” his wife added. “We go non-stop.”
Their world almost stopped on January 14. That's the morning their oldest daughter, 14-year-old Hannah, woke up a little earlier than normal to get ready for school.
Once she got up and around, her parents said Hannah went into their room in a panic; her head was spinning and her heart was racing.
“Our first thought was, ‘OK, now she's got what we've got',” Chris said.
Hannah laid down in her mom and dad's bed, while Jennifer got up to grab some Advil.
Despite feeling sick himself, Chris was determined he would go to work.
“I got up, went into my bathroom and I don't remember coming out,” Chris said. “I had passed out on the floor.”
By the time Jennifer got to the medicine cabinet, she was disoriented as well.
“I kind of bounced off the door and the closet door and was kind of battering back and forth into walls,” she said.
She dropped the Advil and worked to wake her husband up.
When Chris finally came to, he was too weak to stand. He belly crawled from the bedroom to the living room, where he watched his 12-year-old daughter, Rebel, pass out in the hallway.
“I remember praying,” Chris said. “Asking God to watch over my family.”
That's when Chris knew, it was carbon monoxide. His family was being poisoned. He yelled for everyone to get out of the house.
“The only thing I can say is God had to have been speaking to me because I would have never thought in a million years that that would have been it,” Chris said.
But 11-year-old Ethan was still in his room, asleep.
Thankfully his best friend, chocolate lab, Coco, knew something was wrong and woke him up.
“He woke up and he's standing there and his sister's passed out, the dog's going nuts, his dad's on the floor. Poor guy walks out into just chaos,” Jennifer said.
Without thinking, Ethan carried his unconscious sister outside.
It took every ounce of strength for the rest of the family, including Coco, to make it out.
“We were kind of pushing and pulling one another through,” Jennifer said. “It's a very big blur, it's amazing how in a situation like that, time just doesn't move at the same pace as it does in normal situations.”
Jennifer managed to dial 911 before getting out of the house, but once on the porch, she, Chris, Hannah and even the dog passed out.
When they woke back up, they were each in an ambulance.
“When I couldn't lift my arms to wrap them around my kids and when I couldn't hold the hand of my little girl when she in there with me because I didn't have the strength, a paramedic calmed her and talked to her in a way I'll never forget,” Jennifer said while crying.
“My son looked at me and he said, ‘Daddy, are you gonna die?' I said, ‘No, son, we're OK. We're OK,'" Chris said wiping away tears.
They really are OK. They all survived unhindered, though changed forever.
“I've got a reason, a reminder every, single day I wake up, I'm still here, let's do something, let's do something good today,” Jennifer said. “We'll see what God has planned for us, but it's gotta be for something, we wouldn't have all gotten out of here if he didn't have big plans for us.”
Paramedics told the family if they had stayed in the house 20 minutes longer, the outcome would have been much different.
“Had we stuck with our plan and just everybody stay home, we've all got the flu, we would have all went back to our beds or chairs or whatever, we would have all fell asleep and we would have never woke up,” Chris said.
They said what saved them was their oldest daughter Hannah, who had set her alarm just a half hour earlier.
“There are so many things that had to fall exactly the way they did, in order for us to be able to make it out, all five of us,” Jennifer said. “There is no way, no way at all, without God, that would have happened. I firmly believe that.”
The carbon monoxide was being pushed through every vent in the house due to a broken furnace pipe.
Jennifer said her carbon monoxide levels came back at 35 parts per million. Levels in the average person are five parts million. The area in front of the furnace tested at 300 parts per million and their bedroom was at 190.
The family had a detector, but it was expired. They now have one in every room of their house.
“This is home, this is where you're supposed to be safe,” Jennifer said. ”I get up almost every two hours, still, every night and look at our carbon monoxide detector.”