Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Gina Lopez

Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Gina Lopez
One of the featured stories on Mold in the News: Issue 128, was about a Santa Fe woman, Gina Lopez, who nearly died from toxic mold exposure.
After posting the story on our website and sharing the link on Facebook, Gina commented that she was the woman featured in the story. The video below features Gina.

To learn more about her toxic mold experience, I interviewed Gina over the phone. Both Gina and I hope that her story and experience will help other toxic mold survivors.
1. When did you move into your current apartment?
July, 2007.
2. How many years have you lived there?
More than six years, I still live here.
3. How soon after you began living there, did you begin to feel sick?
I began getting sick within 2.5 years.
4. What were your symptoms?
I had all of the symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.
Specifically, I started getting chronic head aches, mood swings, severe depression, red eyes, severe abdominal pain, many allergy and sinus issues, and I developed asthma. Anytime, I had a drink of alcohol socially, I would get very ill and begin vomiting. In addition, I had bleeding and menstrual issues, nausea, shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, my hair got coarse and began drying out, and ringing in my ears. I also began getting really dark circles under my eyes. My skin was unhealthy and I began to bruise very easily. As my condition worsened, I began having severe cognitive difficulties and found it difficult to walk and even started getting lost easily. My memory just started to go, I was unable to remember short term and eventually long term. Near the end of my diagnosis, I could barely walk and speak because I was stuttering so much.
The worse part is my children started getting sick as well, both of my kids developed asthma, started getting rashes, and had a severe sensitivity to mosquito bites where their skin would swell severely.
I truly thought I was going to die and did not know what to do. This was a very emotional time because I was not sure what to do, how to support my children. I just kept getting sicker and sicker, nothing seemed to help.
5. How many Doctors did you consult with and what types of treatments did you experience?
Too many to count, met with dozens of Doctors.
I had countless MRI’S, CAT scans, blood tests, and other medical procedures. One Doctor said I had fibromyalgia, another Doctor thought I had MS and/or was developing Parkinson’s because of my cognitive, balance, and memory issues.
I went through so many treatments, but nothing worked.
Because of my abdominal pain, the Doctors thought I had an appendix issue and removed it. I then underwent another surgery and had a hysterectomy because the Doctors found tumors and cysts, which did turn out to be benign, but they did think I may have cancer as well.
I still have pain in my back from the base of my spine to top of neck and nothing the Doctors prescribed worked; some Doctors think it is caused by a tumor in my spinal column.
6. How helpful were the Doctors you consulted with?
Not helpful at all. Doctors treated my family and I very poorly because they thought this was all in my head. They thought I was making my sickness up and treated me like a joke. Made negative comments and treated me very badly. Doctors were convinced I was faking it. It was so frustrating and very hard on my family and I emotionally.
One Doctor finally recognized that I was not faking the symptoms. A Neuro-Psychologist diagnosed me with Cognitive Disorder NOS. Only after this diagnosis did the primary care Doctor I am seeing now begin to take my condition seriously. Honestly, it has been an uphill battle.
7. Did any of your initial Doctor visits consider mold or air quality as a cause of your sickness?
None of the physicians even considered mold or air quality as the cause of the sickness, which is very frustrating because some molds are toxic.
8. When was mold identified as the cause of your sickness?
April 25, 2013…nearly six years later identified mold as the cause of sickness.
The only reason I began investigating this further was because my friends told me to look into this as the cause because they witnessed my condition getting worse and worse. My friends watched me transform from an able bodied woman with a good job, to not being able to work at all, to barely being able to function.
I am 41 years old and should not be this sick. Yet, not one Doctor even considered that the air quality or toxic mold could be making me sick. Literally, my brain was shutting down because of a lack of oxygen, I had bad tremors, could not walk, was stuttering, and lost most of the strength in my right hand because part of my brain is now damaged.
I visited Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s website, Surviving Mold, and started doing some research.
I purchased a test kit and tested the air quality in my apartment myself. The results were not good.
I then asked my landlord to hire a company to investigate further, which luckily they did.
The tests were positive for high levels of Toxigenic molds, including Stachybotrys (black mold), Aspergillus, and Penicillium.
Once I found out that high levels of toxic mold were in my apartment I began explaining this to my primary care physician. I, basically, educated my Doctor. Sad, but true. After nearly six years of suffering, I was the one who had to educate the supposedly educated Doctors I had been seeing about the cause of my illness. It has been a very painful couple of years, but I am feeling relieved now that the cause was identified.
Soon after the mold was discovered, my landlord did the right thing and hired a company to remediate the problem. I was forced to basically throw away all of my belongings, anything that had spores on it. Painful experience, but it had to be done.
Sadly, this whole experience could have been avoided. Apparently, this apartment building has had many moisture problems and experienced some flooding in the past.
I plan to move out, but financially it is difficult. My only hope is that the remediation and moisture issues have been addressed properly, so my condition gets better.
9. What treatment are you currently on?
The first test I underwent was to determine if I was genetically pre-disposed to mold sickness.
According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, 25% of us have this genetic pre-disposition.
Both, my daughter and I, have tested positive for the genetic disorder making us very susceptible to mold illness.
I think my mother always knew that I was susceptible to mold sickness. I grew up in Hawaii, but my family ended up moving to New Mexico because my mother thought the dryer climate will be better for my health.
I have been following Dr. Shoemakers treatment and started taking Cholestyramine
In addition, I have been following a strict No-amylose Diet and only eat green leafy vegetables and lean protein.
I have also started on a herbal cleanse.
10. How long do your Doctors think it will take to recover?
I am feeling about 50% better. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s are not sure how long it will take and if I will experience a full recovery, I am hopeful that I will reach at least 75%, but not sure. Right now I am disabled still and really need to concentrate on recovering so that I can enjoy the rest of my life.
Very frustrating for me is the reaction of my Neurologist who has offered no assistance or help. My brain is damaged and when I explained that mold was the cause, I was told that she has “no clue” how to treat me. Very sad state of our medical profession knowing that they do not understand the problems caused by mold. I really think medical schools need to devote more attention to this problem and train Doctors. According to Shoemaker, the “science is clear”, so makes me wonder why the mainstream medical community does not take this more seriously.
Fortunately, the Doctors figure that my daughter will recover 100%, so I am very happy about that.
11. Any other thoughts?
For those suffering from this condition, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t lose hope.
I also think that it is really important for landlords, businesses, and homeowners to really be aware of the potential risks caused by leaks and moisture. Mold almost killed me.
If your basement floods or you have a leak, make sure that you deal with the issue and make sure that you eliminate the possibility of mold developing.
In my case, my daughters and I suffered so much. We did not need to suffer from mold. This should have never happened in the first place.
If you suspect mold, get a mold inspection or air quality tests. It is better to be safe than sorry, don’t risk allowing your family to get sick.

19 thoughts on “Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Gina Lopez

  1. Kelsey

    Thank you Gina for Sharing you story. It has hit very close to home. You are truly going to help so many people. You have made me feel like a person again. Knowing I truly not a lone out there. Thank you thank you for sharing your story Gina.
    For the past 5 years I have been experience many physical symptoms doctors could not help me with. I have had numerous medical test done and everything coming back normal. Last July my body went into one big flare up and in less then 4 months I lost over 30 lbs, I could not eat, drink, hardly walk, talk, slept 18-20 hours a day. By October doctors put me off work but were telling me there was nothing physically wrong with me. By Jan I still had no answers of why I was so sick and losing so much weight. doctors did not take me serious in the 5 years of getting medical test. When I mentioned to one specialist about mold he laughed and said it doesn’t appear you have lung disease. 2 months later after a lot of research on my own I found my own diagnoses and started saving my own life by learning all about Mycotoxicosis the natural way because I could not afford prescription drugs and doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. I wanted answers before they covered up my symptoms. After going to see my family doctor and talking to him all about mold, how it is the problem and after asking to be referred to an environmental clinic, he looked at me and said “I think you may be on to something.” The environmental clinic diagnosed me with mold sensitivity and food intolerance. My elementary school, high school, college and 5 years of a workplace all had mold. I was exposed to mold for over 20 years and had no knowledge or education about the long term effects until I was on my death bad and medical doctors still could not tell me what was wrong. I started seeing a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine who opened my eyes and mind to a her new world of medicine and balanced lifestyle. It has been a very difficult and emotional 18 months but with never giving up and always believing made me keep on moving forward and never looking back. I am just starting to get back on my feet and starting a new career with Atlantic Healing Hemp and becoming a wellness coach. I am 26 years old been off work for over a year, had to find my own diagnoses and truly save my own life to be here today because of the lack of knowledge there is out there about mold and environmental illnesses. I go into Anaphylactic shock when I enter a “sick building” in less in 10 minutes my parasympathic nervous system is affects and my entire body begins to shut down. I have a yeast allergy as well I had a hair analysis done so I was able to know what food items my body was able to handle and what it couldn’t. it was like having my own personal food guide. With any yeast products i may come in contact with I have physical symptoms before the item gets digested. Where I live I can not go into 2/3 of the building and homes in my own community. I use whole foods for medicine, t-zone machine for exercise, infrared sauna for detoxifying, I take hemp oil and hemp seeds every day for a balanced diet, use Atlantic Healing Hemp therapeutic products and I also use their non chemical body products.

    Your story is incredible, you are going to inspire so many people and open up so many peoples eyes and mind about mold. You are a very brave and determined woman. Wish you all the best on your journey of recovery and to your future with your family and friends.

    Kelsey
    Nova Scotia, Canada

    Reply
  2. Gina

    Hi Kelsey..
    I can completely relate to your life. For me, my story is so close in so many ways to mine as well.. i am so happy, however, you now can get treatment and mold illness is recoverable, but a hard journey.
    I am currently undergoing another detoxification, along with my children, as they well have been diagnosed with mold illness..
    I wpuld be happy to be of support and help with being positive through this with you. Recovery is a difficult journey, mentally and physically, but to know your not alone, makes the healing much easier. On Facebook, i have many groups, that ypu can find advise, other sufferers and support. U may email me or find me on facebook @ raiderette111@gmail.com.
    Thank you for your kind words, i am overjoyed to know that sharing my story, is helping others around the world.. its time to get the word out about how toxic and deadly some mold can be. My positive thoughts your way. Never give up..
    Blessings to you, Gina. ♥

    Reply
    • Kelsey

      Hi Gina
      You are 100% this journey is hard and can be very difficult mentally and physically. Never losing hope and having positive support is a very important for anyone who is going through difficult times. People like you encourage people to keep going and never give up.
      I have re-read your story and watched your interview a few times and each time I see my own life and truly can relate to all your symptoms. It is such a difficult hard frustrating journey especially when medical doctors can not give people like us help until its almost to late. I have added you to facebook to join you and your support groups. I truly think sharing our stories and getting the word out there will open a lot of eyes on mold. I know where I live there isn’t any laws about mold it falls under the health & safety act. Having more education & awareness sessions about mold I think you would help with the future of other people getting extremely sick like the two of us. I know we are not a lone.
      Thank you for your positive thoughts, keep your head up high
      Kelsey

      Reply
      • Gina

        Thank you Kelsey.. it is amazing to me how many years i sufferedike everyone else sickened by mold, and had no idea.
        Thank you for the kind words, i will never give up the fight for mold awareness..
        Bless you, and be well, Gina. 🙂

        Reply
    • nancy galton

      hi my name is nancy and i live in newyork ..my boyfriend and i have been sick for four years now and we know its from mold illness..our doctors will not help us because they think we are crazy because they dont know what mold can do to you..we have also lost alot of weight and lost our quality of life…do you have any sugestions for us on what to do because we dont have alot of money to pay for a toxicologist..we have so many symptoms i dont know where to start

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    Thank you so much for this story and video. I was also exposed to a very toxic black mold environment for years, and then lived in other homes afterward that still had mold issues, so I am still sick. Doctors say I’m making things up, or they try to give me steroids or antidepressants. I have had nosebleeds, hair fall out, memory issues, cognitive issues (reading the same sentences over and over for example), sensitivity to alcohol, sensitivity to fragrances, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, the list goes on and on. I am tired of suffering and I am actually in a musty-smelling basement that has mold as well and trying desperately to find a safer place to live where I can heal. The one place I moved to in the last few years that was mold-free allowed me to heal a lot, but unfortunately I had to move to where I am now because of family issues. I am praying that God will help all of those affected by this and that we can get the word out to others just how dangerous this is. You can’t just throw bleach on it and get rid of the issue.

    Reply
  4. Gina

    To know i have enspired and broke out with so much awareness, with my story, has humbled me so much, and inspired me to work even harder with attourneys and legislation, to recognize how deadly, mold is to our health.. and epidemic it has become.
    I thank Sanjay & James @ gotmold? for doing all they do,eduction an doing this interview.. the word would not have gotten out, as this story has..
    Many blessings to all.. and be well..
    ❤ Gina.

    Reply
    • Shonna

      Hi Gina.
      Thank you for sharing your story. I do hope you are well on the mend at this point. I, too, suffer from mold sickness. My sickness/symptoms are eerily similar to yours. I went to doctor after doctor who told me everything from mold would not make me this sick to it was in my head and I needed to get a handle on my stress. I only lived in the mold infested building for a year, but the impact of living in that building and the sickness incurred from it will be with me for the rest of my life. I may be about 65-75% better, but then there are days when I feel like I’m right back in the center of my illness and can barely function, especially if the outside mold count is high. I am following a lot of Dr. Shoemakers treatments, but still need to find someone who will go the next step with me and help reduce the toxins and residual inflammation I suffer from. Like you, I cannot believe how little Western Medicine practitioners know about mold sickness; and how unwilling they are to educate themselves on it. I am a researcher by nature, and an academic by trade, so when there’s something impacting me or the people around me I learn as much as I can about it. I was dismayed when my primary care physician more or less told me she would not help me any more – even though I was supplying her with tons of information and basically telling her how to treat me. It’s frustrating beyond measure. There are so many stories out there that are just like ours and it breaks my heart and quite frankly angers me. I am interested in speaking with you and ay other person who has experienced mold sickness for a research project I am considering doing. Please feel free to contact me at the email address above if you want to talk further. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope to speak with you soon.

      Reply
  5. Shelia Grady

    Hi Gina, Thank you for sharing your story, I thought I would share mine with you. I have been having different sicknesses for many years. I told my husband I thought the house was making me sick, he kinda did the eye roll. He doesn’t believe the house can make me sick. I told him it smells musty and I think there is bad mold in our basement. He just said, well have you seen any mold. So I went to my doctor and told her that very day that I thought all my past illnesses were related to toxic mold. She ask why I thought that, I told her that most of the symptoms she has diagnosed me with over the past few years are listed as symptoms of toxic mold poisoning, and that the house had a long history of flooding from the neighborhood sewage backing up into our basement when there was a big rainfall. Also the gutters go directly down right at the foundation. And this house use to belong to my mother in law before she past and she had all the windows nailed and sealed shut, so there is no circulation either. And the back yard is all shaded to the point that no grass will grow. And when it rains the back yard looks like a lake. Which mean all the water is going right down onto the basement walls. The basement is so damp I have seen slugs living down there. And the air smells musty even when I am sitting in my living room. That’s when she said don’t go down in your basement anymore. And in the coming winter she will have a specialist on allergies test me. Unless we can prove there is mold sooner. So I went home and armed with my cell phone camera I went down and started investigating for signs of mold. I was horrified at what I found. When I showed my husband, he went down to look for himself. But his response was, oh that’s not even close to what it was last year. I couldn’t believe he was blowing it off. Oh and my doctor had also just diagnoised me that same day with asmha possible mold induced. I was having asmha attacks. So she put me on two different inhalers. But in the past 10 years I have been diagnosed with a heart erythmia, aka… mitro valve prolapse. my heart rythium would slow down then skip beats and then speed up and repeat.(So She has me on heart medicine) I have had multiple test run for various ackes and pains. MRI and CT scans for bad migraines to rule out any tumor issues. Had surgery because I was diagnosed with with a bad case of Gerd. while in the hospital they had issues getting my blood oxygen levels up. I was diagnosed with anxiety attacks(and prescribed medicine for that), restless leg syndrome because I get a restless feeling and can’t stop jerking and twitching (prescribed medicine of that). I was told on one of my visits to the doctor that my red blood cells were low and my whites were high. I have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, I have had and still have ear aches ( infections), and pain in my right ear. I have nausea enough that I was prescribed medicine for it. I have noticed lately that I have some trouble remembering things and stumbling on words sometime and loosing my train of thought. I was told I was vitamin B 12 deficient(so now I have to take vitamin B 12), I have never in my life, and I am 54 years old, ever had phnemonia, or bronchitis. but I have bronchitis 6 times this year and phnemonia once last year, and two times this year. Requiring antibiotics and steriod shots on mulitple occasions, I have had nose bleeds. And where I once had long thick curly hair, it is now much thinner and less curly. It has been coming out in the shower about a half a handful at each shower for the past year. These are some of my issues. But for years I have been told, it is this, or it is that. or your just getting older. I even stopped having periods 6 years ago. I was told it was just early onset menopause. Now I have read about toxic mold and all my symptoms are listed there. It has scared me to the point I moved out of my house and in with one of my sons. without my husband because he thinks the house is fine if he just wipes it down with bleach and change the air conditioner filter. (And he refuses to wear a mask while cleaning around it.) Even though black mold is clearly visible, infact covering the air condition vent hoses. And he scrubbed it down last year only for it to grow back again. I did order several mold testing kits and have sent them to be tested. But I am still waiting for the results, they say it will take 2 weeks to get back. I have told him I will not move back home till it tests clean of mold. Even my youngest son who just turned 19 and left for college and has lived his entire life in this house has suffered from chronic Sinusitis since he was about 6 years old. He also has high BP, and has to take medicine for it, as does my daughter who was diagnosed with high BP at age 17. She is now 33 and out on her own since college but still takes BP medication. And my husband has had high BP since he was about 18 but went undiagnosed till a few years ago. Did I mention he has lived in this house since he was 8 years old. And it has always flooded in the basement, till I had the city fix the backing sewer issue about 12 years ago. but it is still always very damp feeling down there. I now have issues with my BP as well and will most likely be put on BP medication at my next doctor visit. It has been running in the 160’s/ 90’s. Hoping to have answers soon, but wish it had been know years ago. Sincerely, Shelia

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *