Sandy Wolfe

When did you move into your current home?

2003

How many years have you lived there?

11 years

How soon after you began living there did you begin to feel sick?

2014 was supposed to be the brand new start. My divorce was finalized, my father, who was an amputee veteran, was settled in his new home, and I was planning to sell our 5 bedroom home that I could no longer afford. I was looking forward to a relatively stress free life with my seven year old son, Dylan. Then we decided to replace the counter tops in the kitchen before listing the house.

When the dishwasher was pulled out, we realized it had been leaking and that there was significant water damage on the wall behind and the flooring underneath. Like most home owners, I did not think this was a huge concern so I did what everyone does, call my insurance company.

 

The insurance company agreed that the entire kitchen needed replacing, including appliances, flooring and cabinets. What they did not tell us was that all the mold on the wall behind the dishwasher and in our sub-floors could make us ill. Nor were we told that the mold could spread throughout my home destroying everything I had. Nor were we told that we should and could leave the home during the construction process when half of the downstairs was being torn apart.We knew nothing about mold or remediation. Unfortunately, the contractor did not either and this is when our horror story begins.

The day the floors were opened, I became so sick I couldn’t get out of bed and my seven year old son vomited most of the night. Our lives have changed dramatically since that day. Everything in our entire home became contaminated. I worked hard for 20 years to buy beautiful furniture and provide for my son. I paid off my car before the divorce. My car is so cross contaminated, we can’t even get in it. We were forced to leave our home with $400 in the bank and the clothing on our backs. Anything we touched from the house made us sick. I kept trying to go in and salvage memorable or valuable items but would have such horrible reactions, I literally had to run out of the house because I was having trouble breathing.

 

The home testing showed 165,000 m3 of aspergillus/penicillium, including stachybotrys and chaetomium. We eventually found out that my son and I have a genetic mutation in our hla-dr genes that makes us extremely susceptible to toxic mold poisoning; 24% of the population have this. Most never have such a severe exposure as we did for it to affect them. Many have it and are sick with different ailments and don’t know that its mold.

It spread throughout our house so fast that my couches turned black within two months. Imagine what was happening to our insides if that was happening to furniture.

What were your symptoms?

When “botched remediation” began and kitchen floor was opened, we had the following symptoms: coughing, throat burning, eyes burning, debilitating fatigue, coughing up blood, thrush, burning tongue, frequent urination and upset stomach, difficulty breathing, massive sweating, bruising easily, vomiting, my son was getting really dark circles under his eyes. My son and I were both diagnosed with bronchitis at this point.

Within two weeks: rashes all over, raised itchy bumps covering arms and legs, ears, skin burning, fits of anger, visual disturbances (almost hallucinations), ears ringing and feeling my head was about to explode, sharp pains on right side abdomen, intense back cramps, hair falling out, throat swelling almost shut, bottoms of feet burning beet red, anaphylaxis reactions, panic attacks, hypothyroidism, rapid weight gain, swollen lymph nodes, food allergies, son had nose bleeds, numbness in hands and feet.

My 7 year old was having most of these symptoms also, but not as extreme since he was gone to school most of the day and away while the contractors continued working on home making it MUCH worse. Two months after leaving home, MCS began and food intolerances for me but not my son. Mold hypersensitivity was at an extreme level for both of us.

How many doctors did you consult with?

Nine

How helpful were the doctors you consulted with?

The first one should have listened and told us to leave the house because I told him I though it was the mold making us sick.

 

Some extremely helpful. Some not at all.

The  first doctor wrote in his personal notes that he thought my son was having a rare lung condition caused by mold exposure, but never told me that! I went to get a copy of the report and the receptionist handed me the report and I saw his notes and started researching. This was at an emergency walk in clinic. We were both treated for bronchitis although I kept telling them I thought it was mold. We went back the following week and told it was strep throat. 

My primary doctor told us to see an allergist and that mold couldn't make us this sick and that there was even stachybotrys in his office! We ended up in an emergency room and the third doctor diagnosed both of us with mold exposure and aspergilliosis, but said they couldn't treat us for it. 

Eventually we went to the Occupational Environmental Medicine Center and consulted with Dr. Weirs and Dr. Lieberman. They both diagnosed us with toxic mold exposure and also said that I have candida. At the same time, my son was seeing a lung specialist for his constant cough. When we saw the allergist specialist, he believed that my son had aspergillus induced asthma. We both ended up in the emergency room a couple of times more. 

Did any of your initial doctor visits consider mold or air quality as the cause of your sickness?

the third doctor did, but didn't advise us to move. Surprisingly, the emergency room at St Francis Hospital diagnosed us with it after two months.  

When was mold identified as the cause of your sickness?

Two months after the ER visit confirmed it, then I started researching it on the internet. Eventually, I found Erik Johnson on Facebook on a mold support group. He spent hours messaging back and forth with me at all hours of the night warning me of the danger I was in. He convinced me to get out of my house and have it tested. The test showed outrageous amounts of the most dangerous molds. I started calling environmentalists all over. Each was astounded at the levels. James Tucker came straight to my house in disbelief. He refused to even charge me because he also had the HLA genetic disorder and had become sensitized to mold. James Tucker explained how my life was forever changed and I may never live in my home again. If not for James Tucker and Erik Johnson, I would have probably died in that house.

What treatment are you currently under?

Avoidance because of hypersensitivity and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and food intolerance.

 

How long do your doctors think it will take to recover?

My son is doing much better because I got him out quick and had a strict avoidance policy for him. After a year, he’s at 90%, but still has severe allergic reactions if encountering mold. I have no clue when I’ll get fully healthy because the mold poisoning caused me to have hypothyroidism and CIRS which won’t let my immune system calm down.

Any thoughts?

I have several thoughts.

First, I can’t scream loud enough how important proper remediation is! We hired a contractor who swore he knew everything there was to know about mold and even had my family members helping him work without any protective gear; he didn’t block off the kitchen area or cover air ducts, or use a single remediation procedure he should have. Luckily those family members didn’t get sick.

Second, its so important for people to understand the genetics regarding mold poisoning. My family completely abandoned us. They ridiculed me, accused me of faking, exaggerating or being out for money. This was almost more painful than the illness itself. If not for my friends Pat and Jennifer, I think I wouldn’t have made it through it mentally.

My ex-husband and his family came to visit. They saw how truly real this was. They helped us with hotels, clothes for my son and getting us into an apartment. I honestly don’t know where we’d be right now if it wasn’t for them. Imagine going from owning a beautiful five bedroom home and closets full of beautiful clothes to staying at a horrible weekly hotel and wearing the same two outfits for six months while you can’t pay for the medicine your child needs. No one would choose that. I was so sick it was a great effort just to get my child back and forth to school and take care of him.

Third, my insurance company lied and said I didn’t have hotel coverage which forced us to go back to the house twice. Both times we ended up in emergency rooms. Study your insurance policies. Know what you have rather than relying on them to tell you the truth.

We are having to move again because the windows leak in our apartment and mold is growing around them. The apartment complex refuses to move us to another building. I still own my home, but certainly won’t go back there. So this month, I am apartment hunting and job hunting. I desperately need to go back to work.

My story is an extremely sad devastating story, but it will have a happy ending. My son is now 8 and much healthier and I’ll do whatever it takes to not let this break our spirits! Seeing your child so sick and lose everything he’s ever known makes a mom strive that much harder to ensure every day of his life is a happy one. We will beat mold! Don’t feel sorry for me. Just warn others about the dangers of messing with mold when they don’t have correct remediation training.

 

I started a Facebook page: Black Toxic Mold For Dummies 101 and I am also in the process of making a YouTube video with children explaining mold illness. Maybe people can show their families this so they begin to realize the devastating impact that mold can have.

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"It spread throughout our house so fast that my couches turned black within two months."

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"Botched remediation destroyed my life."

"...I would have probably died in that house."

"Maybe people can show their families this so they begin to realize the devastating impact mold can have."