2017: Game On
In the following weeks, we spent hours and hours reading articles about mycotoxins. I joined the “Mold Avoiders” Facebook page, and I gleaned all I could from Paradigm Change – a fabulous resource for all things moldy. Instinct told us that we needed to get out of the house right away – despite the test guy not seeming terribly concerned on his first visit. In fact, we were really surprised that he chose not to wear a respirator while he was inspecting and testing the house.
For the first 10 days, we tried living out back in my little art studio – a 9’ x 13’ shed – only using the house for the bathroom, cooking, and doing laundry. But we soon discovered that it was a bad idea. In our relative ignorance, we were creating a cross-contamination nightmare between the two buildings. It didn’t take long to notice how much worse we’d feel just being in the house. Not only did we feel awful, it made us scattered, cranky, and snippy too. Totally not ourselves indoors, we realized that as soon as we left, and were able to wash up, our moods would return to normal again.
By March 1st we found an apartment in a nearby town, in the upstairs of an old farmhouse. Finally, we were able to safely move out of our toxic home, bringing our two cats and not much else. We’d already learned that cross-contamination happens far too easily. What followed for the next month was incredibly chaotic – we spent all our time trying to get our feet under us and replace the absolute basics: clothes, food, a new mattress, and new computers. (Anything with a cooling fan will inevitably get filled with contaminated dust and, with all the nooks and crannies inside, be beyond cleaning.) Our apartment was nearly empty as it was just too risky to bring anything.
David even had to trade in his nice truck (that had already been paid off) for a beater truck, because we realized that the “good” one was making us sick every time we rode in it. The truck had absorbed so many contaminates from all the years of DIY projects, as well as day to day transfer from our clothes to the upholstery — all that time, we’d been completely ignorant of the toxins we were steeping in. Having gotten clear from the toxic stew opened our senses to how it was affecting us.
By April, we had contracted with a professional remediation company, but it was going to be SO expensive that it was worth our while to try to empty the house ourselves, despite being sick. The mold testing had revealed that it wasn’t just Stachybotrys in our master bathroom — our entire house was compromised. It turned out that the original builder had made multiple, major construction errors that had allowed moisture into ALL of the exterior walls, where mold was secretly growing in the insulation behind the drywall. The exterior sheathing was rotting — completely unseen, under the cedar shake siding. There was no way of knowing until now, after it had been fully exposed during the testing process. All of the exterior walls were contaminated with some flavor(s) of Penicillium/Aspergillus, which produce aflatoxins and ochratoxins. So, we had been exposed to that, throughout the house — for the past 8 years — in addition to the trichothecene from the Stachybotrys in the master bathroom.
We spent the entire month of April commuting from the farmhouse apartment to our own home. Wearing Tyvek suits and bright pink respirators, we had to go through every one of our belongings — hucking things into the giant dumpster, which was parked like a Scarlet Letter beside our house. We rented an onsite storage container for things we were trying to save, and we stuffed vast piles for donation into our garage. It took us two full weeks, working solid days, every day of the week, plus four separate weekends, before we called “Uncle”, and left the rest of our limited belongings to the professionals. It was an eye-opener to find that most people couldn’t truly understand the extent of the upheaval, so that help was both limited and hard to come by. We are forever grateful to those who were able to lend a hand, or even an ear to our plight.