Carbon Monoxide: A Truck Driver’s Wife’s Nightmare

CDLLife guest writer Melissa Cook, of My Crazy Life as a Trucker’s Wife, recently hit the road with her husband when just hours into the trip, Cook began getting severe headaches.  A fun trip out together soon turned into a nightmare.

Little did Cook know that her trip out with her husband might have saved his life.

By: Melissa Cook

I never go out on trips with my husband. We have 4 children, animals and a home to run. He brings home the bacon and I fry it so to speak, but school is out and our 7 -year-old twins went with their aunt for a 3- week vacation, and the 2 oldest are at home with my husband’s long time best friend.

What a perfect opportunity, he says! Come on the road with me, he says… I say OK and agree to conquer my worse fear.

Traffic anxiety is something I’ve always dealt with, so this was something I was really not too keen on doing, but something told me that all the cards were lining up, and if you have a big family like we do, you know this is something that rarely happens.

We got loaded and proceed to hit the road for 2 weeks.

About an hour into our trip, I developed a terrible headache. I popped some Tylenol hoping it would go away but didn’t.

I became nauseous and told my husband I needed to stop and use the restroom. My headache went away almost instantly with some fresh air. We ate and got back on the road. I kept smelling the faint smell of exhaust but figured it was due to the windows being down.

Steve, my husband, insisted he couldn’t smell anything even though I could.

Several times that evening, I smelled the exhaust but didn’t think much of it. I figured it’s his truck, he knows it, I don’t, so I didn’t want to push the issue and make him think I was just trying to get out of going.

We stopped at a truck stop for the night to sleep. He turned on the bunk AC and there it was! That SMELL again!

Of course he couldn’t smell it, so I laid down and fell asleep unaware of the hidden danger.

We awoke 3 hours later, and I had a huge headache again, felt very wobbly on my feet and had severe flu-like symptoms.

I thought I was just catching a cold due to the change and bad sinuses, but when we went into the truck stop, ate and washed up, I felt 100% better! Headache gone!  Woo hoo!

We proceed to hammer down and lo and behold, back comes the post nasal drip, burning eyes again and shortness of breath. I couldn’t concentrate and was very irritable. This time I chalked it up to lack of sleep, but when I rolled  down the windows for fresh air, I felt a bit better.

On the third day into our trip, I told Steve “Something is wrong. I smell exhaust fumes and they are getting worse!”

He says, “Honey I don’t smell it.”

I felt almost like he was calling me a liar again which made me mad. I looked up CO2 poisoning online and this is what I found:

According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

Dull headache
Weakness
Dizziness
Nausea
Vomiting
Shortness of breath
Confusion
Blurred vision
Loss of consciousness

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. The fumes may be fatal before anyone realizes there’s a problem,” the Mayo Clinic states.

BINGO! That’s been my problem the whole time!

After I read the symptoms to Steve, he proceeded to tell me he has headaches all the time and feels sleepy, BUT not enough to fall asleep at the wheel– just tired all the time. His eyes burned, as well, and were constantly red.

We stopped to get gas and he smelled the exhaust coming from under the hood. He figured we just had a small leak, called Iowa 80 and made an appointment.

Once we got to Iowa 80, we took showers, ate and felt refreshed.

The mechanics, called and informed him that the exhaust system was NOT leaking and if there was a problem it couldn’t be fixed there.

Steve says “let’s go get the truck and get some sleep.”

Are you SERIOUS? No WAY am I sleeping in that exhaust smelling truck!

I threw a fit and absolutely REFUSED to sleep in the truck with him and threatened to rent a car and go home. He realized I was serious when I started crying.

He called his boss at 1AM (2AM her time) and told her the situation and that he believed me, even though he didn’t smell anything.

She told him if he felt that strongly about it, to take the truck to a place in Illinois (which is where my hubby’s company is located) and they would look at it.

TAAAAADAAAAA!!!! Found the problem! They originally thought it was a cracked head, they found that the bolt going into the manifold had broke and it was blowing exhaust right into the air system on the passenger side, which is why I could smell it but not him.

He is also a smoker so he constantly has CO2 in his blood which is why it effected me worse then him.

We had a mild case of carbon monoxide poisoning and were lucky. Some are not so lucky and never wake up.

I urge anyone that has a loved one in the truck driving industry to invest in a carbon monoxide detector, which are relatively cheap and can be bought at any department store.

There are many long-term effects of this nasty, odorless gas as well as short term exposure. If you smell exhaust, you ARE inhaling carbon monoxide. Better to be safe and have your truck looked at then the unthinkable happening.

I truly believe that if I wouldn’t have been with him this trip, he wouldn’t have made it home to me. When the auto tech confirmed that, I cried. My husband means the world to me. This has been an experience that I will never forget, nor do I ever want to relive again.

Follow Cook’s adventures on the road on My Crazy Life as a Trucker’s Wife.