Saturday, April 7, 2012

Deadly Stupidity 101: Smoking + Oxygen Don't Mix!

As you guys know, I don't often share personal stories on my blog. It's not that I don't trust you guys--I do! But I'm just not a very open person. Plus, this is a book blog--not a "Listen to me whine and complain about my life" Blog.

But every now and then I break down and share. Today is one of those days.

I'll try to make this as short as possible. Otherwise I could go on for pages describing everything.

I may have briefly mentioned before (in my last "personal post) that I am currently living back in my childhood home, where my grandfather and great-grandmother live. Due to my vision problems, living at home again works out well, and since both of them have various health problems and concerns right now, it works out great--I help them, and in return I'm around family for support and living in my old bedroom again. :)

I also have my aunt living with us. She has been living her for... oh, 15 years, I think? She was here through the latter part of my childhood. Her dad (my grandfather) let her stay after her life of drugs finally caught up with her, and after she cleaned up, she couldn't work or support herself.

Personally, I would have kicked her out long ago, but that's a different story. She is his daughter, his blood, so obviously, though he's wanted to kick her out many times over, he keeps letting her stay.

For all 15 years that she has been her, she's been a smoker. She's weak, and has been unable to quit, though she's been threatened a million times over that if she doesn't quit, she's out. Especially since, Stupid Selfish Woman that she is, she continues to smoke upstairs in her room.

Now, that alone is stupid. A) Bad for her health . B) Bad for all of our health (and the pets in the house). C) Possible house fire waiting to happen. We live in an old house--it wouldn't take much to lose it in a fire. But SSW thinks only of herself and her cravings---not us, and definitely not her health.

We've done everything, including kicking her out, to get her to wise up and stop. It lasts for a bit ("I promise, I won't do it again!") and then she's back at it. It's an endless cycle, and if I had control, I would have kicked her out for good YEARS ago. (And between you and me, when something happens to my grandparents, though I hate saying it I know that one day it will, SSW is the first thing to go. Permanently)

Well, earlier this year, partially from her smoking and some other health problems, she was life-flighted down to the bigger hospital in our state for low oxygen (60s--dangerously low!). After they sent her home about 10 days later, she was put on oxygen full time.

My grandfather has been on oxygen for my whole life due to his lungs and COPD. He was a smoker, but he quit 30 years ago and never looked back! So this SSW has been smoking upstairs in a house with an oxygen concentrator and about two dozen portable oxygen tanks for YEARS. How we've survived, I don't know.

And I'm telling you, right now a million words (none of them nice) are going through my head on how to describe her. I'll leave it be. For now.

So now, on top of all his tanks and concentrator, there is also hers, up in the very room she continues to smoke in, though she promised "I won't!" when she got home. Yeah, that lasted about two weeks and then the smell of smoke on her clothes and stairway came back. Lying little--Never mind.

Well, last night it finally happened.


I was dozing on the couch downstairs, it was about 10:30 at night. My grandma was watching TV in the room with me, also dozing. My grandfather was off in the other room looking for something for the car. Suddenly I hear SSW upstairs yelling 'DAD' really loud and sounding a bit scared.

I thought, maybe it's her dog (Max) that she has up there. What else could put that fear in her voice?

After two times of her yelling, and he couldn't hear it, I went in and asked what. That's when I could smell it.

Oh God. No.


"There's a fire!"

I yelled for my grandpa, told him what it was, and I swear, I've never seen him move so fast. He's in his 60s, just had a heart attack (2nd time) not 2 weeks ago, bad lungs and back and--off he charged up the stairs into the thick smoke to put it out. I ran up behind him. We got to her room, and, God, the smoke was so thick you couldn't see a thing--except for the fire burning on the floor by her bed, flames about a foot tall. He ran in, stupid man! That smoke was killing me and with his lungs? I can't even imagine! I ran back downstairs for water--luckily, with the oxygen machines in the house, we also have bottled distilled water for them. Two gallon jugs in hand, I run back the stairs, faster than I've done since I was a little child with bundles of energy. SSW is crying "I didn't mean to! I'm so sorry" and I have to push her out of the way to get the water to him. He dumps it on the fire and it goes out, luckily. SSW has already called the fire department, which was a good thing since you never know if there was more smoldering somewhere.

Now, as they arrive, and I'm chasing my two cats into my room downstairs to lock them in (so they don't run outside with the door opening and closing and people coming in), I start to think "Wait--Max!"

He never came downstairs with us.

SSW hasn't even thought of her dog at this point. I ask and she starts crying "He's up there!"

At this point, the police are the only ones inside yet. There is too much smoke up there for them to do anything safely, so they tell us to wait until Firefighters come in with suits and they'll find him.

I start thinking the worse. Oh god, the poor little thing! He's just a toy puddle, he's already got bad lungs from living with her and her smoke all these years. But this? I don't know if he can take it!

My grandpa starts yelling "Max! Come here buddy!" and after three tries, we hear his bell as he comes flying down the stairs, his fur a bit black and sooty, coughing. Oh, thank God!

The firefighters took away what was smoldering and said everything was out. SSW was checked for smoke inhalation, and so was my grandfather. My throat killed and I wasn't even in the room with it for longer than 10 seconds. I can only imagine what it did to him--and SSW, though honestly I'm not as worried about her.

In fact, I'm more worried about Max. And isn't that just cruel? But true, I'm sorry, she's just--Argh.

We came so close to losing this whole house. The flames when he got it out were already a feet tall and growing. That smoke was so thick that upon opening our front door downstairs, the firefighters alarms on their suits started going haywire.

Because of her stupidity and selfish thoughts (Smoke. Now.) she almost killed us all. 3 pets, 4 people, one old house with memories and items and love in it. It would have been all gone. Lost forever.

She was smoking with her oxygen line on and the hose started to burn. Her room is a pigsty (think Hoarders-seriously!) so there was tons of fuel for the fire. When she went back up that night and brought down her oxygen hose, it was burned everywhere, all black and melted. And all she could do was cry "I'm sorry".

Sorry doesn't do it. We almost died! She almost died! How in the world that house didn't blow up with two things of oxygen and her cigarette is beyond me. Luck.

And though I'm ashamed to say, we have never had smoke detectors or fire extinguishers in this house. We have no excuse for why we haven't, but today? We're buying all of them. I was lucky to have had access to those 2 gallons of water so quickly. If they were not around, and I had to wait and fill something to run up there--well, the fire could have spread out of control and my grandfather could have died from the effects of that thick smoke alone.

Even after having windows and doors open last night (let me tell you, in Utah? April is still cold at night!), the smoke smell is still just as strong in the house as it was when it happened. It lingers, rubbing in fact that we came so close last night. And still, all she can say is "I'm sorry".

Don't take this the wrong way--but if the police hadn't been here last night when this happened? I would have killed her for pure stupidity, pure "It's all about me I don't care about you guys". I wanted to kick her out. So did her own dad. But for now she stays.

Let me tell you, this won't happen again, even if I have to physically throw her out and to hell with what my grandpa says.

I almost lost everything last night. The least of which was my own life. My family comes first (SSW the exception..). My two cats (and Max, though he isn't my dog) were next on my list to be thankful for. And then my stuff--from my beloved books to my electronics and pictures and memories. And the house, which I grew up in and love, though it's old and not pretty.

I'm not huge on church or praying, but I'm officially Thanking God for the fact that nothing horrible came out of this, other than a burned carpet and hose and some very strong smoke. It could have been so much worse.

I hope everyone else is doing fine-- I hope you're weekend is uneventful, unlike mine. I hope, if you celebrate Easter, you have a wonderful holiday. And I hope that this never happens to you!


Until Next Time,
*TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!


erin said...

Oh.... your angels were working double time for you!!! Thank God it all worked out for the best, considering. In a way, it's almost a blessing that this happened the way it happened, to shock your grandparents into the reality of what she's capable of. The smoking in general is bad enough but smoking while on an oxygen tank? You're not just looking at fire, you're looking at an explosion.

Oh, girlfriend, you're in my prayers. May God give you the grace and strength to do what you must to protect your family. And if you have to be the bad guy, at least you know for sure that you're doing it for all the right reasons.

Peace and good luck!

The_Book_Queen said...

Thank you, Erin--truly, thank you. For stopping by, for the kind words and support--for being there. It still amazes me how, no matter what it is, when something happens in our online community, we stick together. Most of us don't even know each other, beyond the comments online, but that doesn't make the support any less sincere! :)

I honestly don't know how we got away so lucky last night---guardian angels is all I can say! And I'm thankful for it. This gave us all a wake up call, and I'm glad. I would like to hope that my Aunt now realizes how stupid her habit and carelessness is, how easily she could have blown us all up last night. I'd like to believe that she will never again smoke, but I doubt it. I'd at least like to believe that this will teach her not to do it inside anymore, and not around oxygen inside or out.

If she doesn't straighten up this time, he's kicking her out, plain and simple. And while I've pushed it in the past, this time? I'll go dictatorship on them if I have to. I'll be the bad guy as long as it means keeping everyone alive. It's tough, but it has to be done!

Tonight, we came home with four fire extinguishers (130 bucks, but a needed investment that I'm ashamed we've went without). Within a week, we'll have smoke and CO alarms in the house as well. Though I hope we never have to use them, I'd rather have them than risk the consequences of NOT having them again!

Once again, thank you so much for the comment, and I appreciate that you're thinking of me. I only wish I could give you a hug, but I guess a cyber one will have to do! :) I can't stress how much it means to me!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend--be safe, have fun! :)