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How A Townhouse Changed My Life…

posted 8/18/2010 3:07:08 PM |
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Back in 2005 my health was good. But after I moved our family into a lovely townhouse…this would all change.

This move was supposed to be a good move for many reasons… and I really looked forward to fixing the new townhouse up with my creative flair. I had recently started a new job and things seemed to be headed in the right direction.

My symptoms started out slowly and at first…did not set off any alarms as to why I was getting sick. A sinus infection here…a headache there…it all seemed very innocent and random…not at all linked to any one thing. But I was so wrong.

I used to be one of those people who got up well before I had to leave for work. I had to have my “me” time for at least a few minutes in the morning before I had to spend a long and hectic day at a very busy insurance office.

Eventually though…I started sleeping later and later…to the point where I was pushing the envelop when it came to how much time I actually required in order to get ready…and make it to work on time.

Like I said…it started out slowly…but in a short period of time…I was running from my car in the parking lot to my office just so I would make it to work on time. When I had a co-worker mention my “wind sprints” in the morning…I knew the situation needed further examining.

I realized I was going to bed early enough…I was eating healthy…taking vitamins…getting exercise…so what was my deal? I couldn’t put my finger on it as the headaches...increased sinus infections...and nausea did not seem related to anything I was doing at the time.

Of course that was before I woke up one morning with one hell of a headache…and thought someone had literally hit me over the head with a hammer…and was still doing it! This headache continued to last for over a week…and of course…there was no way I could handle being in a noisy office environment.

After calling in sick for over a week…and feeling like a real loser of an employee…the headache actually started getting worse. I remember saying to myself over and over again…”This is it.” …”I’m dying,”…”I have to be dying!” It was at this point that I finally went to the hospital emergency room. Well the doctors were convinced I had some sort of brain tumor…and I wasn’t inclined to argue with them at that particular moment since I had never had a headache like this before.

The good news was I didn’t have a brain tumor. The bad news was they had NO idea why I was so sick. So a referral was made for me to see a neurologist the following week.

Since I didn’t have a family doctor (There were huge shortages on family physicians in B.C. back then…and still are to this day) my healthcare was far from consistent. If I felt sick…I would report to one of the many walk-in medical clinics and see whatever doctor happened to be working that day. What I discovered rather quickly is that not all doctors agree with each other. If you let it happen…you could become one big science experiment in a very short period of time…and never actually discover why you are sick. This was very frustrating indeed.

To my embarrassment…I actually let myself become a part of this three-ring circus for a few months…before I realized I had to take the bull by the horns and take care of myself.

My first order of business was getting rid of this so-called neurologist. This man had the worst bedside manner I had ever encountered! He had no problem calling his own colleagues idiots…or pretending he was God. What a loser! I quickly realized if I didn’t get rid of him…I was never going to get better. So at my next follow-up appointment…I gave an award winning performance. I told the doctor it was amazing. The headaches were gone and I was feeling fantastic. Then I stair-stepped myself off of the medications he had given me…specifically Prednisone…because I knew they were not helping me at all.

I then went back to one of the medical clinics I had visited previously and asked to be seen by a doctor who had seemed to be on the ball with compassion and common sense. The doctor was clear that although she couldn’t accept me as a patient (she had the maximum allowed patients already), I could come to the clinic when she was working and asked to be “worked in” as a walk-in patient. This way she could follow my care continuously without interruptions…or other doctor’s egos getting in the way.

The first order of business was to get me into ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor) since she felt my migraine headaches were being triggered by sinus problems. Well the ENT continued to see me and also referred me to an Allergist.

The results from my allergy testing were very enlightening. I was off-the-charts allergic to dust and mold. Now what’s funny about this is I’ve been tested multiple times before and I was NEVER allergic to these things. Since my brother has severe asthma…my mom always made sure I was tested regularly when I was a kid. I then was tested several times when I was an adult and the testing never revealed any allergies at all.

Continued in the comments...

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Aug 18 @ 3:09PM  
This was a turning point with my healthcare mystery. The Allergist told me that when a person is exposed to something extreme…it can throw their whole immune system into a tailspin and cause a person to develop allergies because of this exposure. His question to me was “What have you come into contact with…that you haven’t had contact with in the past?” Now this was a very good question…and one that would be answered 2 weeks later.

When we were moving out of our lovely townhouse…it was discovered that the townhouse had toxic black mold. And yours truly was sleeping right next to a large amount of it. When we finally had all of our belongings moved out…and we started looking behind drywall and baseboards, underneath carpet and in vents…we realized just how contaminated the house truly was…and we also FINALLY knew why I had been so sick.

When a person is exposed to black mold…it can be deadly. The medical symptoms present themselves quickly and randomly…and if you don’t know the mold is there…you don’t know it’s making you sick.

By the time we discovered what was wrong (After 2 years of exposure) I had just been placed on asthma and migraine medicine. Since that time…I’ve been able to discontinue the asthma and migraine medicine…but I’ve had to endure 4 years of allergy shots (1 more year to go)….as well as having to undergo a sinus surgery on 2 sets of my sinuses. I still get the severe headaches…but now they don’t last for weeks. And I still get sinus infections…some years are worse than others…but now I will have months at a time where I don’t have one. The specialists tell me its baby steps…and I know they’re right…but some days it’s really hard not to look at how healthy I used to be…and how much energy I used to have. Like everyone…I have good weeks…and bad weeks. But at least I’m on the mend…and we know what made me sick…and what we need to do to make me better.

When it was all said and done. We moved out of the infested townhouse…and we thoroughly checked the new house before moving in. We bought a dehumidifier for the house…along with air cleaners for every room…and we do a thorough check regularly to make sure black mold doesn’t present itself when we’re not looking.

If you’ve read my story and you know a loved one who is suffering with unexplained medical symptoms similar to mine…please get them tested. Don’t do what I did and wait. The “waiting game” and the “game of denial” cost me dearly in the long run.

Black Mold Poisoning
After mold formation, it needs nutrition to grow, which it obtains by degrading the surface it is growing on. During the process of degrading surface for nutrition, mold causes formation of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These VOCs are harmful to human respiratory and nervous systems.

If a person is subjected to high exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) formed by mold, it affects human respiratory and central nervous systems and causes irritation to mucous membranes.

Symptoms of black mold poisoning:
Common symptoms of black mold poisoning are:
• Uneasiness in respiration
• Headaches
• Cough
• Red eyes
• Development of rashes and hives on skin
• Nausea
• Memory loss
• In some cases, people experience bleeding in lungs
• Lethargy
• Dizziness
• Lack in concentration
• Problem caused due to irritation in mucous membranes
• Asthma
• Allergic reactions (such as itching of nose, runny nose etc.) of respiratory and/or nervous system etc
• Irregularity in blood pressure
• Damaged digestion and respiratory system
• Infections of urinary track, problems in urination etc.
• Pain in liver and other internal organs
• High level or prolonged exposure to mold can lead to infertility in the patient

Exposure to high levels of VOCs may irritate the mucous membranes and the central nervous system leading to symptoms of headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.

The most common symptoms of an allergic response to increased levels of mold range from runny noses, itchy-watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and throat irritation to more severe symptoms caused by chronic conditions such as sinusitis and asthma.

Aug 18 @ 4:47PM  

Sorry precious. But I need glasses badly. So reading that much gives me head aches.
But I can see where all that would change your life to some degree. And I'm glad you are who you are now.

Aug 18 @ 6:37PM  
Bummer that you had to find out like that.

We have a wide variety of allergies in my family. I'm allergic to cats, and can have a bad reaction when the weather drops too suddenly.

Some in my family are allergic to dust, and even kiwi fruit. It's weird.

I'm convinced I'm allergic to money, too, but since I never seem to have any, it's hard to tell...

Aug 18 @ 7:33PM  
Wow!!! I'm glad you're on the mend. Speaking of allergies...I used to get them bad. Puffy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, would sometimes miss work because of them. Then in '05, I remember it started off slow...have these episodes where I was wheezing, and for a couple of days, it was like if I walked 10 feet, I was wheezing as if I had ran 10 miles, and I remember it felt like I could "clear" my lungs when coughing. Then, late Spring, I was having a really bad episode, the rescue inhaler that had been prescribed wasn't doing anything. I went to let my dog out, (Deifenbacher, German Shepherd...only had him at the time) and he was so excited, he jumped and his paws hit me square in the chest...and OMG..I couldn't draw a breath!! That was scary...I managed to get the phone, call 911 and get up to the hospital. When the emergency room staff got me breathing normal again, I asked to use the phone so I could call my Dad and let him know what was going on and to go get my dog. Anyway, turned out, those "allergies" were early signs of bronchitis. What sent me to the hospital was a severe bronchitis attack..all brought on by smoking.

Yep...been 5 years since I stopped smoking...and there has been no more puffy eyes, sneezing, and runny nose........Unless of course I catch a damn cold. But yes, the toxins in the cigarettes were bringing on those symptoms.

Aug 18 @ 11:23PM  
I'm glad things are going a lot better for you and that you're on the mend.

Good information for people to know about just how dangerous mold can really be.


Aug 19 @ 1:13AM  
I'm glad you found the answers. Yanno I learned through my late husbands medical problems how to become assertive and in need be, aggressive with doctors/hospitals/nurses. It's my body and I know what's going on with it and if a doctor doesn't listen then I find a new one and I did just that with my OB/GYN. All she wanted to do was keep running tests and seemed oblivious to the pain I'm in so I politely fired her and found an excellent new one.

Sometimes we acquire an allergy over time of exposure. When my kids were little my Dad bought them a Guinea pig. Four years later I became allergic to it....which meant someone else had to clean her cage...goody

I never had allergies until several years ago when I began to have allergies to whatever's in the air in the probably. Summer 'n fall isn't so bad...yet. And I'm surprised after nearly 10 years I'm not allergic to my cats which is good cause I've always got my nose stuck in their fur lovin' on one or the

Good blog....good info shared...have a kudo on me...

Aug 19 @ 2:20AM  
That was a big problem in Texas, especially in the southern part of the state, several years ago. There were multiple massive law suits as insurance companies refused to cover remediation under homeowner's insurance. Ultimately, the state got involved and forced them to cover it. Some insurance companies stopped doing business in the state as a result. How it was discovered was that ERs had all of these people coming in with the same symptoms and they couldn't figure out what it was initially.

The toxic black mold information center has a lot of info on it. This section in particular is frightening.

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How A Townhouse Changed My Life…