Be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and boating this summer. Be safe.

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The Niblett family has a lot to be thankful for. Living on beautiful Lake Geneva in Alexandria, MN, they spend a lot of time on the water. Michaela Niblett, mom of five young Nibletts, calls her kids ‘little fishes’. Their surf boat is like a second home and the kids and their friends often swim behind the boat. The swim platform is easy to hang on to and you can sit and rest on the platform to take a little break.

On June 1, a beautiful boating day, the Nibletts were once again on the lake. Lucas, age 5, decided to take a break and sit on the swim platform. Suddenly, Lucas lost consciousness. When Michaela tried to wake him up, Lucas started seizing. 911 was immediately called and an ambulance met them on the shore. Should they do CPR? No, he was still breathing. Is it sunstroke? “It can’t be,” said Michaela, “he had a healthy lunch in the shade just a while ago.”

Rushed to the hospital, Alomere Health, a blood test confirmed it was carbon monoxide poisoning. Lucas was immediately airlifted to Hennepin Healthcare without his parents (weight restrictions) who then quickly drove to Hennepin Healthcare’s HCMC.

Lucas was put into Hennepin Healthcare’s Hyperbaric Chamber which delivers 100% oxygen to treat many conditions including carbon monoxide poisoning. He spent several hours in the chamber to recover.  According to Christopher Logue MD, Medical Director and Division Chief of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at Hennepin Healthcare, “HBO treatment gets carbon monoxide out of the system but it also reduces the risk of long-term neurocognitive problems which can happen. These patients need follow-up in 4-6 weeks where their primary provider looks for concussion ‘like’ symptoms.”

After a family lost their 7-year-old daughter to carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping on their family boat, legislation was passed in 2016 to require that any enclosed cabin boat, must have marine-grade carbon monoxide detectors and the dangers of carbon monoxide must be posted on each gas-powered boat. Those boats and several other models, including the Niblett’s surf boat, must have clear stickers warning of carbon monoxide. The law is appropriately named after the beautiful little girl and is titled Sophia’s Law. Minnesota was the first state in the US to pass this law. Learn about the carbon monoxide law for boaters at this Minnesota Department of Natural Resources site.

Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, can also increase the risk of drowning, as victims can lose consciousness.

A close call, but an important lesson learned. Michaela and her husband, Steve, warn everyone they know about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning when close to running motors on boats.

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