Some readers (if you are actually out there) have likely noticed a lack of daily posts. I apologize, and plan to resume blogging soon.
If you’ve kept up with the blog, you may have noted that my normally healthy child has had a lot of illness since the beginning of school in mid-August. Unfortunately, Ava had a round of antibiotics for double ear infections, which did not go away. She got worse the night after finishing her antibiotics, so I took her back to the doctor and learned that in addition to worse ear infections, she had developed a sinus infection, and lung infection. In fact, there was concern she was developing pneumonia, and the doctor ordered a nebulizer breathing treatment right there in the office, which helped her breathing just a bit; the doctor said she would need to continue them every four to six hours (this was very distressing to me since Ava has no history of asthma). She was also prescribed second round of antibiotics, and codeine cough syrup for bedtime. I was feeling pretty ill too, so upon being checked out by the doctor, I was also placed on breathing treatments (I am asthmatic and have a nebulizer at home, which I hadn’t needed to use in years) and antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection.
When we got back from the doctor and pharmacy (a pricey endeavor, especially for a child without health insurance), I discussed the situation with Ava’s Auntie M (my sister) as it was bothering me that we had all been getting sick and feeling crummy lately. We noticed that we all seemed to feel better when we were away from the house, and we talked about the moldy smell that had developed in our building (an upstairs/downstairs duplex–especially after it rains–noting that our town has had a VERY rainy summer). The mold smell was bothering me, and I remembered there had been a crew of construction guys working on the exterior of the building (and the strong bleach smells coming through our vents) back at the beginning of July. Back then our landlord had NOT told us there was a problem downstairs, but us being who we are (kind of nosy), we approached the workers and asked them questions about what they were doing. At that time they said there was a crack in the wall, and the downstairs unit had flooded after a storm, but that they were repairing the problem. As I thought about that water damage, I wondered if the continued rain throughout the summer was causing more problems downstairs (we had seen the crew of workers back again and heard them vacuuming up water downstairs the week prior), and perhaps creating a mold problem in the building. Upon talking with the gal who lives in the room (that shares the same exterior wall) below where Ava and I slept, I was horrified.
We learned that the gal’s room downstairs had continued to flood over the summer, and that at one point she had mushrooms growing on her carpet. She said the crew hired by the landlord had pulled out the sheet rock and carpet, and that they had found black mold. She also said that she was told the foundation was cracked and water would continue to seep in with significant rainfall (cue one of the rainiest summers the town has ever seen). The gal stated that her floor stays wet despite the constant use of fans and a dehumidifier, and that she can’t place anything (including her bed) on the floor since it will mold. She told us that she sleeps at her friend’s house most of the time, because she gets sick when she sleeps in her room. Additionally, she said that during the three weeks when her room was being worked on, it was sheeted off from the rest of their unit and she was told to wear a mask whenever she entered the room to access her closet. What angered me about all of what she shared was that NO ONE ever told us about what was going on downstairs, and NO ONE ever told us we should not run the HVAC system (which we control and share with the downstairs unit). Therefore, whatever mold situation had been going on in that unit was likely affecting our unit as well. While this might not be a problem for some people, both my sister and I are asthmatic and all three of us have allergies.
We had been renting the upstairs portion of the building for a couple of years since moving to this university town for school. In the beginning it had been a great place, we’d learned to overlook the musical tastes of several rowdy bunches of traditional college kids that cycled through the unit below us each semester, and grown accustomed to the occasional bout of “interesting smells” coming through our shared air system. However, we had been thinking of moving at the end of this semester (hopefully into a single family dwelling–though we are not interested in buying since we are not sure if this will be our permanent home after school is no longer keeping us ties to this community). Being very upset by the way things were “handled” with the flooding issues and mold downstairs, and fact that it had clearly not been permanently resolved, we decided to look for a new place immediately rather than wait until spring. Our health, and particularly that of Ava’s, is paramount to us.
That same weekend we found, leased, and began moving into a house. We got some of our young college guy friends to help us move all of our furniture. It’s taken us just over a week to get completely out of the other place. Ava never went back to the ‘toxic mold house’ after that weekend when we first learned the true nature of the problem in the building. She has started to do a bit better over the last week, and while she’s on a third round of antibiotics, she has returned to school and has not needed a breathing treatment in a couple of days and is weaned off of the codeine cough syrup too. As of yesterday she has even been able to even return to some of her activities (soccer–last game of the season, and creative movement).
I did go back to the building to help pack some stuff, which was a big mistake–that night I ended up coughing so much I threw up several times and needed breathing treatments. After that, I did not go back again; I am almost done with my antibiotics and much feeling better. Thankfully, my sister was not as sick as Ava or me (her room was on the opposite side of the house from where the water damage had occurred–not directly above and on the same wall like Ava and me), so she, along with some of our family were able to finish everything that needed done to get us our of the ‘toxic mold house.’
I’ve spent a lot of time wiping things down, dusting, and trying to minimize the amount of any mold spores we might have transported with us. We also purchased a new vacuum cleaner and HEPA filter air purifiers for Ava’s room, my room, and our common living space. We are still in the process of unpacking, putting away, and laundering. At some point soon I hope to locate my camera, and begin blogging Ava’s lunches since she’s returned to school. Stay tuned.