Students discuss the dangers of carbon monoxide in the home

December 21, 2018

La PORTE – Several years ago, a La Porte High School graduate died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her apartment in Arizona, where she had just moved after graduating from Indiana University.

On Dec. 14, two current LPHS students paid tribute to Lindsey Kesling, while helping warn other students about the dangers of the odorless, tasteless gas.

Seniors Jessica Gamez and Edie Miller gave their presentation to Erica Kanney’s Expository Writing class, including a slideshow documenting Kesling’s life.

Miller was not related to Kesling, but considered her like an aunt.

“One of my best memories with her was when she would take us to Dairy Queen. She would play the song ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis in the drive-through before ordering,” Miller said. “It made us laugh, and the employees laugh. She was always fun and upbeat to hang out with.”

Kesling passed away in her apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2010. The recent IU grad had just moved to Arizona when she began feeling ill with flu-like symptoms.

Unaware of the actual cause of her sickness, she took over-the-counter cold medicine, but the real culprit, carbon monoxide, took her life at age 22, along with the life of her dog, Chillbie.

The symptoms of poisoning from the invisible gas include nausea, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and tiredness. There is no city ordinance in La Porte mandating carbon monoxide detectors, Miller said, though the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation is attempting to change that.

“I almost cried making this video; it’s so sad that she passed,” Gamez said. “I learned a lot from Dot Kesling (Lindsey’s mother) about carbon monoxide and want to spread awareness.”

“She was full of life, and always laughing and smiling,” Kanney recalled. Kesling was two years younger, but the two were in the same cheerleading squad.

“She was a bit of a clown in poms, everybody liked her,” Kanney said.

The presentation was part of Kanney’s class requirement for an oral/video project. The students contacted First Alert, which donated six carbon monoxide detectors to be given to students who answered questions correctly during the presentation.

“We want to let everybody know how dangerous this silent killer is,” Miller said. “If we can help get the word out, I hope we can save lives.”

The LOK – Lindsey O’Brien Kesling – Wishing Tree Foundation’s mission is spreading awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and to get building code ordinances passed to require detectors in all buildings.

The organization accepts donations, and Miller and Gamez have raised $200. They are also building an actual tree for the organization from chicken wire and papier-mache. When completed, the 4-foot tree will be brought into the school so students can write notes, or wishes, and hang them on the tree along with ornaments.

The usual cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is poor ventilation in buildings, where the gas can build up and silently kill a person, Miller said. Vehicles running in a closed garage are also a common culprit, along with leaking generators in a closed home.

“December and January are the months that we found have the most deaths,” Miller said. “While heating the home which is closed up, the gas can build and kill whoever is inside.”

About 500 people in the United States die annually due to carbon monoxide.

To learn more, or to donate to the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation, visit lokwishingtree.org.

Detectors can be purchased at most hardware or department stores, or online through websites including First Alert. They can cost as little as $10.

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