The following is yet another heartbreaking story of a young family's encounter with toxic mold. The story is told from the mother's perspective.
We moved into our brand new home in 2005. It was new construction. Our move-in was delayed almost four months due to a worker on the jobsite urinating on our new carpet before we moved in. We found the urine the day we began bringing in boxes. It took a few months before the builder could have all of our brand new carpet replaced and we could begin moving again.
Once we did move, we noticed that our son's window leaked. We had the builder come out. They cleared the weep holes and said in high winds and heavy rains the tracks would overflow. So every time it rained we would put towels in the window. We never saw much more than a little water on the towels. Within six months our son, who didn't have so much as a sniffle in his first year of life, was hospitalized after a two-month mystery fever. He had a rare abscess in his throat. After surgery and tons of antibiotics, he was okay. None of the doctors could tell us why it had happened or what we could do to prevent it from happening in the future.
Over the next two years our son developed a terrible mystery cough, which was worse at night, and he had horrible allergies. He was tested for everything from Valley Fever to Cystic Fibrosis. Nothing came back positive. His swollen glands, dry hacking cough, stomach aches and headaches remained a mystery. Countless medical tests most of his life... no answers.
In Fall 2008, I was pregnant with twins. Our son was hospitalized again with yet another mystery illness. This time he was there for close to a week. His right eye swelled shut within half a day. His lacrimal gland was swollen. He had a biopsy, endless tests and CT scans—nothing. No answers.
Once the twins were born, it was only weeks before we noticed visibly swollen neck glands on one of our newborns. They looked just like the ones we had been looking at on our son's neck for the past few years. Upon closer inspection, we found the same on our other twin. The pediatrician had no answers.
A few months later, we noticed one of the twin's feet turning purple/black. It happened several times; sometimes it was both feet. A few months more and we noticed she had a terrible problem snoring and ceasing to breath while she was sleeping. She also continuously battled what we thought was eczema on her face and torso. Still no answers. Eventually, gigantic, almost sore-like patches of circular, scaly red skin appeared on her forehead, stomach, back, arms, and legs.
The other twin had the swollen glands and a few whole-body rashes, but they seemed to clear within a few days.
In Spring 2010, I ended up spending the night in my son's room while he was away at camp, and I had a terrible reaction. My eyes and ears were itchy and burning, and my throat hurt. I wondered if this was the way my son had felt for the past five years. That's when it hit me... maybe there was mold in his room from the leaky window. I called to have the room tested the following morning. They found, among other things, Aspergillus/Penicillium.
After that, we decided to rip out all of the carpet. We figured there was a good chance that the mold from my son's room had been tracked to other parts of the house. Perhaps getting rid of the carpet would be a good first step in minimizing his allergy symptoms. In doing so, we uncovered the rest of the story.
ALL of the windows on our upper floor were leaking. We just didn't know it because the carpet was soaking it up. In many cases, the water was seeping out directly from under the baseboards. There would have been no visible presence of water—it just seeped out under the baseboards and was absorbed by the carpet and padding. We tested the rest of the upstairs and found mold everywhere... including Stachybotrys ("Black Mold") in our master bedroom.
After we found the mold, our builder's "restoration crew" came to fix the windows and remediate. We asked them to contain the rooms before cutting into the walls. They refused. We asked them to wait until we got the test results back, and they refused. They cut into the walls, "didn't see any mold," and decided we didn't have a problem. That night we got the test results showing we had black mold. We called them and told them we didn't want them in our house again until further notice. We knew we had a huge problem on our hands, and we needed time to figure out what to do.
July 13, 2010, we moved out of our home. We have since sent our test results to a notable toxicologist in the field. He explained that the presence of Stachybotrys in the air indicates a much greater problem in the home, which must be addressed or it will get worse. Stachybotrys is a heavy, sticky mold, and it does not go airborne easily.
We had an appointment with mold specialist Dr. Michael Gray in Benson, Arizona. He found polyps in our oldest son's nasal passage and expressed concern about a lump we found recently on his head. He looked at two of the kids under a UV lamp and both had areas of their bodies that GLOWED. Your children should not glow. We were ordered to throw out all our remaining clothing. There was a possibility that we had contaminated the home we were staying in by bringing in the very few belongings we brought with us.
So now we are homeless. We cannot bring our family back to our home. Dr. Gray told us, "Treat it like a fire. Don't take anything with you and don't go back." Most, if not all, of our old belongings—including pictures, mementoes, and family heirlooms—have been contaminated. On the bright side, our children are seeing one of the best possible doctors for this type of illness. We are in a safe environment where we can begin to heal. Our family, friends, and complete strangers have come out in droves to help us, and for that we are TRULY thankful.
We feel tremendously grateful that our twins made it into this world despite the toxic environment we were living in during the pregnancy. Never mind being brought home to nurseries infected with some of the most harmful molds known to man. Mold has been identified as the cause of several SIDS deaths. We are very lucky.
All we can ask now is if you or a loved one have had any mystery illnesses that a doctor cannot explain, HAVE YOUR HOUSE TESTED FOR MOLD. Knowing the cause of your illness and removing yourself and your loved ones from the environment could be the first step in saving your lives.