Read this young teacher's story, about how she fell ill from school mold (as an intern teacher) and her path to a productive, partial recovery.
At the age of 24, I was exposed to mold in the classroom where I taught. After the first exposure, I had a lot of breathing difficulty and extreme fatigue. Once I recovered, after a week stay in the hospital (where the doctors couldnít figure out what was wrong with me) and a couple more weeks at home, I went back to my classroom and was re-exposed because at that time I did not know that my classroom was what had made me sick. The difficulty breathing and the fatigue returned, but I also had many other symptoms. I had difficulty concentrating and difficulty remembering things (short-term memory). I would read a paragraph in a book and could not remember what I just read. I had trouble following conversations because of the concentration and memory problems. These cognitive problems were and are probably the worst part of the illness for me. I was always a person who excelled in school, loved learning new things, and had a great memory, and now that intellectual ability was taken away. I also had a lot of headaches, I became dizzy often (falling down stairs at one point), Iíd have weird numbing and tingling sensations, I had red dots appearing on my skin and itchiness at times, I had balance problems, I had vision problems occasionally when I had never had any problems with vision before, I was very sensitive to certain things that I was not sensitive to before, and so on. Even though the timeline of symptoms made it clear that my classroom was probably what was making me sick, prompting my doctor to write a note asking the school to test my room, the school refused to do so. Even after offering to pay for the testing, the school still refused. Many mold victims will probably find out two things: school districts are very uncooperative in these situations, and many doctors, who are unable to figure out what is wrong with you, will try and make you feel like youíre crazy. My dad, however, performed a mold test on my classroom to help us figure out what was going on with my health. We focused on looking more into mold because a teacher, who taught in my room before me, told us that he detected mold in that room. Iím very thankful that he mentioned this to me so that we were able to figure out what was wrong with me. I never was able to return to work at the school where I got sick. I also wasnít able to return to teaching until about 3 years after I was first exposed to mold.
For about a year after being re-exposed, I made very little improvement. I went to doctors locally, some of whom couldnít figure out what was wrong with me, and one doctor diagnosed me correctly and helped me some with treatment. He recommended using a hyperbaric chamber, so I bought one and still use it occasionally. The hyperbaric chamber does help some. Even with the local doctors and the hyperbaric treatments, I was still very sick and didnít improve very much. I was extremely frustrated, scared, and even felt like things were hopeless at times. Then, after learning about him through the Center for School Mold Help, who also helped provide me with a lot of other valuable information, I flew out to see Dr. Shoemaker in Maryland. He made a world of difference. I improved much more rapidly than I had the previous year. I was able to function more normally, do more things, and I felt a lot better. Itís been about 2 years now since I first saw Dr. Shoemaker, and my health has improved significantly. In addition to the medication that Dr. Shoemaker prescribed, two things that I felt helped a lot were changing my diet (no cheese, nothing with yeast, no mushrooms, no alcohol, no soy sauce, etc.) and exercising often. I would not let myself off the hook for not feeling well because as a mold patient, there are a lot of days when you donít feel well. It was often difficult to exercise, and I started with lower impact things like yoga and Pilates, but I feel that the exercise has made me a lot stronger and has contributed significantly to my improved health. I am now doing much better and can now walk several miles a day and can do strength training with free weights and weight machines.
I am now 27 years old and am physically well enough to be in the classroom. I began teaching again a couple months ago, and everything is going really well. My health is still very good. I tested my classroom with an ERMI test (I also tested my home.) to make sure that I am not in high-mold environments. I continue to exclude certain foods from my diet, and I occasionally do my hyperbaric chamber. I have some room for improvement in the cognitive department, but overall I am doing really well, and more than anything or anybody else, I have Dr. Shoemaker to thank for that. I only wish I had gone to see Dr. Shoemaker sooner.
(Anonymous Young CA Teacher)
This teacher requested anonymity due to the strong potential for discrimination in the educational workplace.
Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker's research is found on our website, where this teacher located the info about him, on the Mold Research page (type in Shoemaker in the Filter there, to find it all).
Dr. Shoemaker's websites are: www.biotoxin.info (see his Resources - Webcasts page, to hear what his research has found), www.moldwarriors.com (for book), and www.chronicneurotoxins.com (office site).