"How I Survived Toxic Mold"
An encounter with toxic mold is life-threatening and at the very least life-altering. The following people have experienced the devastation of illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, respiratory ailments, neurological impairment, and much more. Their stories reflect the reality that while effects may linger, recovery is possible.
Our family of 11 moved into our dream home in June 2000. Symptoms started immediately. It took a botched mold remediation to make the connection between our illnesses and the home. We vacated in October of 2008. We left everything behind.
I became ill with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) in 1994. By 2007, I was near-comatose all the time, with dozens of symptoms.
Finally I learned about toxic mold and did a trial away from my home and possessions. After that, I reacted violently to both the house and its contents. The house did have black mold hidden in it.
In 1986, Dr. Paul Cheney asked me, "How would you like to become a prototype for a new syndrome?"
I refused, saying that my improvements due to staying out of moldy buildings would distract from his theory that our illness was caused by a virus.
But Dr. Cheney insisted. So I became a participant in the study group that led the CDC in 1988 to recognize the illness that they named "The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome."
When I was 13, my family moved into a house with a basement that flooded regularly. I developed endocrine and immune symptoms.
At age 32, I moved to a town where mold was ubiquitous. My office was in a sealed building that allowed the toxins from animal cages and molds in the basement to spread through the central HVAC. I watched my health decline despite visits to many doctors and was disabled at age 44 with the diagnosis of ME/CFS.
My son went from normal kid to disabled kid in about six weeks. Starting when he was 11 and for about nine months, he was having trouble walking, playing, eating, drinking, and sleeping. He was in terrible pain and couldn't go to school.
Our whole family was sick. Finally I read the book Surviving Mold. An ERMI test on the house came back high in toxic molds.
Our family of six lost our home to toxic mold. While in the home, we lost a baby to miscarriage and had a two-year-old with asthma who was in and out of the hospital every two weeks. Other symptoms included brain fog, yeast infections, and frequent colds.
We tested our home and found four different toxic molds. The sewer was backing up and flooding. We were unaware of the mold and bacteria growing.
We built our home in 2003. We wanted to grow old and die there. The home tried to speed up the process.
During construction, roofers cut corners. As a result, water slowly leaked into the ceiling and walls. We never saw it, but there was enough to start mold and bacteria growth. By the time we learned of the problem, our family had paid the price.
"What is that smell?" I asked my friend when she visited our newly purchased 1970s house. I'd been working on getting the smell out of our carpet for three months.
"Christa, I think it's mold."
We ended up spraying and "killing" a massive amount of mold that was hidden under the carpet, behind baseboards, etc.
Eight months later I was bedridden and very ill, and no one knew why.
I survived because of two people on the Internet, plus the support of friends and family.
The first Internet person nailed my problem as mold and persisted in convincing me. I thought I had Lyme disease and had never heard of mold illness.
I had both Lyme disease (from a tick bite) and environmental illness/mold hypersensitivity.
I was exposed to high levels of toxic mold while in the Virgin Islands in 2007. I was there for my job and was housed in a building that had been condemned two years earlier.
The key to my survival was the testing offered by Real Time Labs. The tests confirmed a diagnosis of mycotoxicosis, which helped me understand the nature of my illness. It also helped me address the real issue and get the medical help I needed.
I fled. We had sudden, extreme exposure when our landlord tore up floorboards, releasing a toxic mess from the crawlspace and spreading it through the house with a fan. Fled to a tent in the yard within days, then fled to hotels. Searched for a year for a safe place for my family. Ultimately, fled not only the house and all belongings, but the country (England) for a drier climate.
After 10 years of CFS/CFIDS, I began to remember mold exposures from the time before I got suddenly and increasingly ill in middle age. I realized that I had been having a Stachybotrys toxin reaction. As I remembered mold in various former dwellings, I began to get rid of possessions from those times. Gradually, I gave away treasured books, plants, rugs, clothes, and papers.
There wasn't any connection that I could see between mould and my debilitating ME (CFS), acquired after graduation from the University of Cambridge in England. Rest and various treatments (chiropractic, diet, supplements, etc.) had helped somewhat. I lived near the sea in Felixstowe, long renowned for its fresh air.
I made some videos, then Erik Johnson commented that some people with ME don't experience those awful "crash" symptoms after everything they do, if they are really free of mould. So I started looking into that.
Our family of five started getting sick in 2008. We finally discovered toxic mold in 2012. The entire back end of our house had to be remediated. But I didn't figure out that the illnesses and mold went hand in hand until the end of 2013.
Our children suffered the most from food allergies and chemical sensitivities, with our youngest needing a gastronomy tube as he had given up eating. Everything made him ill.
I visited a homeopathic doctor just as I was beginning to feel ill. Within 30 minutes of interviewing me, she said, "I believe you have biotoxin illness."
Later the blood tests would confirm her diagnosis. I had become bedridden from extreme fatigue, nausea, memory loss, severe depression, body acne, and painful joints.
I bob and weave.
In 2008 I realized our home of 32 years was full of hidden toxic mold. I was too. My husband wasn't. The more I tried to save our home, the more ill I became, and our marriage as well.
We moved to a hotel for six weeks and remediated the entire house, but not me. The house was clean, tested by the best. We disclosed everything, threw away everything, and sold the house.
Tearing apart moldy kitchens and bathrooms was just another day at work.
My health declined over decades. Eventually, I completely broke, in part because of being steeped in mold spewing from our new front-loading washing machine.
Conventional medicine had no answers. I spent two years thinking I was going crazy, while researching on my own for 40-60 hours a week.
Having lived a healthy life abroad for many years, I returned home to Australia and began a new elementary teaching position in a water-damaged room—a tiny, windowless classroom underneath a flat roof that was crowned with a small brick fence; an open invitation for mold.