NY family survives CO poisoning

By Carl MacGowan

CENTEREACH, NY — A Centereach family released from the hospital last night and the doctor who treated them agreed they are lucky to be alive after their furnace pumped deadly carbon monoxide fumes into their home while they slept.

"They're lucky the little one woke up," said Dr. Joseph White, the director of the hyperbaric unit at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, who treated the family. "That's what saved them."

Andrew and Susan LoMastro's daughter Jennifer, 6, was the first one to feel the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning when she woke up feeling sick and alerted her parents, who soon started feeling sick, too.

Susan LoMastro, 42, said she woke up around 4 a.m. to find Jennifer vomiting and their son, Joseph, 12, close to passing out.

With daughter Angela, 8, also feeling ill, Susan LoMastro called her husband, who had fallen asleep on the first floor earlier in the evening while watching a football game.

"I just thought we all caught a bug, a stomach flu," said Susan LoMastro.

When she realized something more serious was happening, she called 911, and police and Selden firefighters arrived within minutes, the family said.

Two ambulances took the family to Mather, where they breathed pure oxygen from masks before being placed in hyperbaric chambers. The five family members were treated in three hyperbaric chambers for most of the day.

The family's prognosis is "very good," White said. They were released from the hospital yesterday and will return for evaluations today, Susan LoMastro said last night.

A National Grid technician said the cause of the leak was unknown, Susan LoMastro said.

Andrew LoMastro said he turned on the home's natural-gas furnace last week without any problems. It was inspected earlier this year, he said.

The family will stay with a relative until the house is safe, said Andrew LoMastro, a construction worker.

"[LoMastro] checked out the equipment carefully, but now he thinks there's a leak he wasn't aware of," said Patrick Regina, a hospital spokesman. "The message here is, the people who think they've got it right, they might not be safe."

The home's carbon monoxide detector didn't work yesterday morning, Andrew LoMastro said, acknowledging it may not have been plugged in.

"We're pretty lucky," he said, as he lay in a chamber with Jennifer watching "Toy Story" on an overhead television screen. "From what I hear, sometimes you fall asleep and you don't wake up. ... The last thing you expect is being poisoned in your own home."

Andrew LoMastro said the dense air inside the hyperbaric chamber made his ears pop. "It's kind of like flying in an airplane," he said.

Nearby, Joseph LoMastro lay in his own chamber enjoying a "Harry Potter" movie. He said he didn't miss going to school.

"I like this better," he said.

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