Thursday, January 28, 2016

Angels to the Rescue - Climbing the Mountain of Mold Toxicity Part II

This is the second of a two-part series that I have written concerning our family's experience with mold toxicity. While this blog is a place where we share our personal family stories, it is also a place where I hope others can garner help and encouragement from those stories. I am sharing this information with you not to put you to sleep with details, but so that our words might reach anyone else out there who might be struggling with mold toxicity as well. You can read part one here.

Why do we do the things we do?
Because we love...and for the man who holds us all up on his shoulders, I would do anything.
It was during the boys' Classical Conversations classes three weeks ago that it all finally hit me...

I decided to slip out of Henry's classroom, to take moment to call my parents whom I had yet to correspond with (besides by e-mail).  After hashing through all of the details of what our family was facing, we said a long good-bye, and then everything I had shared with them came rushing over me.

With a sudden break in the adrenaline, which had been keeping me steady up to that point, fight was turned to flight as I slid down against the wall to the floor and buried my head in my hands, praying that no one would find me hovering in the corner of that room falling apart.

Two weeks ago we moved out of our home so that the remediation specialists could get to work without us being in the way. Steve's parents generously opened their home to all of us, which was an enormous comfort, as I cannot imagine trying to juggle everything from a hotel room as home base. That was really the start of what has been a long, exhausting journey toward what we are hoping will be a healthier home, and more importantly a healthier daddy.

First, the move out of our home, then the overwhelming number of questions - what do we throw away, what do we keep? Can we even keep anything? If we do keep some things, how do we clean them? How will I help the children understand what's happening? How long will it take before we can move back in? How will I teach school and shuttle the boys to practices and feed them and be attentive to them all while climbing the mountain of absolutes that must be managed in order to make our home a safe, clean place for our family to return to? 

Looming over everything was the possibility that the former home owners were aware of the water leaks before they sold us the house (without disclosure of the problem).  I dreaded that phone call too, but we needed to know for certain if there was any place else in the house that might need to be torn into before the cleaning began and new carpet laid.

Nonetheless, no matter what the previous owners could tell us about the condition of the home prior to us moving in, I had to stay focused on our battle plan for recovery.  After countless conversations with mold experts (the people at Real Time Labs, a woman named Kathleen in particular, were extremely helpful and supportive) all over the United States, we decided that creating a toxin-free environment for Steve would include:

:: A complete remediation: remove all mold, and reconstruct damaged areas
:: Air ducts and vents cleaned
:: Furnace taken apart and cleaned
:: Floors HEPA vacuumed
:: All carpet and padding replaced
:: Every clothing item, towels and bedding properly laundered* or dry cleaned
:: All mattresses, upholstered furniture, draperies, pillows discarded
:: All paper and cardboard items discarded (including anything in a box, such as food, medicine, etc.)
:: Entire interior of the house and remaining objects (EVERYthing!) cleaned with Sporiciden
 * We were instructed to soak all of our clothing in a solution of Borax (1/2 cup for an average load) an warm water, rinse and then launder.

This process of remediation and cleaning was a prudent decision for our family, because the amount of mold found in our home was minimal. I can imagine that when one thinks of mold being in a home that it would be easy to envision mold everywhere and on everything.  Some homes do contain a substantial amount of mold, and those suffering from toxicity due to the mold have to walk away and never return.  This is not our situation. And, when I talk about cleaning the home, I'm speaking of cleaning up the micro-toxins that are emitted from from the mold spores, not the mold itself. The objects in our home, specifically the furniture and mattress, did not have mold growing on them, but were contaminated by the toxins from the mold, and the toxins are what Steve is terribly sensitive to.

I cannot possibly describe to you just how enormous the laundry, cleaning and sorting through every single item we own has been - my children are mini hoarders, so they have learned some pretty significant lessons about discerning what is valuable and what is not.  Repeating the words, "If our house was on fire, is this what you would take with you?" really helped them decide what to keep and what to throw away.

While the grandness of the entire cleaning/remediation endeavor has been more difficult and arduous than I imagined it would be, through it all I have been surrounded by ANGELS. So many truly generous and supportive family and friends have dedicated their time and energy to help not just me, but my family as well, and we will forever be grateful to them!

I wish I had more photos (see pics below) of these angels in action cleaning, washing and folding laundry, delivering meals, pulling up carpet, hauling away trash, making phone calls, running kiddos to school and wrestling practice, picking up groceries....I will never, ever forget the smallest gesture of love that has been shown to our family over these past few weeks.

Even the messages we have received via e-mail, texts and social media lending prayers and support have been a great source of strength to us.  This is the true meaning of the Body of Christ.  We share our struggles with others and, in their desire to help us, grace enters in in a very powerful way, leading us all to live not only more virtuous lives, but lives that are focused no on self, but others. This is Christ at work in such a beautiful, powerful way within us all!

If you're wondering what it's been like to lessen the contents of our home by half, I will not sugar-coat it for you. Having to part with so many of our things has not been an easy task.

Having to acknowledge and contemplate the value or simple necessity of every single item in your home has a way of teaching you a lot about yourself and your family. You see before you, in tangible objects, what it is that you treasure, what things you may be hanging on to that aren't necessary, or even truly special, what simple things you take for granted that you can no longer keep.

Facing such a material giant has certainly of adjusted our focus, it has deepened the meaning of detachment in our hearts and minds, and taught us to hold on to people not things.

As for Steve, after spending two weeks undergoing evaluations and treatments at the Hansa Center, we are hopeful that he will make a full recovery from the toxicity his body is fighting.  While his doctors have given Steve many reasons to feel encouraged in the healing process, they have also told him that it will be slow, and that it is up to him to follow closely their dietary advice and supplements recommended to him.

Thank you for your prayers, notes of encouragement, and sincere concern for Steve and for our family. Keep those prayers coming! They are truly sustaining us through these days while we wait in hope for Steve's health to return.
My sister-in-law, Jennifer and her friends, Kim and Lori, spent an entire day at the laundry mat laundering all of our clothing, bedding, and towels.
They set a new record for the most number of loads done in a day - 120!
Both of my parents have come up to help and thankfully my mom agreed to step in and keep school going, so that I could manage everything at the house. My dad has been the best errand runner, baby holder, card player and frisbee thrower ever!
Our neighbors have been very patient with us, as our driveway has been piled up with bags of discarded goods, mattresses, furniture and carpet for the past couple of weeks.  This has all been very humbling for us, to say the least.
A blurry, flurry of activity - I wish I had better pics, but I guess snapping photos is the last thing you think of in the middle of a mini-crisis.  Kathy deserves the mother-in-law of the year award.  She has done so much for all of us.  I promise to post a photo of her celebrating when all of this is OVER!!

Valuable Resources:
1.  Beating Lyme Disease (includes valuable information on recovering from mold toxicity)
2.  Mold Warriors
3.  Wired for Healing
4.  Real Time Laboratories 

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, 
who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28


  1. Susan, did you have to discard all photos, books, too? What a misery! My heart goes out to you guys!

    1. We cleaned the exterior of our books and photo albums and boxed them up. The experts told us to bring a few of them out on occasion, and if Steve doesn't have a reaction, then they're probably fine to put back on the shelf. But, if his symptoms flare up even slightly, they will all have to be discarded.

    2. I'm crying reading this, Susan. My heart goes out to you! As far as photo books - please don't take the chance (reaction means a setback, no matter how minor)! Take them to one of those places that put your old pics & movies on a disk or thumb drive. We all need to do that anyway, you'll just be ahead of us all in at least that way!

  2. Susan, did you have to discard all photos, books, too? What a misery! My heart goes out to you guys!

  3. Oh, Susan - I had no idea. I can't do much to help physically since I'm not there but I will be lifting all of y'all up in prayer!!!

  4. Praying for you guys - this has to be so hard on all of you!

  5. Heartbreaking beautiful and true words cone again from your sweet, loving spirit. You're in my daily prayers! Keep fighting with the virtue of the saints, dear friends!

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. What a huge ordeal! I can't imagine having to go through this. I'm so very glad you had such a great team helping you. Prayers that your husband makes a speedy and full recovery!

  7. I can't imagine going through what you're going through. It is so overwhelming to imagine it happening to my husband and me, and we don't even have kids living at home with us anymore. To deal with all of that, while pregnant and taking care of six kids and a sick husband...Susan, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your faith is truly inspiring. I hope if faced with a similar challenge I can meet it with as much grace and courage as you are handling all of this. Praying for you! <3

  8. Wow. That is so much work to take on. Mold is more dangerous than most people realize. We had a basement that molded and I had to throw away handmade scrapbooks because all the pages had mold! I was devastated. Good luck on your journey as you continue to create a healthier home for your family!

    1. Thank you, Carrie! Was anyone in your home ever affected by the mold?

  9. Oh my word. I'm speechless...I'll just keep praying.

  10. So much love and so many prayers friend ❤️

    1. Thank you, Mary. I have thought of you so many times - you have been through so much suffering in your life, yet you choose joy. Your joy and love for others inspires me to keep going, in spite of the difficulties we are facing. Thank you for being such a light in my life!

  11. Prayers for a continued recovery. You are so lucky (blessed) to have so many people willing and able to help you like this. God bless you.


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