Gaaaaasp!

I could have died yesterday, along with my five co-workers.  We were in serious danger and didn’t even know it.

I was scheduled to work a party in the Hamptons, which is about a 2 hour drive from New York.  I was late that day, so I hustled to get there on time, arriving sweaty.  My five co-workers and I piled into the van and I immediately requested the a/c on high.  Oh man, that cold air felt so good.

Five minutes into our trip, we were already deep into conversation, so someone requested the a/c be turned to low to hear better, which at that point, I was fine with.  We were talking about our job, our company, and the drama from the past few days.

About 10 minutes later, I started noticing I was having shortness of breath.  My anxiety started to rise.

Oh shit, I thought, not another panic attack.

If there is one thing that scares me the most, it is having physical reactions in my body that I can’t explain.  Hate it.  I’ve had panic attacks before and I have learned some coping mechanisms.  Basically, it is about mind over body.

Yes, you’re feeling these feelings, but they are irrational, Leigh.  You’re going to be fine.

I knew from previous experiences to let the panic rise.  What’s the worst case scenario?  Panic.  That’s it!  It’ll go away.  I disengage from the conversation and start focusing on relaxing.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Deep breath.

Damn it, I can’t seem to get enough oxygen.

My panic starts to rise more.  I start to think about my day.

I worked out really, really hard before I came.  I didn’t get enough sleep.  I’m genuinely happy to be working, but not thrilled I’m going to the Hamptons.  Is this why this is happening?

I drink some water.  Still not helping.

I’m in a car full of guys and I start contemplating the embarassing conversation of asking if we could pull over because of my panic attack.  Oh man, not wanting to have this conversation.  Panic rising.

Why is this happening?!?

I take a really deep breath and sigh very loudly, almost acknowledging publicly that I’m uncomfortable.  I actually start to sweat.

Suddenly, Tyler asks, “Are you guys breathing heavy too?”

Wait, what did he say?  Is it not just me??

Everyone agrees!  “Oh, I thought it was only me!”  “I’m breathing heavy too.”  “You too?”  “Are your lips blue?”

We quickly determine that it must be the A/C!!  We all open any possible window and turn off the a/c.  Within a couple of minutes, we’re all feeling significantly better.  How odd!

After some internet searching, we determine we were experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning!!  We found out just in the nick of time.  Thanks to Tyler simply saying what he noticed, he saved us from fainting, getting sick, or worse!!

Out of the six of us, two of the guys, both in the front seat, were still feeling symptoms for the next hour.  Thankfully, after an hour or two, we all started to feel fine again.

Later in the ride, we all compared stories.  Turns out that everyone had their own backstory.  Mark thought his shortness of breath was just because he was unhappy to be working.  Marc only noticed subconsciously that he started to breathe heavier and didn’t think much of it.  Tyler, our savior, thought he was feeling anxiety about our conversation, regarding our company, but it didn’t add up to him.  Nothing we were discussing was that personal to him.  He noticed Mark breathing heavy, then heard me sigh really loudly, which gave him the clue.

We got very lucky thanks to Tyler simply saying how he felt.  Thanks Tyler!

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3 Responses to Gaaaaasp!

  1. Your mom September 5, 2011 at 12:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    Did you ever figure out WHY the AC was blowing carbon monoxide?? That is awful, Leigh.

  2. leigh September 5, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    No! No freaking clue! We didn’t run the a/c for the rest of our 4-hour trip there or 2-hour trip back.

  3. YOUR DAD September 5, 2011 at 1:08 am | Permalink | Reply

    That van should have the exhaust system integrity checked out. CO can only come from the exhaust system. My guess is that when you had the a/c on, probably the air flow valve was on recirculate, thereby not allowing in any fresh air, and hence doing nothing to abate the leak from the exhaust system that was making its way into the van.

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