This post was first shared here on November 2, 2012. I don’t even think I have mentioned my entire diagnosis in my book. My letter with the diagnosis would have been a good thing to have added.
Someone asked me a short time ago to tell more about me. Rather than go from the beginning I am going to talk about being sent to Dallas and getting my diagnosis. I knew I was sick but had no idea how far-reaching the mold exposure had been in terms of my body.
I had been sick for about 2 1/2 years when I was finally sent to Dr. William Rea at the Environmental Health Center-Dallas through my ENT. I arrived on a cold day in February 2002. After meeting with Dr. Rea, doing lots of tests and being observed, a letter was written for me to submit to my doctors here and to my attorney for my workers’ compensation case. Dr. Rea wrote an extended letter and I am going to try to give a synopsis of what he found wrong.
Toxic Encephalopathy secondary to mold, mold toxin and chemical exposure (when I was moved from the school with the mold to a new school being painted, etc. while we were trying to set it up for school to start)
Toxic Effects of Petrochemicals and Solvents
Toxic Effects of Mold and Mold Toxin
Food Sensitivity (only safe foods at the time were rabbit, venison, deer, elk, cranberries, acorn squash, eggs, raspberries)
Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction
Multi-organ system dysfunction
Neurotoxicity based on SPECT scan
Hyper metabolic and hyper reactive state
I couldn’t sleep, I was on a nebulized antifungal, I was on so many medications when I arrived. I would sit and look at the television and it was as if the screen was narrowing and moving toward me (a very strange sensation), my depth perception was a mess. I would be in the testing room, take a drink my from glass water bottle and then set it back down. Bam, glass and water would be all over the floor. I couldn’t gauge when the bottle was on the floor unless I slowly lowered it and listened for it to touch the ground before I released it. My short-term memory was just that, short-term. My husband made me walk from our condo to the center so that I would be able to find it because I would not have a car when he went home. Every morning we would walk the four blocks and when we got to the parking lot I wouldn’t remember where I needed to enter the building and my husband would once again have to show me. Once in the building when I would leave the testing or exam rooms to go to the sauna, I would invariably turn towards the exit. I just couldn’t keep my directions straight. So much goes on at the center. There is doctor appointments, lab appointments, provocation/neutralization skin testing, sauna, IV’s. I soon learned that my weekly appointment calendar was my only salvation. Every Friday I would schedule all my appointments for the next week. I lived by that appointment book. It was the only way I could remember where I was supposed to be at any given time as long as I could remember how to get from point “A” to point “B”.
In fact when I returned home after a long stay in 2003 and moved into my “safe” home my memory was still a mess. One day I got up and put a pot of beans on to cook in the kitchen and then went back into my bedroom. I still had no furniture in the kitchen or living room. I pretty much lived in my bedroom with my army cot and blankets, my CD player and my television. One afternoon my smoke alarms started blaring (all four of them from the entrance to each bedroom). I began to panic! MY HOUSE WAS ON FIRE! Was there a wiring issue? What was going on? What would I do if my house burned down? Where would I go? I began walking through the house looking for any signs of trouble. Then as I walked towards the kitchen it dawned on me that I had beans on the stove. The beans had boiled dry and stuck to the bottom of the pan. Since that time I have to set a timer whenever I put something on the stove. The caveat to that is that I have to be within ear range of the timer. I have turned the timer on and went outdoors only to see smoke coming out of my kitchen vent.
My autonomic nervous system was a mess too. I would go to bed and the slightest movement (me rolling over or me just moving in the bed) would send me into horrible state. Imagine being at the top of one of those rides at an amusement park where you are raised to the top and then dropped. That is what it felt like to me. And this would happen over and over again all night long. If I tried to get up and go to the bathroom the mere act of lying back down would set it off. This went on for months and months. I haven’t had a severe reaction like that in a very long time. I still get that sensation occasionally but thankfully it is not my nightly companion.
My life has been turned upside down and inside out. I say I live in the Twilight Zone or Bizarro Land. I make the most of what I can do and have to accept my limitations and my losses. The depression was eating me alive from the inside out and I had to make a decision. Either I let the depression and loneliness and sadness take over my life or I had to learn to change the way I perceived this invisible illness. I have chosen to try to change my perspective. I try to stay positive, I try not to feel envious of what others can or are doing, I try to be grateful for what I have and not dwell on what I don’t have. When friends tell me they are going on a cruise, or going to another country or on some long weekend, jealousy starts to set in and depression rears its ugly head. Sometimes it is hard to hear the stories from their trips when they return. I had been home from Dallas for about a year when my husband had the opportunity to go to England as a chaperone with his high school. Oh how I was envious. I wanted him to go, but I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to participate in the plans, didn’t want to hear where he was going, didn’t want to think about being here alone at home with him far away having fun. Once he was gone I decided that this allowed me the freedom to watch whatever movie I wanted to watch or watch movies all day. I could sit in my bed and read all day if I wanted to. I ate when I wanted to. I got in my car and drove around just for the sake of driving around. I was good until he came home with pictures from the trip. Sadness welled up inside of me as he told me where he had gone and explained what he had seen. I wanted to just bolt. I didn’t want to hear the stories, didn’t want to see the pictures, didn’t want to feel the sadness. Finally I realized I wasn’t being fair to him. He was excited about this amazing journey and what he had seen and done. I listened and I looked and I put on my brave face. I have to say, however, that I haven’t looked at those pictures since and hate it when we are watching a movie and he tells me that he has been to that fountain or that museum. I may be getting stronger every day but the realization that I probably will never make that kind of trip is hard but I am becoming more okay with it as time goes by.