Hambone Award: Westbury veterinary team steps up for poisoned pets

While we know that most Nationwide members with our pet insurance see their pets as family, it’s not often that we see a claim for an incident that  involves the entire family. But in the case of this month’s Hambone Award nominee, that’s certainly what happened.  An entire family survived what would have been a horrible tragedy, thanks to quick action from emergency responders and top care from physicians and veterinarians alike.

What nearly killed the people and pets of the Corn family of Westbury, N.Y.? Carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heating system. From our Nationwide Hambone Award website, here are the details:

With winter in full swing, most Americans use their heaters on a regular basis. However, for Judith Corn’s family of Port Washington N.Y., and their 13-year-old cat, Mitten, and 11-year-old Poodle, Sasha, a cold day turned terrifying when the family suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning after a faulty detector failed to alert them of a leak in their house.

Mitten“I came home and started my evening routine,” said Judith. “It was the first real day of winter and the house was chilly. We’ve always had a carbon monoxide detector, so there was no way to know what was about to happen.”

A few moments later, Judith’s husband, David, returned home from work. He agreed the house was cold and decided to turn on the heater. The family ate dinner together before splitting apart in their multilevel home to enjoy their own hobbies. Judith began working out on her exercise bike, but immediately felt irrationally tired. She then noticed that Sasha was walking awkwardly and seemed to be off-balance, so she carried her downstairs to consult her husband. When they reached the lower floor, Sasha started vomiting uncontrollably. Simultaneously, Mitten began frantically sprinting up and down the stairs and bellowing in an eerie tone.

“Everything happened so fast, we couldn’t figure out what was going on,” said Judith. “All of a sudden it really started to affect me and my husband too. We couldn’t think clearly and could barely stand. I knew something was happening and yelled for my son Adam.”

Adam was in an area of the house unaffected by the leak and rushed to their side. Adam called 911, and after explaining the situation, emergency responders arrived within minutes. The first firefighter on the scene pulled out a mobile carbon monoxide detector and promptly ordered everyone out of the house, but Judith and David couldn’t walk and needed to be guided to the ambulance.

Sasha“We were completely disoriented,” said Judith. “I kept yelling ‘get the animals, someone please help my pets.’ When we were in the ambulance, I couldn’t stop thinking of them. We didn’t have time to grab our cell phones and I had no way to communicate with my family. I was scared we would lose them.”

Fortunately, that didn’t happen thanks to the help of the local shelter, which assessed the situation of the pets and got them to the VCA Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of Westbury for care. There, the pets were put into oxygen chambers, and by the time Judith and David Corn were released from the hospital, the pets were ready to go home, too.

“Everyone is healthy and that’s all that matters,” said Judith. “Our animals are part of the family and I can’t thank the veterinarians enough for the work they did. We were also very fortunate to have our pets insured with Nationwide. When something catastrophic like this happens, it’s comforting to know that your pets are covered.”

For helping to make  sure all family members survived, the Westbury veterinary practice is now in the running for a $10,000 grant to help pets whose families cannot afford care. The winner will be determined by voting after all 12 monthly nominees have been chosen. Good work, everyone!

And by the way: Check your carbon monoxide detector if you have one, and get one if you don’t!