Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Karen Dean

Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Karen Dean
The number of people sick from mold seems to be expanding exponentially. There seems to be little hope that the United States will admit it has a problem.
In our continuing efforts to let the victims of toxic mold speak, below is an interview I conducted with Karen Dean. Karen completed a BFA in painting and ceramics at Pratt Institute and continued her studies completing an MA in Art History at Hunter College. Karen had a successful career as an Illustrator and Photo Retoucher in NYC for 15 years. In the early 1990s, Karen and her spouse moved to Virginia where she started a restoration business, focusing on antique ceramics and other objects. In Virginia, Karen’s health deteriorated because of mold. Today, Karen lives and works in Southern New Mexico between Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces. Karen continues to support herself with her business and feels fortunate to be represented by local galleries. Karen is also very dedicated to the mold awareness cause and is planning a Camping Convention for fellow toxic mold survivors to meet and greet and get to know each other. This event is scheduled for October 27 to 30th at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, NM. To learn more about this event, please contact Karen through her website, Karen Dean Studios, or her FaceBook Fan Page.
Many thanks to Karen and the interviewees before her–Gina Lopez, Raffaella Tassone, Kelsey Best, Elaine Kelly, and Janis Bell–for sharing their stories with us. Awareness is our goal and hopefully these survival stories will lead to positive change to help future toxic mold sufferers get treatment quicker. If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story with us, please click here.
1. When did you move into your current apartment or home?
My husband and I moved into a coastal home in the mid-atlantic states in 1992.
2. How many years have you lived there?
I lived there until about 2003.
3. How soon after you began living there, did you begin to feel sick?
We replaced windows in the living room a year after moving in. During the next year I began to feel sick.
4. What were your symptoms?
Migraines were my worst symptoms. I also began to feel tired all the time. My husband developed arthritis. He also had bad mood swings that escalated over the years. My migraines would go away in the winter and return in the spring. I also developed bad arthritis. In the latter years I also had peripheral neuropathy , twitching, uncontrolled jutting of arms and legs. In 1999 after weeks of terrible pain, I lost my gall bladder. No one in my extended family had ever lost a gall bladder. I gained enormous amounts of weight and craved sugar constantly. I had a terribly itchy head. I got rashes over my body. Light hurt my eyes terribly. Then I started developing vision issues. Later I also had bloody diarrhea. The last three months in the house I hardly could get out of bed. When I developed a red fungus in my mouth, the Doctors thought I surely must have AIDS or Cancer. Nothing helped.
5. How many Doctors did you consult with?
I went to 3 Doctors over 10 years, 2 GP’s and a neurologist for the migraines. This does not include the many Doctors I saw while in Florida when I collapsed with the bad gall bladder. They said my bile ducts were filled with cement.
6. How helpful were the Doctors you consulted with?
None of the Doctors ever helped. One Doctor told me living with my husband was making me sick. Pills for migraines helped, but in the end I was getting a migraine every day and the pills did not help. I was told to set an alarm early, take the migraine pill and go back to sleep. Nystatin was given for the red fungus in my mouth. Nothing ever helped my itchy head. I thought I must be getting an inherited illness my mother had, Amyloidosis, because of the neuropathy, twitching and jutting.
7. Did any of your initial Doctor visits consider mold or air quality as a cause of your sickness?
No Doctor over 10 years ever suspected air quality or environmental factors could be an issue in my long illness. Even when I told the neurologist that my migraines had stopped while in Florida, and started a few weeks after I got back, he never ventured a guess at anything that would have caused them, he only wanted to find a good pill for me.
8. When was mold identified as the cause of your sickness?
Finally, after 2 months of record breaking rain, I found I could not breathe in the house, and was forced to leave. If it had not been for the breathing issue, I am sure I would have stayed and died in the house. I could not be in the house without wheezing and passing out. I went to my Doctor and told her it was mold that was making me sick. She said congratulations. She asked if I wanted a referral to Dr. Shoemaker, who was 40 min away, or she could prescribe cholestrymine, which was his front line of treatment. My eyes were bothering me so badly that my eye Doctor sent me to a specialist. He seemed to know all about mold, said it was very hard on the optic nerve. He gave me many tests and said my eyes had no disease. He then gave me a VCS test, and said it would serve to check on my improvement, and told me to keep taking CSM.
9. What treatment are you currently under?
I took the CSM and moved into a clean rental. Almost everything I owned was tossed, as my belongings made me sick to be around. My husband committed suicide. I regained most of my health after a year and 3 months. But the house developed a mold problem and I became sick again. A new house was built with moldy wood. Another mold exposure which made me sick. I was encouraged by all Doctors and friends to leave the moldy coast and move to the South West. I did in 2006, right into a moldy house. Over the years I have seen a few of the “Mold Doctors”, been on many therapies, including The Grace Zeim Therapy, and everything Dr Gray tosses at you. I regained most all my health and strength by taking six months of ALA IV’s under Dr Burton Berkson. The repeated mold exposures gave me Rheumatoid Arthritis, which Dr. Berkson cured and controls with Low Dose Naltrexone. I also have Rosacea which flares every time I bump into mold.
10. How long do your Doctors think it will take to recover?
Regaining health has not meant regaining a normal life. After many years of repeat exposures, I have developed a severe allergic response to mold spores. This is in addition to still being very sensitive to the mold toxins. I now see an allergist and integrative Doctor who is helping me with these issues. It is a 5 year antigen protocol. I am just starting a Chlorine Dioxide protocol, hoping to reap the same benefits with it as long term anti-fungal use has for some. The Golden Fleece is beating back hypersensitivity. I will keep trying for as long as it takes.
Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Karen Dean, Karen Dean, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, CIRS, Sick Building Syndrome, SBS, Dr. Shoemaker, mold, mould, Environmental molds, home, workplace, inflammation, toxins, chronic worsening of respiratory symptoms and illness, inflammation of the heart and lungs, mold illness, immune system, biotoxin illness, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, accute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and mycobacteria as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans, c-type lectins and possibly spirocyclic drimanes, plus volatile ogranic compounds, an environmental physician, 25% of the population is susceptible to mold illness

Interview With a Toxic Mold Survivor: Karen Dean

11. Any other thoughts?
I live in the desert with almost no neighbors. I must spend a lot of time sterilizing my environment. I live without insulation, as I need an environment I can keep totally clean. I have some friends and an occasional boyfriend. I have the support of my family, and would have died for sure without my sister. I work part time, from home, and have clients in a close city and from internet and mail order. In these things I am luckier than most. I would have more work if I could expand the places I could go, and have a public work space. But I am mostly healthy, and that is the most important thing. Without my health there would be nothing I could do. I try to help others by giving freely of my experience and advice. The number of people sick from mold seems to be expanding exponentially. There seems to be little hope that the United States will admit it has a problem.
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