EAST MEADOW, Long Island (WPIX) – A New York pediatrician is being hailed a hero after he prevented 14 people from potentially being poisoned to death from a carbon monoxide gas leak.
Dr. John Zaso, who doubles as a volunteer firefighter in the Long Island hamlet of East Meadow, used his skills from both jobs to diagnose that the family of one of his young patients was actively suffering carbon monoxide poisoning. He helped to dispatch his own fire department to the family’s home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced when a fossil fuel is burned. The CDC says CO “can cause sudden illness and death.”
Zaso said he got an urgent call from the mother of a 3-week-old infant patient of his late Monday night. The mother said her baby appeared sick and mentioned that a number of the family members in their house had started feeling sick within the past several hours. Fourteen people, all related, were living in the home.
“First thing I said immediately was ‘open your windows get out of the house and call 911,’” Zaso recalled.
The mother told him that she would call 911 and evacuate their home, but when Zasso grabbed the dispatch radio he uses as a firefighter, he said he never heard the call for help come through. So he called the mother back immediately.
“I said ‘get out of the house now’ in some colorful language,” Zaso said. “I then called and had the fire department dispatched to the scene.“
Zaso helped dispatch first responders from the East Meadow Fire Department, along with Nassau County’s ambulance bureau and police. He also went to the scene himself. He and his team found deadly levels of carbon monoxide in areas of the family’s home.
“Without any protection, within 30 seconds you’re disoriented and unconscious at that level,” Zaso said, regarding how toxic the basement air had become.
Because of Zaso’s quick response, no one died. Eleven of the 14 people in the home were hospitalized to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Zaso said had he not followed up, the family of 14 likely would have gone to bed and died in their sleep.
“They wouldn’t have woken up in the morning. They would’ve asphyxiated in their sleep,” Zaso said.
The family is doing better and is grateful to him and the other first responders who helped them, Zaso said.
If there’s one thing to take away from this story, Zaso said, it’s to ensure everyone has working CO detectors on every level of their home.