Advanced English Reading Lessons
Lesson 1 (60 minutes)
5 minutes Conversation and discussion
30 minutes: Reading
20 minutes Writing
5 minutes Conversation and discussion
Read the text below then answer the questions below:
A family suffered weeks of dizziness and nausea. A doctor’s hunch uncovered the cause.
Brooke Stroud was flummoxed and upset. How had her teenage houseguest gotten sick so quickly with the unidentified illness that had struck Stroud’s family of five at the end of 2020?
VOCABULARY: FLUMMOXED, UNIDENTIFIED,
Stroud, her husband Stephane Carnot, and their daughter Olivia, then 17, had consulted primary care doctors in a fruitless attempt to identify the cause of their headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and exhaustion. The pattern of their flu-like illness was perplexing: One or more of them would start to feel better, but within hours their symptoms would always return.
VOCABULARY: FRUITLESS, PERPLEXING,
Stroud was the first to become ill. On December 18, 2020, she logged into a morning meeting from her Georgetown home and told the other participants she wasn’t feeling well.
“I felt totally drugged,” she said. As the day progressed, she developed a 100-degree fever. By evening, Carnot and two of their children who had recently returned for the holidays—19-year-old Alex, who attends college in North Carolina, and Olivia, a senior at a Virginia boarding school—had severe headaches, were vomiting, and felt achy.
VOCABULARY: BOARDING SCHOOL, SEVERE, ACHY, VOMITING,
Stroud suspected they had contracted the coronavirus. Her husband managed to snag an appointment for a PCR test, which came back negative.
By December 23, Stroud said, everyone was so exhausted that they mostly stayed in bed. The couple’s oldest child, 21-year-old Sebastien, arrived from Vermont, where he attended college. Within hours he, too, was ill.
VOCABULARY: SNAG, EXHAUSTED,
Stroud decided a second opinion might be wise. On Christmas Eve, she saw her husband’s internist who ordered blood tests; they revealed nothing that would explain her symptoms. “We cancelled our [Christmas] plans and hunkered down under the covers,” she said.
A few days before New Year’s Eve, Olivia underwent tests for several viruses. All were negative. She had been scheduled to fly to New Orleans to visit classmate Caroline Schieffelin. The pair then planned to fly back to Washington to stay at Olivia’s house for two weeks.
VOCABULARY: MIGHT, HUNKERED DOWN, PAIR,
Too sick to travel, Olivia canceled the trip. Stroud called Schieffelin’s parents to ask whether Caroline should come to Washington in view of the family’s unidentified illness.
Caroline’s father, John Schieffelin, an infectious-disease specialist at Tulane University School of Medicine, okayed the trip, and Caroline flew to Washington to stay with her friend.
VOCABULARY: WHETHER, ILLNESS, UNIDENTIFIED, OKAYED,
But shortly after her arrival, Caroline had vomited and was battling a severe headache.
Stroud said she “almost had a conniption. I was mortified that she had gotten whatever this was.”
Caroline was on a video call with her father on the evening of January 5, 2021, when Stroud knocked on her door to ask if she needed anything. The parents began chatting.
VOCABULARY: BATTLING, CONNIPTION, MORTIFIED, GOTTEN,
Schieffelin had been struck by Caroline’s observation that she felt better in certain parts of the large house and worse in others. “I said, ‘That’s weird and not normal,'” Schieffelin recalled telling his daughter.
He mentioned this to Stroud and added, “Not to be a paranoid parent, but this really sounds like it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. People are getting sick way too quickly…it sounds environmental.”
VOCABULARY: STRUCK, WEIRD, WORSE, MENTIONED, ENVIRONMENTAL,
Health officials estimate that each year 400 Americans die and 4,000 are hospitalized as a result of unintentional poisoning from carbon monoxide (CO), the chemical produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas or other products that contain carbon. In addition to generators, sources include vehicle exhaust, stoves, and heating equipment, including furnaces and gas water heaters.
Mild to moderate poisoning can cause symptoms that are frequently described as “flu-like.” Dizziness, confusion, headache, and weakness are common, as are nausea and vomiting.
VOCABULARY: UNITNTENTIONAL, SOURCES, EXHAUST, FURNACES, HEATERS,
Higher levels of CO can result in fainting, permanent brain damage, and death. Health officials emphasize that anytime carbon monoxide is suspected, it is important to immediately evacuate to fresh air and call 911.
Stroud told Schieffelin that none of their doctors had suggested the possibility of carbon monoxide. She doubted that could be the culprit, she added, because an alarm system with various kinds of detectors had been installed a few years earlier. But, she added, they would buy a portable CO detector.
VOCABULARY: FAINTING, BRAIN DAMAGE, SUSPECTED, DOUBTED, ALARM, PORTABLE,
Early the next morning, January 6, Carnot bought one at a hardware store, brought it home, and plugged it in. The alarm sounded immediately, confirming Schieffelin’s hypothesis.
Stroud called 911; members of the DC fire department arrived within minutes. Firefighters ordered everyone out of the house until they could pinpoint the source of the leak, which was found quickly. A clamp on the furnace had come loose and was spewing the odorless, colorless gas throughout the four-story house.
VOCABULARY: HARDWARE STORE, PLUGGED, BOUGHT, PINPOINT, CLAMP, LOOSE, SPEWING, ODORLESS, THROUGHOUT, FOUR-STORY,
Stroud was baffled by the failure of her alarm system to warn of the exposure. She quickly discovered that her system did not include a CO detector.
The incident left Stroud shaken. One of her doctors, she said, urged her to tell her story to warn others of the danger posed by the overlooked and insidious hazard.
VOCABULARY: BAFFLED, FAILURE, WARN, SHAKEN, URGED, POSED, OVERLOOKED, INSIDIOUS,
In 150 words write about your experience using gas in your house. Do you know anyone who has died of CO poisoning? Do you have a CO detector in your home? And after reading this story do you think you should buy one and install it?
Does everyone in your family live in the same house?
How can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
What do you do when you start to feel sick?
Which safety features should every house be equipped witWhich safety features should every house be equipped with?
Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your house?