Monday, October 17, 2011

Mold Hit

I was really stupid.  But my lax act was also due to the impact of mold on my brain.

Let me explain.

It rained.  I had a plastic tarp under my tent, separating it from the asphalt driveway.  After a rain, I normally take down the tent, hang the tarp on the line, and air out the bottom of the tent in the sun.  I say “I normally”, but truthfully, my role has been to remind David to do this. And David wasn’t here.

Alas, the rain continued for two days.  The following day was gray, blustery, and threatening.  I told myself I’d dry out the tent first thing Tuesday morning, but the dew was thick and the air was damp.  I chose instead to go out for breakfast and take care of my calls and errands.  I hoped to be back my late morning.

Alas, there were complications.  I couldn’t find a place for breakfast.  I suddenly had long phone calls because potential buyers made a good bit on the house.  I started to feel anxious about what he’d sell, where we’d store the rest of our stuff, where we would live, whether we should get a trailer specially outfitted for MCS or if I could find a safe house someplace.  So many decisions.  So little information!

I came back to the camp and looked at the sun beating down on the tent, on the plastic, on the black asphalt.  I felt tired.  I felt lazy.  I was hungry.  I couldn’t bear to spend however long it would take to take down the tent and then, within a few hours, have to set it up again.  I ate, rested, and it was 4 pm – too late to dry the tent out in the sun and set it up before dark.

By the next day, mold had started to grow on the underside of the plastic.  Water + plastic + 3 days = mold.

I was still in a dither the next day about the house sale, and still spent more time driving into town to get wifi and cell signal than my body could handle.  I got into the tent to sleep, lay my head down, and within a minute, my sinuses ached, my nose was stuffed and I couldn’t breathe.  I did the neti pot again, nebulized glutathione, and managed to get to sleep at some wee hour of the night.

Mold, I have discovered, affects my brain before it affects my sinuses.  So the dither I was in, the state of confusion (what to do, when, how, where, yes, no)—everything I chalked up to the house sale -- was exacerbated by the mold’s effect on my brain.  And that led me the following morning to totally forget about the wet plastic and my resolve.  Instead, I came up with several other theories:  the group of 100 young campers from Dallas who were upwind had brought in moldy tents; the newly arrived RV upwind was moldy; the whiff of mold I’d gotten when I started to take a walk in the woods (before turning around) was enough to trigger a reaction 4 hours later; my sleeping bag was making me sick.  I posted on Facebook about how hard it was to know the source of a hit.

Confusion mounted in my sleep-deprived state.  On Tuesday I had e-mailed Dr. Rea’s office thinking I might get some answers if I went down to Dallas and tried to stay in one of the environmentally-safe MCS rooms he rents.  I want to be able to live indoors again, with clean feat, plumbing, and electric lights.  But I still hadn’t heard back. 

So on Thursday, I called Dr. Johnson’s office (Dr. Johnson advertizes in the chemical injury network newsletter, Our Toxic Times.  He worked with Dr. Rea for many years before going out on his own.  I asked about MCS rooms, and they sent me to the Marriiot’s Residence Inn.  The room didn’t have all of the environmentally safe precautions Dr. Rea’s assistant had described to me, but I thought I had remembered incorrectly.  And in the state of a moldie turned country bumpkin, it never occurred to me that there was more than one Residence Inn in Dallas (I think there are 8 of them!).  And so I booked myself a ‘green’ room for a week and then telephoned Dr. Rea’s office to make an appointment there.  I had two Dr.’s appointments in Dallas and a room.  I was set to go.  I would leave my tent at the campsite, take only the essentials, and if I couldn’t tolerate the room, I’d return the next day.  That was my wonderful plan.

Although I slept well Thursday night (having been deprived of sleep the previous night), all the issues of sinus congestion, memory lapses and mental confusion increased.  I had a Master Blessing Friday morning and felt fabulous most of the day.  I wrote up my questions for the Doctors and wrote up a one page summary of my recent labs.  I took the longest walk I’ve taken in 3 years: a 20 minute brisk walk.  I got into the tent just after dark and read lying down.  By the time I was ready to turn off the light, I had a swollen gland and knew I was in trouble.

Hard pounding.  Jittery.  Restless. 

I lay in the back seat of the car wondering why I was conducting this experiment.  Was it so important that I be able to sleep in the car (in a fix) when I had this comfortable sleeping pad lying on the floor of my tent just a few yards away?  I got up around midnight and went into the tent.

Instant congestion.  Unable to breathe.  Mucous production.  I lay still and breathed through my mouth.  I sat up.  My nose cleared a bit.  I lay down and got more congested. 

By morning I’d figured out the source of mold was right underneath the tent.  I meditated in my car and slept for an hour at the cusp of dawn.  As soon as daylight made activity possible, I took down the tent, got a neighbor to remove the wet plastic, and aired out the tent.  The tent bottom didn’t look bad.  There were a few spots of dirt but not many.  It might have mycotoxins in it now making it unsafe.  I hope not.  It’s the only protection from the elements I have.  I spent the rest of the day cleaning everything thoroughly, packing up the car for my journey, and blowing my nose which was running like a dripping faucet, unstoppable.

My last night at the nature preserve was wonderful. I slept under the stars in my sleeping bag and a Walrus Bug Hut (mesh netting to keep the mosquitos from biting around sleeping bag and head).  I woke with an almost clear nose and started on my journey. By the time I arrived in Dallas at the hotel, my nose was clear.

Enter more complications.  The Residence Inn had my confirmation number but no ‘green’ room booked for me. The only good thing was that the desk clerk didn’t blink an eye when I walked in wearing my respirator!  They are used to chemically-sensitive people because their 4 green rooms are often occupied by Dr. Johnson’s patients. 

Dr. Rea’s patients tend to go to a difference Residence Inn in a different section of Dallas.  This I learned from voicemail messages from Dr. Rea’s office that I’d forgotten to check both Friday and Saturday. Another memory lapse.  Of course there were no vacancies at the other place.   But there were environmentally safe condos about 5 miles from Rea’s office.  So I called there.  And although there were still no vacancies (I had checked back on Tuesday or Thursday, I no longer remember,) the owner graciously offered to let me crash in the sauna room or storeroom.

That’s where I am now.  I knew the moment I walked into the space that I wouldn’t tolerate it.  I spent a few hours outside in the garden enjoying the use of free wifi and talking to patients of Rea and Johnson.  I met many people who have made great progress under these Dr’s care.  Some are still sick, but no longer incapacitated and close to death.  Others have flown the coup and gone on to live productive lives.  I learned that Johnson is perennially late and that Rea fits everyone into the same program.

But the most important thing I learned is this:  I can’t tolerate the air in Dallas, nor the indoor air at these Regina Caeli Environmental condos.  I slept fitfully for a few hours,  got congested again (none of my own bedding!) and at 4:30, tried to sleep in the car.   But I wasn’t tired!  That’s a sign my system in on high alert doing what it does to reduce inflammation by raising cortisol.

So I’ll be moving on.  Where to?  Camping in a remote area.   I’m going online now to look for places to camp in West Texas.  I’d like to visit Guadalupe Mountain.  Or I’ll go up towards Amarillo and spend a night or two at the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon.  I probably won’t have wifi or cell signal.  Right now, sleep sounds like a much better alternative.  


  1. How do you find a tent that wont react to?
    Want to try camping as get better when leave house but worse in cars. To help digestion , have been on the SCD specific carbohydrate diet. on web at breaking viscious cycle .info really helped me.
    Friend w joint pain said her Dr tested her for ability to deal w toxins (?mthr) and hers was problematic.
    Lynn D

  2. Oh dear I do hope you’re okay now. You should be more careful next time. Especially as you have an allergic reaction to molds, it would be very difficult for you once you get exposed. You should totally be vigilant in checking that you aren’t exposed to any dangerous molds before camping at an area. Hope you’d get well soon.

    Barry Chavez

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