WATERFORD, Vt. -- Ginger Aldrich is home with her parents and recovering from what doctors said would be a fatal coma.
She suffered carbon monoxide poisoning Jan. 30 at the Redstone Apartment Complex in Burlington, where she lived. Her boyfriend, Jeffrey Hill Rodliff, died, and eight others were injured in an accident that began when a boiler backfired and blew out a section of ventilation pipe, allowing carbon monoxide to enter apartments.
When Aldrich awoke in April, doctors still had little hope for her. ''They told me I was going to be a vegetable," she said. ''They said I was going to be blind."
She had a blood saturation level of 65 to 70 percent carboxyhemoglobin, or COHb, which is a measure of the carbon monoxide in a patient's body, said her father, Greg Aldrich.
Anything over 25 percent is very serious, and it is extremely rare to survive levels above 50 percent, said Dr. Norman Yanossky, chief of Emergency Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
A team of specialists at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal told Greg Aldrich they had never seen anybody live with a COHb level higher than 65 percent. Aldrich was flown to the Canadian hospital for emergency treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. The pressurized chamber forces pure oxygen into the patient's system to displace CO in the hemoglobin, said Yanossky.
In Montreal somebody was always by the young woman's side, Greg Aldrich said. She spent five days at Sacre-Coeur before her parents moved her to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Greg Aldrich said that the Montreal doctors had too little hope for his daughter and that the language barrier was difficult.
US Customs officers refused entry to the emergency-medical jet Ginger was traveling in. She had no identification, and officers refused to accept a faxed copy of her birth certificate, Greg Aldrich said. He called Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont, who promised Ginger would be in New Hampshire the next day. She was.
She spent time at the Fanny Allen Rehabilitation in Colchester, learning basic things like how to sit up and talk, and continued her recovery at home in Waterford.
She recently went to the movies and on April 20 went out to eat to celebrate her 24th birthday.
''I can't wait to go back to Montreal," to the hospital, she said. ''That way they won't give up on anybody else."