Teenager hailed a hero

March 23, 2010

by Brónagh Murphy

There have been calls for a Crossmaglen teenager to be commended for his bravery in helping save the lives of his family, who had been overcome with poisonous carbon monoxide fumes.

Eighteen-year-old Thomas Short has been hailed a hero for his quick thinking and decisive action in leading his parents and siblings to safety from their fume-filled home on the Lurgan Road, Crossmaglen.

The drama unfolded on Thursday evening when Oliver and Mairead Short and their two children, Eimear and Peter, were in their living room watching television.

Stating that the family was enjoying a normal evening, Mairead Short takes up the story: “Eimear started to complain of having a very sore head and said she felt that her head was going to burst.  She couldn’t hear properly, she had ringing in her ears and a pain going down her left arm.  I got up to get her a headache tablet and my head felt very light.  The room felt like it was spinning and my heart started racing and I felt palpitations.  Then when Oliver to got up to help, he was as bad and his breathing was affected.”

Mrs Short was able to alert her eldest son, Thomas, who was in another room in the house, while her husband contacted the emergency services.

“Thomas took us outside into the fresh air and, until that moment, I didn’t realise what had happened.  There was no smell, there was no indication that anything was wrong.  It was Eimear’s headache that alerted us.  She had been in the room longer than any of us and she was worse affected,” Mrs Short said.

From his studies in A-level science subjects, Thomas was able to recognise some of the symptoms, such as headache and shortness of breath, and administered medical help to his family while they waited on the emergency services.  He encouraged them to take deep breaths while he brought out blankets and opened windows to ventilate the house.

“He was brilliant because I was having palpitations and was panicking.  He took my pulse and calmed me down.  He kept encouraging us to breathe in the fresh air,” Mrs Short explained.

An ambulance arrived to take the family to Daisy Hill hospital where they underwent a series of tests that indicated high levels of carbon monoxide in their systems.

When the Fire Service arrived on the scene, personnel traced the noxious fumes to a wood-burning stove in the room.

They praised Thomas for doing the right thing in leading his family outside, saying his actions undoubtedly helped save their lives.

Dermot Rooney, Station Commander of the Newry Fire Service, says Thomas’s bravery has to be commended.

He said that he has “absolutely no doubt” that if it wasn’t for Thomas’ actions, “we would have been looking at probably four fatalities.

“The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are such that people don’t even realise that they are succumbing to it.  It’s very much a silent killer,” he added.

The Short family are extremely grateful that they escaped unscathed.

“Our experience will serve as a warning to other people to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Mrs Short added.