Thursday, October 4, 2012

Laundry issues


I haven’t been motivated to write. Part of the reason is because I committed to doing a paper (that 's academic jargon for an essay) for an anthology of essays from a conference that I was invited to attend last year, but  had to decline because the mold illness made travel overseas impossible. I sketched out my ideas before I admitted to myself that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a free trip to Florence.  Sigh!  How I was tempted!  But what good would it do me to be wired and incoherent or be dozing off and inarticulate for two long days?  Now if they had held it outside, say in the ampitheater in the nearby town of Fiesole, maybe I could have attended.  But at the time, I had no idea I’d do well outside.  Besides, the ampitheater is now a museum, having been built by the Etruscans several centuries before Rome ruled the Mediterranean.

Today I sent that paper off to the editor.  It was a loooooong haul--nine months, long enough to gestate a child.  I started writing it back in the winter.  I remember sitting out on the lanai in Hawaii every morning taking advantage of the shade; then spending the afternoon going to the beach and looking for better lodging.  I got to work on it in bits and starts over the next three months.  In retrospect, it’s amazing that I got a draft in by the July deadline with all the moving around and health crises I went through.  

The real challenge started when I had to revise it thanks to a corrupted file (the most recent version, of course), the lack of a printer, my contact lenses deteriorating so that I can only see out of one corner and have to turn my head like a robin to read, my glasses getting totally crazed – all this deterioration from the summer heat in the desert!  Nothing can live here but a few cacti. 

I used to batt these essays out in a few weeks in between teaching and meetings and advising.  How this illness has changed my brain!  It is most discouraging.  I’d like to announce that my brain is getting better, but there really are no signs that this is so.  Memory is an F.  Problem-solving a C minus.  Spatial awareness and visual recognition F.  Verbal skills A minus, unless oral, in which case it drops to a B minus.

Lots of other things have changed as a result of a year of avoidance.  The good news is that my sinuses are now completely clear and normal.  

In September of 2011, as I started on my journey across the country, my sinuses were moderately congested and the ENT recommended surgery to open them up.  I had a gut feeling that there was a fungal infection in them, although I had nasal swabs done 2 or 3 times that always turned out normal, but the ENT said he couldn’t tell until he cut and cultured.  Nope.  No cutting for me.  I’d see if they improved in a dry climate, I said.

Dr. Hope, who is treating me for mold illness, and who knows the work of Donald Dennis at, thought there was probably a fungal infection inside there dumping mycotoxins in to my bloodstream and keeping me sick.  She put me on an antifungal nasal spray.  I also followed Dennis’ advice to use a neti pot or nasal rinse up to 4x a day.  The nasal rinse clears out any mold spores which you breathe in the air, hopefully before the immune system mounts a reaction to them.  The nasal rinses definitely helped me to remove buggers and dust and to alleviate the stress to my nasal membranes of very dry air.

IPerhaps I am now less reactive.  I like to think this is the case but really don't know for sure as there is no standard against which to measure myself.  Maybe I am getting smarter at avoiding moldy places, or perhaps just lucky.  I managed to sleep one night in a hotel room but woke with leg cramps, which Shoemaker says is a sign of split compliment from an immune response to mold.  (I spent the second night in Phoenix sleeping in my car)

TNow I'm not far from Palm Springs, and I've felt pretty good around here.  I've even been able to go into many stores without dire consequences.

And only two sleepless, reactive nights in the 2 1/2 weeks since we moved it.  The first time was to our newest set of sheets which my husband had washed in the washing machine here.  I suspected the washer was not to be trusted.  It was a front loader, and it had sat unused for over a year.  Front loaders are notorious for getting moldy because the water doesn’t fully drain.  He ran the washer empty a few times empty, then threw in the sheets, towels, you name it.  I don't know why I didn’t object vehemently.  I forget at times to be vigilant. When we put the sheets on the bed, we discovered they were contaminated with mycotoxins, and by midnight, I was stripping the bed and sleeping on top of a towel.

The next day I went into TJ Maxx and bought a new set of sheets on clearance. They were high quality, 550 count cotton, but they made me sicker than the old ones..  I don’t know if they got contaminated with mycotoxins in the store or in a warehouse, or if I was reacting to some chemical used to treat them.  Whichever it was, trying to sleep on them left me with a splitting headache and a slight queasiness that got worse when I nebulized glutathione.  I felt wasted all day.

Now we have quite a collection of sheets!  Two sets of new sheets gotcontaminated earlier this summer.  The first new set purchased shortly after David arrived got ruined a few weeks later when he brought some awful toxin back from the San Francisco Bay area.  I washed them out by hand the next day but couldn’t get the stuff out, washed them again in a good machine but still couldn’t tolerate them.  They’ve been travelling in the back of my trunk in a black garbage bag.  Can’t bear to throw them out when they were only used for a few weeks.  

The sheets that replaced them lasted through all of July and August.  When we left the hotel outside of Boulder where we stayed while house/apartment hunting, David washed them in the hotel laundry.  I haven’t been able to tolerate them since. We had to pick up some inexpensive polyester sheets at the only store in a tiny Nevada town in Navajo country.  They also got ruined in the washer here.

A friend sent me a link to a laundry additive called EC3.  According to some tests run at RealTime Labs, the EC3 got rid of mycotoxins.  The research wasn’t impressive, and there are no data –just a letter from the lab stating the absence of mycotoxins, with no data on what was found in the clothing or linens before treating.  However, I thought it was worth a try.

First we washed the sheets contaminated in Boulder and from the SF Bay visit.  Alas, although we added EC3, it wasn’t enough to offset the mycotoxins/mold spores from the washer in this house.  Next, after reacting violently tothe new TJ Maxx sheets, I took one set of those sheets and soaked them for 20 hours in EC3 in a container set out in the sun.  Then I hung them to dry in the sun.

To minimize confusion, I took all the blankets and pillows to the Laundromat at Sam’s, where I had washed clothes without a problem for nearly 9 months.  We made up a bed with our camping mats and freshly cleaned bedding in the trailer, and lowered the back ramp.  It was the closest thing to sleeping outdoors, and I didn’t react to the sheets at all!  What a relief!  The 2nd night, repeating the same, I slept a little less well, but I had complicated things by going into town to the ENT, which meant going into a new building and staying indoors there for 2 hours. Tonight will be the first inside the house.

My advice now on the 'correct' way to go about this:  if you suspect a washer is bad, but have a particular reason to want to use it (as for example, you are paying rent for a place and that washer is in it), wash only one item, ideally something you don't mind throwing out.  Take the washed item into your bedroom and see if you react.  Of course, with fear and trepidation, how can you do a fair test?  You can have someone else wash two pillowcases, one by hand and one in the machine, and not tell you which is which. Then you can test out both pillowcases to see if you react.  If the washer seems to have potential after this,don't assume that it is!  Wash another few items and keep testing until you are absolutely sure it is not going to ruin your stuff.

Now about the house....   I’ll save it for another blog.  I can only say that I’m happy to have four walls and a roof over me, the property is magnificent and nourishes my spirit, and the rent is way too high for our budget, but desperation leads to strange behaviors and I was determined not to spend another year wandering from place to place in a tent.  It’s not perfect, but it’s working so far.