Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Elaine Kelly

Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Elaine Kelly
You can see the wrath of mold in this story. What makes me angry is the health departments and other government agencies are failing people being exposed to mold. We are all put on this earth for a reason, maybe my suffering will help others avoid the problems I have faced. My deteriorating health makes me sad, but I am hopeful that one day I will get better.
Last year we launched our series of interviews to begin documenting the concerns of toxic mold survivors. To date, we have published articles about Gina Lopez, Raffaella Tassone, and Kelsey Best.
Below is an interview I conducted with Elaine Kelly, who also formed and manages a group devoted to mold on FaceBook called ALL THINGS MOLD~ENVIRONMENTAL DISCUSSION GROUP Post sandy victims!
1. When did you move into your current apartment or home?
I moved into my apartment on Staten Island about 1989, then moved out 6 years ago in 2008.
2. How many years did you live in the apartment?
I lived in the apartment for 19 years.
3. How soon after you began living there, did you begin to feel sick?
Within about 12 months of moving in. Prior to moving into the apartment, I felt fine, healthy and was very athletic.
4. What were your symptoms?
My health slowly deteriorated, best described as a downward spiral eventually developing most of the symptoms documented as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.
I suffered from numerous health problems. It started with chronic sinusitis and respiratory problems, including asthma. Over time, I began developing other chronic illnesses; some Doctors thought I had Lupus, an auto-immune disorder because I just kept getting sicker and sicker. I also had issues with blood clotting and was consistently feeling drained with no energy, chronic fatigue, headaches, depression, and many allergies. I also had a discharge coming out of my tonsils, developed hypo-thyroidism, visual issues, hormonal issues, arthritic hands, elevated liver enzymes, gastritis, swallowing issues, significant cognitive issues, irritability and memory loss. My eyes were chronically dry.
Over time, I knew something was really wrong with me when my body would twitch uncontrollably.
It was frustrating because I developed many health problems and the cause was never identified. In response, physicians prescribed many antibiotics, looking back, it seems like I was taking them constantly which undoubtedly damaged my immune system.
Eventually, I was unable to work. Some medical professionals even suspected that my occupation was the root cause of all my problems because I worked in hemodialysis and had to work with many chemicals. My view is that I lived in an apartment that had poor air quality and the long term exposure, compounded with the poor air quality at work, just made my condition worse. Since my Doctor suspected that my work could be the cause of my sickness, I eventually went to the Bellevue Occupational Clinic and they advised me that I should resign from my job based on poor air quality at the work place.
I have mycotoxicosis, my body has been poisoned and I have problems digesting proteins, liver problems, gastrointestinal problems (aka leaky gut), and my muscles are atrophying because my body has difficulties absorbing nutrients. My immune system has been so weakened that one health care professional told me that my current condition is equivalent to the immune system of an AIDS patient. My condition is so bad that one Doctor I consulted with in Manhattan has told me that she can not believe that I am still alive.
5. How many Doctors did you consult with?
Honestly, too many to remember; I have consulted with dozens of doctors, been hospitalized numerous times and as mentioned earlier it has been a very frustrating ordeal because no one could figure out what the core problem was.
In the end, when I was at my wit’s end as to why I was constantly sick and had developed hypo-thyroidism, I began asking my Doctors if mold could be the problem. Eventually, it was determined as the cause, but by that time it was too late, my immune system had become so weakened. My only hope is that by telling my story that other victims of mold can avoid the problems that I now face.
6. How helpful were the Doctors you consulted with?
Not much help at all. One Doctor I consulted with when asked if mold could be the cause of my sickness even laughed stating: “the theory that mold causes sickness is witchcraft” and would not even acknowledge this as a cause; his advice to me was to just stay away from mold and I would get better. The core problem is there is not much acknowledgement by the medical community that mold causes sickness.
Statements by Doctors that mold is not the cause of my condition has had a very negative impact on my relations with some friends and family who believe that my condition is all in my head because I have had so many diagnosis from different Doctors. This whole experience has fragmented my relationships with my family and the worst part is my parent’s don’t understand the sickness
I feel quite bitter because I suffered so much, seeing multiple Doctors you would think that one of them would have at least considered mold or poor air quality as the problem. I am not saying all Doctors are bad, what I think is the core issue with the medical profession is the lack of understanding and knowledge on air quality issues and how they can dramatically impact one’s health. Rather than trying to figure out the cause of my illness, I was just prescribed lots of medications.
As it stands, today I need to see Doctors that specialize in environmental medicine. But the core problem for me and many others in my condition is the fact that Medicare does not cover mold sickness, and it is difficult to get medical insurance as well. Since my illness has weakened me so much it is difficult to work, so I am in a bad position because I can not afford the costs.
7. Did any of your initial Doctor visits consider mold or air quality as a cause of your sickness?
No, and this is the reason I am so upset. It took 19 years. It was only when I developed hypo-thyroidism that the infectious disease specialist tested my blood for mold and it was determined that I was sick because of it. When the environmental specialist was hired to test my apartment for mold they found high concentrations of Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, and Cladosporium.
8. When was mold identified as the cause of your sickness?
I lived in the apartment for 19 years. In 2008, I moved into a house. I must admit, I was relieved to finally know what the cause was and thought, finally, I will start getting better. But the years of exposure have so weakened my immune system that even small exposure to mold and other toxins in the air triggers sickness.
The worst part is the home I did eventually move into had mold growing in the crawl space. Now, I not only had to deal with my sickness, but try to figure out how to deal with the mold and get rid of it. Since I was so desperate, I hired many different so-called professionals to fix the problem and spent lots of money for solutions that did not work. I feel like I was ripped off because anyone can come in and tell you they are an expert. My only advice is to be diligent and hire the right professionals to do the job right. Don’t just hire anyone who makes promises that they can not keep. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
As it stands, today, I still am paying for a house I can not live in because of my hyper-sensitivity to mold. I feel fortunate because my awareness campaign I launched on FaceBook to document my struggles with mold have led to some mold remediation professionals, like Bob Krell, Paul Bershatsky, Greg Weatherman, to come forward and help. My hope is that some day, I will be able to move back into my home. Honestly, it is has been a nightmare.
9. What treatment are you currently under?
Since I can not afford to see a physician that specializes in environmental medicine, I am essentially on my own. I am able to see a Homeopath once in awhile who has recommended that I take supplements to get enough nutrients. In addition, since I was on anti-biotics for so many years, I now take pro-biotics regularly. I did try the treatment protocol developed by Dr. Shoemaker and took cholestyramine for awhile, but could not afford the cost to do it consistently. In addition, I am actively trying to detox my body and take regular baths using hydrogen peroxide, Epsom salts, and baking soda. My goal is to detox and try to jump start my immune system, but admittedly, it is a struggle.
10. How long do your Doctors think it will take to recover?
Honestly, difficult to answer this question because I feel like I am pretty much on my own to deal with this sickness. I can not get insurance to cover any of the treatment and Medicare does not approve anything I need. It is difficult to stay positive when you realize that there is very little recognition of this problem by the mainstream medical community and as an individual I must try to get better without much hope of help or assistance.
11. Any other thoughts?
You can see the wrath of mold in this story. What makes me angry is the health departments and other government agencies are failing people being exposed to mold. We are all put on this earth for a reason, maybe my suffering will help others avoid the problems I have faced. My deteriorating health makes me sad, but I am hopeful that one day I will get better.
What frustrates me even more is the apartment building that I lived in for 19 years is still plagued with mold, the wood beams of the foundation are rotting and people still live there. Many people I knew that lived in the building have also gotten sick. The apartment needs to be investigated, but there does not seem to be a will on part of the government. The lack of culpability for the landlord that provides housing that makes people sick really makes me angry.
My only hope is that by telling my story and creating awareness, that this will, hopefully, help others from getting as sick as I have. My best advice is to listen to your body and if the Doctors tell you that nothing is wrong or it is all in your head, begin asking questions about the air quality that you are living in. You need to be pro-active and fight for your health.
If you have questions you wish to ask Elaine Kelly or would like to share your toxic mold story with us, please use the form below.