I should just start at the beginning here. Rewind back 5 months ago, my life was going great. I was a new dad, working as a barber and providing for my new family, and living a dream I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have. Until one day while at a TJ Max shopping for some knickknacks for our house, I started noticing that I felt strange. Like I was confused and unsure of where I was at and faint at the same time. I felt unstable and like I might collapse. The feeling persisted until I got home where I laid down and rested for the rest of the day. The next day, I felt normal again. I chalked it up to having recently donated blood and having worked out too soon after. Except the next day it happened again. The feeling persisted a little longer but went away a few hours later. Then the next day while at work, it happened a third time. This time though I felt like I was losing my ability to think clearly and was thoroughly freaked out to the point to where I drove myself to the ER. I got checked up and they told me I was fine. No heart attack, no tumors, no stroke, no blood clot. Probably just an anxiety attack. So I said okay and went home. I went to bed thinking they must be right. It must be anxiety. Except the next day when I woke up, the feeling hadn’t gone away. I felt like I couldn’t think straight. Like my IQ had dropped 20 points overnight. I didn’t feel like myself. I was so fatigued that I felt as if the world wasn’t even real anymore. And that was just the beginning. That feeling never went away, and over the next few months, my body would go completely rogue on me.
After that day, I was panicking and trying to get myself into a doctor but the wait times for an appointment were ridiculous. I was googling everything I could think of. I thought maybe I had just burned myself out. I had been getting up early, working, raising a baby, going to the gym, going to bed very late at night, practically living off of caffeine and doing that every day for months and months on end. I thought maybe I’d just burned myself out from the packed days and lack of sleep and needed rest. I took some time off work to see if that would help. It didn’t. I took a vacation to see if maybe it was stress, and that seemed to take the edge off, but the symptoms persisted. I got into my doctor finally and they ran blood tests checking for major diseases. Everything came back clean. I was told I was out of my primary doctor’s scope of practice and was referred to a cardiologist and a neurologist. In the meantime my symptoms started to get worse. I could no longer sleep. My mouth was always dry, I had an unquenchable thirst, my eyes were extremely dry, my vision was getting much blurrier than it had used to be. I started having muscle spasms and nerve pain across my body. At this point because of my lack of sleep I moved myself into our second bedroom to try and sleep a little better so when our baby would wake up throughout the night, it wouldn’t wake me if I’d had the luck to fall and stay asleep that night. I still had to work being the sole provider for my family so I had to try and muster all the energy I could get between the brain fog and fatigue I was already experiencing.
Finally I was able to get into a neurologist. At this point I had convinced myself I had some type of serious autoimmune disorder. About 6 months prior, my little sister had been living with us (she had lived there for years before I moved in) and had been experiencing many of the symptoms that I was currently experiencing. She eventually lost her vision. She went to multiple doctors and specialists all of which assumed she had MS even though she would pass every MRI and MS diagnostic test they put her through. So I was convinced we had MS and they were just missing it in her and my neurologist would find it in me and we’d finally get to the bottom of this for us both. Except the neurologist didn’t find anything in any of the tests he ran on me as well. At this point I had started developing random onset vertigo, along with neuropathy and muscle weakness in my legs. My feet started dragging when I walked and at every point during the day it felt like I had placed my feet inside a 1,000 degree furnace. It was miserable. I was so tired and now was in constant pain. The neurologist confirmed I had neuropathy but said he couldn’t tell me why. He said sometimes doctors just never know why these things happen and maybe I just need more time for more symptoms to appear to get an “AHA” moment that leads to a diagnosis. So he prescribed me medication to help with the pain and scheduled me for a few months down the line to see if anything had changed.
After that, I felt defeated and just tried to accept my situation. I took the medication that made me even more exhausted than I already was, I went to work and tried to be enthusiastic for my clients and friends and pretend like everything was okay. But inside I was just scared. I had no answers. I just knew my body was falling apart. I had started to wake up with chronic headaches and muscle stiffness like I’d never experienced from even my hardest days in the gym. Not that I had even been going. I had given up on the gym and working out even though it was one of the things I loved the most. I slowly dropped all of my hobbies. I didn’t feel like writing or playing music anymore or going out with any of my friends. I would have to force myself to find the strength to leave the house. I was depressed and hopeless but trying to stay strong and maintain the appearance that I could tough it out and be the provider, partner, and friend that I had always been.
At this time I started noticing smaller details of my illness. I noticed when I would eat bread or drink coffee or have something high in sugar, my symptoms would severely worsen. So I changed my diet to cater to that. I thought I must have a gluten allergy so I went and got checked. I was very hopeful this was the case but it came back negative. After reading how my symptoms fit, I thought I might have a vitamin b-12 deficiency and went and got checked. I was again very hopeful this was it but again the test came back negative. So I felt defeated again and just accepted what the neurologist had told me. That it was probably something that needed time to be discovered. So I kept along with my diet change, nerve pain medication, and daily vitamins I’d read were good for autoimmune disorders and had neuro-protective properties and just tried to go about my life. Still very depressed, but still acting tough and like I felt like I could make it through this. Then my friend Ben brought his pastor in one day to pray for me and it made me feel like something was in the works. Like I was going to get answers. And dang-it was I right.
A few days later Jenn turned on the tv to watch her normal morning show but the tv was already on a channel playing the show Forensic Files. For some reason unknown to her she decided to watch it instead. The episode was just starting and she discovered it was about a family who had come down with a slew of neurological problems similar to what my sister and I had been going through. The doctors could find nothing wrong with them as well and this went on for months and months until irreparable damage was done to the family. Finally, they somehow decided to check to see if their house had any kind of toxin in it and they discovered their house was infested with black mold growing behind the walls. Jenn texted me while I was at work and said we needed to talk when I got home. She explained the episode to me and said “this is it Caleb. I know it. I can feel it”. I was taken aback and skeptical but researched inspectors anyway and found the most qualified and highest reviewed one I could and booked an appointment for a few days later. I sent Jenn and Levi to stay at her mom’s in Corona just in case that is what it was while we waited for the appointment. Finally after days of waiting anxiously the inspector came. He started the inspection in the front bathroom of our house and within minutes he went out to his truck and got a respirator and gloves and told me he’d found what he thought to be toxic black mold growing under our sink. He inspected our entire house and he found evidence of mold growth behind the walls in every single room and bathroom of our house including the garage. He said this was due to cracks that allowed water to flow under the building, pipes leaking behind the walls and some incomplete construction and damage to other areas of the house. He took samples of what mold he could find outside of the walls and told me he wanted to get them tested from a lab to determine if they were toxic or not. He also opened me up to the reality that our home we had rented was no longer safe to be inhabited and I should leave and bring nothing with me until the labs came back.
About a week later the inspector called me and told me that the test results came back positive for toxic mold. The test came back for Chaetomium, a black toxic mold that is found growing with the most dangerous mold there is Stachybotrys. He explained to me that everything in that house would have to be disposed of. Based on my current level of sickness from mold exposure the risk of even trying to salvage anything and recontaminating a new environment was too great and detrimental to mine and my family’s health. He said that the largest amount of the dangerous mold he had discovered had come from my sister’s prior bedroom and the front bathroom that she had used. Aka exactly the room in which I had started sleeping in and the bathroom I started showering in before my symptoms exponentially increased. It was also where my sister spent most of her time when she began to feel extremely sick before losing her vision.
A few things fell into place after that that we’d never put together. It’s like we had the missing piece to connect everything. My 1 year old son had come down with severe rashes at our house that would always go away when visiting his grandma in Corona. We always just believed it was a heat rash because Dana Point was humid in the summertime and we didn’t have AC. But it was actually a skin reaction to high levels of mycotoxins (the toxins mold releases) in the air in our house. I then read that gluten, dairy, and coffee would also worsen those with toxic mold exposure because they all contain some type of mold spores which would explain my dietary changes I had to make. A normal body can usually process them but a body already flooded with mycotoxins will be overwhelmed by adding in more from food and drinks. I also discovered that eating or drinking anything high in sugar would worsen my symptoms because sugar was the literal life source for the mold in my body. Stachybotrys and other toxic molds are known to be neurotoxic to susceptible individuals. 75% of the population will just get a rash or a cough or blocked sinuses and red, itchy eyes but 25% of the population or those who are exposed to high amounts for long periods of time will eventually face multiple system failure in their bodies. They can cause an assortment of symptoms such as central nervous system damage ie: neuropathy, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, headaches, vertigo, brain fog, memory loss, confusion, and if you’re unlucky enough optic nerve damage causing vision loss or in rare cases blindness. It can cause swelling in certain parts of the brain and cognitive dysfunction and eventual brain damage. It sends your immune system into overdrive and it weakens as it is overwhelmed by the constant influx of biotoxins into your body and you lose your ability to properly fight them off and rid yourself of them. Mold toxicity cannot be cured by simply removing yourself from the source. Mycotoxins will cling into your body by living in your sinuses, your lungs, your gut and other places. It’s extremely hard to kill and get rid of and as long as it is in your body, it will continue to do damage.
So that’s my story. We’re two weeks out of the house yet my symptoms have not resolved in the slightest. I’m still trying to work and face my life as normally as I possibly can given the way that I feel. I now have to get my son, girlfriend, sister, and myself into a doctor who treats mold toxicity. Even if Jenn and Levi are not showing symptoms like my sister and I, they were exposed to the toxic mold and need to be evaluated and treated as well. I’m trying to get us into a specialist who studied under the pioneer of the mold toxicity field, Dr. Richard Shoemaker. There is only a handful of these doctors in the state of CA so fingers crossed that we can get in with one of them. Treatment is going to be extremely expensive as none of the environmental medicine/mold toxicity specialists accept our insurance so we will have to pay cash. Not only that, but we are also left without any of our worldly possessions. The entire life we’d built in that house is gone. All of our furniture, clothes, electronics, appliances, all of our books and photos, all of our sentimental and irreplaceable items like Levi’s first drawings or things that belonged to my father are gone. All contaminated by the heavy amount of toxic mold spores and mycotoxins that were in the air of our house. It’s one of the saddest things to leave behind everything you’ve worked for and built, everything you cherished and saved over the course of your life, but we had no choice but to abandon everything. We’re currently homeless sleeping on a mattress on Jenn’s mother’s floor in Corona while we try to collect ourselves and figure out our next step. Being the sole provider for my family, I didn’t have much saved up and mistakenly, I also didn’t have renter’s insurance on our house. We really are starting over from square one here with nothing but the clothes on our backs. But at least for the first time, we have an answer about what’s been going on and a general direction to head. By the grace of God, Jenn decided to watch that episode of Forensic Files instead of her normal show. I can only believe that happened for a reason. We have a long road to recovery and an entire life to rebuild and any donations you can make to help us achieve those things will be beyond appreciated. And even if you cannot make a donation, please just share our story or send a prayer our way for us to find healing and for us to find more answers. Thank you and God bless.
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