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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The Silent Winter Danger

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As temperatures plunge, carbon monoxide levels are spiking -- and the device meant to detect the gas might not protect you for long.

HCMC in Minneapolis saw at least six cases of carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend.

Even through photos, Jenna Fish's bright personality shines through. Rachel Thissen is her mother.

"Her journal that she would write she wants to bring goodness to her school and be a light, and the thing is that so many people that recall Jenna have referred to her, as a light," mother Rachel said.

Jenna's mother and brother, Kaleb Fish, lost their shining star the day after Thanksgiving. They woke up to a house full of poison.

"I've never experienced something like that before. Just fuzziness, dizziness, shakiness," brother Kaleb said.

Jenna had fallen asleep in the basement, but because of carbon monoxide poisoning, she would never woke up.

"I just kept passing out. I couldn't get to my daughter," Rachel said. "I came upon her body at probably about 8 in the morning."

Jenna Fish
Jenna Fish (credit: Rachel Thissen)

They were stunned with grief and, disbelief.

"When we bought this house we bought new detectors. When we were changing the batteries and testing it, we thought we had been doing right, when in fact [our units] expired," Rachel said.

Expired units are a warning that Dr. Jon B. Cole, director of the Minnesota Poison Control System, is also trying to get out, especially during this extra cold week.

"Carbon monoxide for this kind of moment, is sort of a perfect storm," Dr. Cole said. "When the cold drops really low like this, we always see more cases."

He warns to never start a car or snow blower in an attached garage, and always act when a detector goes off. Also, detectors should be replaced often.

"Having a carbon monoxide detector that's working and in proper order in seriously every bedroom in the home is really, really critical," Dr. Cole said.

It is a message Jenna's family plans to us to brighten others' lives.

"We can establish a legacy ... by sharing her story, and that's I think the best thing that we can do," Rachel said.

Jenna's family, and the staff at HCMC in downtown Minneapolis, want desperately for people to check the batteries in their detectors, and also check the date on the device.

Dr. Cole says if your detector goes off, leave the house and quickly call your local fire department. Call the Minnesota Poison Control System anytime at 1-800-222-1222 with any questions about carbon monoxide poisoning. And click here for more information.

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