Family gets free new heating unit

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A worker with Michael and Son Services unwraps a new heat unit to be installed on Jacqueline Rogers’ home. The Rogers family nearly died when a faulty gas unit began emitting carbon monoxide.

After she and her children nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning earlier this month, Jacqueline Rogers’ life turned around Tuesday when a local company replaced her faulty gas heating system with a new electric one — for free.

Michael and Son Services donated an estimated $8,000 of equipment and labor costs to the Rogers family as part of their Michael and Son Cares program.

The Rogers family purchased their first home in October 2010. John Rogers was away on sea trials with the U.S. Navy when the heat went out on Jan. 30.

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Jacqueline Rogers called her homeowners’ warranty company, which sent a technician out to fix the problem. However, he simply replaced a safety switch without investigating why it had gone bad.

Soon after, Rogers, her 4-year-old daughter and 23-month-old son came down with headaches, chest congestion, sore throats “like razor blades” and lips that cracked until they bled.

Rogers assumed she and her children had colds. A doctor even prescribed medication to help with the symptoms.

However, a few days later, the family’s carbon monoxide detectors started going off. After reading the detector’s owner’s manual and venting the house, Rogers still didn’t suspect they could be going off because the house actually contained high levels of carbon monoxide.

The family fell asleep. Rogers woke the next morning and hit the reset button on the carbon monoxide detectors. They began blaring.

The family evacuated the house and called the Suffolk Fire Department and Virginia Natural Gas. A firefighter walked through the house with a carbon monoxide meter and emerged in disbelief.

“We were told we shouldn’t be alive,” Rogers said.

She, her children and her mother, who had spent the night that night, were transported to the hospital and spent time in the emergency room getting blood tests and oxygen treatment. They were in the last stages of carbon monoxide poisoning, Rogers said. One firefighter told them he was surprised they had woken up.

For the last week and a half, Rogers has been living in hotel rooms and Navy-provided housing. She called two companies for quotes on replacing the system.

One of those companies was Michael and Son.

“She called our company, and we sent somebody out to give her a quote on a new system,” said Mike Kiser, Norfolk manager for Michael and Son.

The worker returned from the appointment telling his bosses the story of what had happened. The company decided to help Rogers through its “Michael and Son Cares” program — the owner’s version of “Pay It Forward.”

“He got inspiration from the movie ‘Pay It Forward,’” Kiser said. “He just wants to take his blessings and pass them along.”

On Tuesday, several workers spent most of the day at the home replacing the gas system with electric appliances.

“She was extremely apprehensive of having gas in her home from this point forward,” Kiser said. “We took that into consideration.”

This is the eighth Michael and Son Cares project the company has done — and the most expensive.

“Although it exceeded our normal amount … he decided to up the ante, so to speak, and do what it takes,” Kiser said of owner Basim Mansour.

Rogers said she is grateful to Michael and Son for their gesture. She initially feared there was a catch to the offer.

“I had already been burned” by the other technician, she said. “It’s been a very stressful, emotional roller coaster.”

Rogers hopes to be able to feel comfortable in her home again.

“There’s still going to be that horrible memory of knowing I almost died in this house with the kids,” she said. “God was looking out for us. I hope I feel safe after this.”