Keeli Savage was born without a sense of smell.
On some days that statement is inaccurate. It changes, but what she can detect is always limited, she said. When she was born, her twin sister was born breeched, meaning she was born bottom first instead of head first. Through complications, this resulted in Savage’s limited sense of smell.
“I guess you can say I got the raw end of the deal. I never complained about it, just accepted it,” Savage said. “I believe being without a sense of smell leaves my tastebuds a little off, but it never bothered me. I can’t say what I can smell, it changes each time I try to smell the same thing.”
What Savage couldn’t smell on the night of Feb. 5 was her house burning down.
“I was in our kitchen half an hour before the fire, just putting things in our fridge and getting a snack before lying down in front of our heater in the living room,” Savage said. “I had been up all night the night before, so I needed a rest.”
As she slept on her couch, what the Lovell Fire Department suspects was an electrical issue ignited her kitchen in flames. She remained in a slumber unaware.
Her family lived in that house at 242 Pennsylvania Avenue for 16 years. She moved in when she married her husband Scott 16 years ago. Since then, they have made a family, consisting of two boys, Scotty, age 14, and Ira, age 11.
And in her final moments in that house, her son Ira rushed to his mother’s side to wake her up. They were the only two inside.
“Ira was watching The Simpsons and playing with his toys. The next thing I knew he came to me saying ‘fire’,” Savage said. “I jumped up and headed to the kitchen. There it was so black and one area had orange flames. I couldn’t smell the smoke in my face one bit. “
Savage said she and her son quickly called for help.
“With Ira following me we headed back into the living room and I quickly grabbed the land line phone thinking that my address would show up better than on a cell phone. I was asked for my address. I said ‘I’m at 242 Pennsylvania Avenue in Lovell, our kitchen is on fire,’” Savage said. “I mentioned that I thought it was the heater in the kitchen knowing it was acting up days before. But now that I looked back it was closer to the window than I thought.”
Keeli said she truly believes Ira saved her life.
Keeli and Ira took refuge in their neighbor’s house as the Lovell Fire Department fought and extinguished the flames on a night where the temperatures hovered around zero degrees.
“Doug and Eva Savage have always been our friends and welcomed us in, even though they didn’t even know what was going on,” Savage said.
Ira’s courage in not running away from the fire, but instead deciding to wake up his mother was a heroic act. It’s fitting in a way. He was already given the nickname “Superman”. It originates from two open-heart surgeries Ira underwent as an infant, just to stay alive.
“Ira was born with a hole in his heart or called ventricular septal defect. The first surgery seemed to work, but he started getting fluid around the heart and an enlarged liver,” Savage recalls. “His pediatric cardiologist Dr. Wiggins tried to drain the fluid but was unable to reach it. Ira and I were life-flighted back to Denver for a second surgery that was successful.
“Ira recovered very well from it all,” Savage continued. “Now he is a little too fearless for his own good but very strong. We named him Superman because of his fight through it all.”
He showed that fearlessness on Feb. 5, in another feat worthy of his nickname.
“Ira is truly my superman, and I’m so glad he was home with me or I would be lost in the fire,” Savage said.
It’s a long road back, still, for the Savages after losing their house, and Keeli said it still sometimes feels like a nightmare. But, she knows her family will survive and grow stronger from it.
“Scott states constantly ‘it may knock me to my knees, but it won’t keep me down,’ Savage said. “Our family had grown stronger through each obstacle and this may be the a
big one, but we can conquer it together.”
By Ryan Fitzmaurice