LANCASTER- Being told to say goodbye to your only child, because it will be your last moments with them, are words no parents ever wants to hear, but for Ken and Kim Hansen these are words that are all too familiar.
Ken and Kim experienced a great loss in their life on Jan. 17, 2009, when their daughter Amanda, 16, passed away from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. Amanda was at a friend’s house for a sleepover and in the early morning Ken and Kim received a call to come to the house because Amanda was sick.
They arrived and there were emergency vehicles everywhere around the house. Ken and Kim still had no idea what was happening until they pulled up behind an ambulance and they saw CPR was being performed on Amanda, an image Ken says he still can’t get out of his head.
Amanda was transported to Mercy Hospital and it was there the Hansens were told what had happened at the house. Amanda had suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and could not be saved.
“They gave us a chance to say goodbye. That was our last chance,” said Ken.
The cause of Amanda’s death was from a defective boiler that was installed wrong, which leaked CO into the house and it was also found that there were no CO detectors installed in the house.
After the tragic loss of Amanda, Ken and Kim feel compelled to create the Amanda Hansen Foundation, a foundation that focuses on creating a resource that supplies the public with CO detectors who could not afford them and to educate and bring awareness to the public about the dangers of CO poisoning, its causes, and its prevention through the proper use of detectors and installation and maintenance of household appliances.
“The week after, we decided we could either take the high road or the low road on this and we both decided we wanted to take the high road and make sure we don’t see another child pass away from this again,” remarked Ken.
Since then, the Hansens have spent their time going to different events throughout New York State distributing free CO detectors to residents, and after the next couple events coming up, one of which will be held in Lancaster, they will have distributed more than 8,000 CO detectors.
In order to buy the detectors, it takes a lot of fund-raising and donations, said Ken. Currently, he is working on obtaining grants to purchase the detectors.
The Lancaster Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Amanda Hansen Foundation, and Border Community Service of Niagara University have teamed up to distribute CO detectors to the public from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the OEM, located at 321 Columbia Ave., in Depew.
Dana Estrada, executive director of Border Community Service of Niagara University, said she just wanted to help and knew there was some money available to purchase CO detectors and about 200 detectors will be given out in Lancaster.
“We just wanted to supplement what they have already been doing,” said Estrada, adding there are no prerequisites to receive a detector and one per family will be provided until supplies last.
“Also, January is a Carbon Monoxide awareness month. So, it is good that we are getting them into people’s home earlier,” commented Estrada. “Every home needs to have one.”
Town of Lancaster OEM Disaster Coordinator CD 122, Robert MacPeek said the local fire service calls have increased 30 to 40 percent with calls relating to CO and appliance malfunctions.
“Because it is such a deadly gas, we need to get the word out,” MacPeek said.
The Hansens were also determined to have a law established requiring all dwellings to have a CO detector installed. As of Feb. 22, 2010, with the help of former Assemblyman Mark Schroeder and former Sen. William Stachowski, Amanda Law’s was established, which was the fastest bill to become a law in New York State.
Currently, the Hansens are working with Sen. Schumer to push for the legislation to become a federal law.
Furthermore, Ken mentioned they were invited by the British government to go to the UK and take Amanda’s Law there. They went to London, Scotland, and Wales.
“We got Amanda’s Law enacted in London and Scotland,” said Ken. “It was very exciting for us.”
For those who may not know, CO is often called the “silent killer” because it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Anything that has a flame, burns gas, gives off CO such as furnaces, hot water tanks, and fire places. Anytime a fuel burning appliance malfunctions or is improperly installed, CO can reach dangerous levels in the home.
Symptoms often mimic the flu. Ken said they tell people if they think they’re feeling that way to go outside for five minutes. If they start to feel better and then go back in and they’re feeling sick again it is definitely a good sign CO is leaking into the home.
In fact, the foundation works with Roy’s Plumbing to offer free pre-inspections and tune ups for furnaces. Coupons are passed out at the events the foundation attends or if interested, people can say the Amanda Hansen Foundation recommended them.
“It is really important for people to get there furnaces inspected by a professional,” remarked Ken. “They test for CO right away.”
What was Amanda like? Ken said Amanda was full of energy, an honor roll student at West Seneca High School, and a member of the Spanish Honor Society and the swim team.
“She had a great sense of humor. She was funny. What do I miss about her? I miss everything,” said Ken.
Ken said it has been very difficult for him since Amanda’s death and the hardest thing has been going to all the different events.
“After you do an event and you talk to 40 or 50 people, and sometimes there are 500 people, and they’re all hugging you and saying that she’s beautiful. You go home after that and it takes a good day to recover. That’s the hardest thing,” said Ken.
For anyone who would like to donate or to learn more about the foundation visit www.amandahansenfoundation.org or call 380-1468.
The Dec. 15 event will also include an open house and visitors can also obtain information on emergency preparedness, safety, and demonstrations will be held.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t have a CO detector,” said Ken. “That’s what we are trying to focus on is getting one in every home. That’s our biggest goal.”