That Nagging Voice
In the spring of 2000 I walked into the home for the first time and immediately knew something was wrong.
I told my husband we needed to eliminate it from our house-hunting options, even though it was 5,500 square feet and would easily accommodate our eight children and three pets. We were preparing to move cross-country from Illinois to Colorado. Unable to find the right home, our realtor suggested we reconsider. “Think of the potential,” he said. My husband agreed. “It’s five levels. We’ll make it our own.” Chris’s optimism led me to a new vision for the house and how we might use it.
A nagging feeling remained, but I pushed it down.
We moved into the home in June. Within six months one of our children was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Within a year our bird died and our dog was diagnosed with diabetes. Mood disorders surfaced in the kids. We were at the doctor repeatedly. I assumed it was the change in elevation.
"You Are the Problem."
In May 2007, I found a dark spot on our carpet in a downstairs bedroom.
We pulled up the carpeting and discovered massive amounts of black mold on the floor and walls. We called a mold remediator, who quickly dismissed any health risk and offered us a cheap remediation plan. Knowing nothing about health and environment, we hired him and watched as his team tore open the walls and dragged the moldy contents through our family room. They took no precautions to keep the mold from the ventilation units.
Six weeks later our son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Ten weeks later another son became incapacitated with constant vertigo and ear ringing. Our daughter’s seizure disorder returned.
Another daughter was diagnosed with a serious vision disturbance and lost her ability to read. I struggled with memory loss, forgetting doctor’s appointments and school events.
I searched for answers. My 11-year-old son’s vertigo escalated and he lost his ability to walk. One doctor suggested I was the problem.
“You bring him to the hospital and he stays for a few days and he gets better. Then he goes home and he gets worse. You need to show tough love.” In other words, we needed to push him to go back to school even though we had to carry him to the bathroom to relieve his constant nausea.
In all, we saw more than 70 doctors in the year following the mold remediation. A majority put the problem back on me.
When they couldn’t diagnose or cure an illness, I became the problem.
We found mold again in a different part of the home in May 2008. In both cases the cause was faulty workmanship. We hired the same mold remediator because we knew he would give us a good deal. We still hadn’t associated the first remediation with our serious health issues.
What Was Once a Whisper Became a Roar
“Something’s not right.”
“This isn’t in our heads.”
“My kids aren’t making this up.”
A friend heard our story and raised a question as yet unasked. “Have you considered that it might be your house that’s making you sick?”
I began to strongly consider that possibility. I researched the health effects of mold. We hired a hygienist to test the home. The findings were staggering. Exceptionally high levels of stachybotrys, aspergillus, and penicillium explained our health issues. We were being poisoned.
After contacting a toxicologist and a mold specialist, we made the difficult decision to walk away from our house and belongings. On October 4, 2008 we vacated our dream home, leaving everything behind.
It soon became clear we needed to radically alter our lifestyle if we were going to recover. We eliminated chemicals and embraced a real-food diet. We turned to natural personal care products and lived with a new awareness about the air we breathe.
The Biggest Change, However, Was In Me.
I learned that my voice counts when it comes to my health and the health of my family. I discovered a new appreciation for the value of a mother’s instinct when it comes to nurturing her children.
What if I had listened to those who told me it was all in our heads?
The word instinct comes from the Latin word instinguere, which means “to prick,” with a deeper notion of “urge.”
Our toxic mold journey provided the necessary prodding to discover the value of my instincts. While trusting my gut doesn’t mean I have all the answers, it does mean I navigate the complexities of today’s world with confidence and a willingness to think outside the box.
I remain open to new ideas while staying true to my heart.
My hope is that through Savvy Women’s Alliance I can empower other women to find their voice. As Albert Einstein said,
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”
Let’s rekindle the sacred gift in all of us.
Andrea Fabry shares her time and brilliance with Savvy. If you liked this, you might enjoy her article "Cutting Back on BPA in the Home | A Journey Worth Taking.
We are proud to announce that Andrea just published Is Your House Making You Sick? A Beginner's Guide to Toxic Mold. We hope her story will provide a starting point and resource for many, diverting them from the path she had to take.