It's a story that begins with a splitting headache and a housecat lying inert on the floor, drooling.

It ends with a trip to emergency and a lesson in monitoring carbon monoxide detectors.

"I got the dreaded text and email that said, "Everything's okay ... but," said U of S president Ilene Busch-Vishniac.

The text came from her 27-year-old daughter, Miriam, who works in Washington, D.C. Miriam and her roommates were all at home Tuesday because of bad weather in the city.

'He had a splitting headache and felt very ill and then he collapsed on her floor.'- Ilene Busch-Vishniac

"She was awakened yesterday by one of her roommates who said he had a splitting headache and felt very ill and then he collapsed on her floor. When she got up to help him she discovered she had a headache and was having trouble moving and she looked on the floor and there was her cat lying there inert, and drooling," Busch-Vishniac said.

"She managed to go wake up her other roommate and they all put on coats and managed to grab Adam and got out of the house and called an ambulance. It turns out there was a part broken on the furnace and unbeknownst to them there was relatively high levels of carbon monoxide seeping into that house."

The group had a carbon monoxide detector in the house. But it was old, and not working.

Miriam Vishniac

Miriam Vishniac (LinkedIn)

The close call rattled the U of S president -- and made her an advocate of the detectors.

"Everybody needs to make sure they have appropriate, not only smoke detectors but carbon monoxide detectors in their home and to make sure they are replaced often enough that you can have faith they are working," she said.

Busch-Vishniac's daughter and her roommates were checked out at emergency and released.