Betty was constantly ill and everyone thought it was all in her head until they made a horrific discovery that became a lesson to everyone.
When Betty Hacker’s husband Tom passed away, it seemed that her heart deserted her, along with her health. Betty, who had been a pretty, energetic woman of 54 who looked ten years younger, simply collapsed.
The Betty who emerged from the house she and Tom had been restoring so lovingly after their children left was a ghost. She had lost weight, she moved like an old woman, and she coughed constantly. At first, everyone was sympathetic, but then their patience wore thin.
Becky’s daughter, Kate, sick of her mother’s complaints, had taken to the doctor and he’d done a whole barrage of tests — but blood, urine, even a CAT scan showed nothing.
The doctor told Betty she was in great health and suggested she see a psychiatrist for her depression. She did see a psychiatrist, and he put her on antidepressants, but nothing seemed to live the terrible lassitude that had overcome her.
There is always hope, no matter how bad things get.
It started from the moment she woke up, a strange force seemed to sap her strength, a dullness that dimmed her thoughts and her mind. The bright and can-do Betty that Tom had known had gone.
She’d drag herself out of bed, force herself to dress, and go downstairs for her breakfast and her medication, then she’d drag herself to her armchair, turn on the TV and sit there until it was time for lunch.
Betty refused to leave the house, she just didn’t have the energy for it. Even Kate couldn’t get her out of the house for an outing. Betty missed her daughter’s and grandchildren’s birthdays.
One year, when Kate’s husband insisted that they spend Christmas with his family for once, Betty stayed home alone even though she was invited. And the worse part of it all was that she didn’t seem to care at all.
When Kate and the children were there, Betty sat in her armchair and just stared unless someone addressed her directly. She didn’t seem to take any pleasure in their company. Nothing gave her pleasure.
Ten years after the death of her husband, Betty was a shadow of her former self. She walked with a shuffle like a ninety-year-old woman, she was listless, and Kate was starting to think of putting her in a home when something happened that changed everything.
One morning, Betty stepped under her showerhead, holding on to the wall to keep her balance, and turned the faucet. But instead of a blessed rush of hot water, she was drenched by an icy deluge.
Betty screamed and ducked out shivering. She picked up her phone. “Kate? Kate? It’s mommy…”
“Mom,” cried Kate. “Are you OK? What’s wrong?”
“The shower is cold, Kate.” Betty said. “I hate cold showers.” Kate listened sadly to her mother.
“It’s OK mom, I’ll send over someone to look at the heater and the furnace,” Kate said. She called the contractor who had installed her own furnace and asked him to look in on her mother’s house and see what was wrong.
Kate sat with her mother while the contractor and his assistant went downstairs to check on the furnace. “Who are these men, Kate?” Betty asked. “And what are they doing here?”
“They’ve come to fix the heater mom,” Kate explained patiently. “Because of your shower.”
“The shower?” asked Betty, bewildered. “There’s something wrong with the shower?” Kate was about to answer when there was a shout from the basement, and minutes later the contractor and his assistant were hustling Kate and the complaining Betty out of the door.
“You need to get out right now,” the contractor said. “And you can’t come back until we’ve replaced the whole heating system.”
“My mother is a sick woman,” protested Kate. “I can’t just…”
“Lady, your mother’s house is full of carbon monoxide,” the man said. “She’s not sick, the house is sick!”
The man went on to explain that whoever had installed the water heater had done a bad job. For the last 10 years, it had been leaking residual carbon monoxide into the house constantly. Kate now remembered how she had always had headaches whenever she spent long periods of time in her mother’s house.
She took Betty to the hospital and the doctors prescribed hyperbaric therapy, which meant she had to lie in a pressurized oxygen chamber for long periods. Soon Betty was unrecognizable.
The doctors said she was incredibly lucky as she made an almost complete recovery from the years and years of carbon monoxide poisoning she’d been subjected to.
Betty is now back to normal, always out and about and the life of the party. She’s become part of an awareness group to alert people to the dangers of the unseen, silent, odorless poison that is carbon monoxide.
What can we learn from this story?
- Don’t judge someone a hypochondriac unless every possible real condition has been ruled out. Betty seemed healthy, and no one thought she might be poisoned.
- There is always hope, no matter how bad things get. Betty made a full recovery after years of living in a poisoned daze.
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