My family has been dealing with the devastating effects of toxic mold for the past fourteen years. As a young, single mother, I invested in a home to create a stable foundation for me and my son. What happened as a result was truly my worst nightmare. Within three months of moving into the house, my sister, who was 20 at the time and living with us, was being rushed to the ER with shooting pains throughout her body and blackouts. The outcome was always the same: she was told that her problems were neurological, but the cause unknown, and she was sent home. Eventually, sick and terrified, she moved back home with our mother. What she didn’t know at the time was that moving out of the house is what probably saved her life.
Meanwhile, I and my son, who had just turned three, were becoming increasingly ill with puzzling symptoms that we now know are classic symptoms of toxic mold exposure. I learned this not from a doctor, but by randomly stumbling upon an article about toxic mold in a magazine. Testing revealed extremely high levels of stachybotrys, plus other toxic molds and endotoxins caused by sewage flooding. We evacuated immediately, leaving behind all our contaminated possessions. As time went on, we came to realize that our ill health and the lingering disabilities were our biggest losses of all.
The domino effects that followed are too numerous to list. Among the biggest was failing to get justice through the legal system. We had a solid case based on fraud, due to the seller’s failure to disclose the flooding. Not wanting to be on trial for fraud, the defense used every legal stall tactic they could find, and it worked. Just a few weeks before we were scheduled to go to trial, we were financially tapped out and forced to drop the case. In the meantime, our health was worsening. By the time we finally gained access to proper treatment, we were in an acute stage of mycotoxicosis. It took a long time to slowly regain our health, though it never returned to normal.
I, as well as my sister, now have chronic health problems, including an autoimmune condition, severe multiple chemical sensitivities, thyroid problems, and mold hypersensitivity. My son, now 17, also has chronic mold hypersensitivity, learning disabilities, depression and severe anxiety. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2014, and I suspect this is due in large part to the mold exposure. He told me recently that he can’t remember a time when his life wasn’t dominated by mold. Since losing the home we owned, we’ve moved from rental to rental in the past fourteen years in search of an environmentally safe home. Broke and burned out, we thought we had finally found respite when a family member invited us to move in and live rent free so we could get back on our feet. I didn’t mind that I had to sleep on the couch. The respite was short-lived, however, when we recently discovered that the house he is renting also has toxic mold. We know we have to leave, and we have nowhere to go. We continue to keep the faith that we will find a way out of this, as we have so many times in the past. We are lucky to have survived, and I share my story in hopes that all victims of toxic mold can be helped.
March 11, 2015