Finding creative ways to survive

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Eric Keller
Eric Keller has spent the first 40 years of his life finding creative ways to survive. (Eric Keller photo)

It doesn’t take me too long to stand outside in freezing temperatures, in only my underwear to realize something is wrong. I mustered up the courage that only stupidity and ignorance can afford and marched down to the basement to confront it, head on.

I was determined to confront my enemy. This time, I would try to hold my breath the entire time. I remember being able to hold my breath for long periods of time, underwater when I was a kid… but now, I couldn’t seem to hold my breath at all. As soon as I came near this horrendous smell, I became intoxicated by its opprobrious nature.

By the fourth or fifth trip down to the basement, I started stuffing my face with old shirts to filter out the gas. But it didn’t work.

Eventually, I found the courage to face the source face to face. It was a battery backup system for my sump pump. I saw a powder on the inverter, the battery was swollen, it was hot, and it was producing a toxic gas that was permeating the basement. The gas, hydrogen sulfide, was a slightly heavier gas, laying low on the basement floor until the furnace kicked on and began circulating the noxious fumes throughout the house. The fumes reached my bedroom in the middle of the night, and I arose to investigate.

Eventually, I managed to unplug the battery backup system. I opened a basement window and walked upstairs.

As my heart was pounding, I could feel my anxiety creeping into reality and interfering with my decisions. I began searching YouTube for answers. What I was looking for… I don’t know. But somehow, I found a guy who almost died from a similar situation, except he was in an RV.

The battery was off-gassed because of a failed inverter. The inverter continued to charge the battery and input current. The current caused the electrolytes to evaporate, causing an overheating of the battery and a release of hydrogen sulfide. The second most noxious and poisonous gas.

I sure would hate to see what the most poisonous gas would do to someone. I found myself carrying the 140 F battery upstairs, in nothing more than my underwear.

I tried to hold my breath the whole time I was moving the battery backup system outside to off-gas but failed miserably. Instead, I dragged the entire system across the basement, up the stairs and outside, while exhausting my repertoire of expletives. I was coughing and clenching my chest tight as the burning sensation penetrated deep into my lungs. It was hard to breathe, it hurt, it burned and my eyes were aching. There was no relief in sight, but I continued to push my envelope of sanity. And that of my family.

Joel Salatin says that turkeys spend the first month of their lives finding creative ways to die. Sometimes, I feel like a turkey, because I’ve spent the first 40 years of my life finding creative ways to survive countless near-death experiences.

To be continued.

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