The family's desire to beat the cold almost proved fatal.
Early Thursday morning, Campbell, his wife, Dorothy, and two of their children fell ill and briefly unconscious by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Dorothy managed to call 911, and emergency personnel quickly arrived at the house. After the four Campbells were rescued and rushed to the hospital for treatment, they returned home in good shape.
"It could have been a very tragic situation here," Ernest said.
For a week, the Campbells had been without power in their home. The couple and their two sons, Jeremiah and Matthew, huddled around the fireplace to keep warm.
Wednesday afternoon, they couldn't take it anymore. So Campbell borrowed his friend's generator.
He put it in the garage, which is underneath his home.
"I closed the garage door," Campbell said, "because I didn't want to set it out here where somebody could steal it because it didn't belong to me."
That decision almost turned into a deadly mistake. Police believe the fumes from the generator rose into the house.
Early Thursday morning, 7-year-old Matthew woke up crying.
"We couldn't figure out why he was crying," Ernest said. "Every time we asked him what's wrong, he couldn't tell us."
Matthew was overcome by toxic carbon monoxide fumes.
So was Ernest.
"I started down the steps, and I blacked out," Ernest said. "I fell down the steps, and I was out four or five minutes."
Dorothy called 911 around 4:30 a.m., reporting that her family was feeling dizzy and weak. Police said after they arrived at the residence on Worth Hinton Road that Dorothy was the most alert family member in the house and had crawled to the phone to call for help.
All the family members were very sleepy and weak when the police got there, according to reports. The police took them all outside and gave them oxygen.
The family later was taken to Duke Medical Center, where they spent hours undergoing treatment.
The Campbells spent the day fielding calls from relatives and friends who heard what happened.
Carolina Power and Light CP must have heard about the incident, too. By the time the Campbells got back home, their power was back on.
"When I saw those lights, there were tears in my eyes," Ernest said. "Tears of joy."
Relatives were more than relieved at the outcome.
"I don't think I'd have been able to handle it if they had died," said Desi Campbell, 36, the oldest Campbell son, who doesn't live in the house with the others. "I thank God it didn't happen that way.
"My mother said my little brother woke up crying. That's what woke everybody up."
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