Leaky Pipe Behind Shower Wall
by Amy Mehler
Last year my husband started having more trouble sleeping at night due to a cough and sinusitus, My husband saw the doctor and they gave him meds and ran basic test. They eventually told him he had sleep apnea, and heartburn and placed on meds and a cpap machine. My daughter and I had been really sick multiple times with a variety of illnesses including pnemonia, both having difficulty with tons of joint pain, headaches, disorientation, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. She saw the doctor and increased her ADHD meds, albuterol and singular. She saw a neurological specialist as she was having so much pain and decreased circulation in her legs. Her blood pressure was over 200 and she is only 15 and very healthy. I on the other hand saw a regular doctor who told me to go to a shrink. I did and after less than 10 minutes decided I must be bipolar and put me on meds. I started having more trouble concentrating and started making mistakes at work. I went off the meds and felt a bit better. I am an ER nurse and had been reaching out to my managers. Long story short, I lost my job. I am the main breadwinner of the family. This was devastating to me, being afraid to go back to work feeling sick and like something was wrong. My family and I made the hard decision to sell our home. In doing so we needed to make some minor repairs.
I had a less than 1" diameter spot on the baseboard by the shower stall. So I removed the baseboard and noticed that it went further into the floor board. I was a bit concerned so I removed the flooring in the bathroom which revealed a scant amount of water damage on the edge of the base shower. I looked very closely at the foundation under the house and found absolutly no damage whatsoever. My husband and I decided to remodel the bathroom before damage occurred. Upon removing the walls of the shower, behind the cement board was a very strong smell and blackish mold on the insulation. The smell knocked us off our feet when exposed. We very quickly grabbed a few of our belongings and taped off the room. That day we spoke to the insurance company who sent out a mold specialist. They told us there was visible mold but did not take samples. They said it was safe and walked through our home with no decontamination involved. I was having difficulty breathing and we went to a hotel.
A few contractors came out the next day and after a week we received estimates. We decided on one and signed a contract. They said they were busy and put us on a schedule to start the project in 2 weeks which was the soonest one we could find. Two weeks later they said they were still busy and behind schedule and were waiting for a building permit. After many phone calls and calling other contractors and mold specialist to try to get help, we were finally told we needed asbestos testing before they could do the work. We got that done immediately and then they stated that we needed to hire an abatement team to remove some asbestos. Meanwhile I had a plumber who came out and stopped the leak. The contractor said we should not have done that and now they would have to redo the contract. We reached out to the county, CDC, contractors, abatement specialist and the like with no help or direction as they said it was a small amount and not harmful. Frustrated, very ill, and broke from staying at hotels, and friends houses, I bought an air scrubber and negative air machine and ducting and set it all up in the room that had been taped off. We also purchased respirators and tyvek suits etc.. and removed the remaining mold in the area as it had already been over 6 weeks.
We called in another contractor to do the foundation work within the wall. Finally someone who cares and understands. He immediately called a mold tester and abatement team for estimates. Set up multiple huge air scrubbers in our home with ducting and negative air. Re-taped off the room. The results came back with mold of course, now throughout our home even though we had been overly careful and not gone in the master bedroom since the beginning. It is toxic mold which is devastating to us. It has been over 2 months since we discovered this and the work is not yet done, but we are finally getting there.
Throughout all of this, my family and I have been very ill, my youngest daughter is unable to attend school and is going to start a home hospital program but I have no home to arrange that in. My other daughter has been diagnosed with lupus which I have as well, and she is having serious kidney problems. My husband is only having respiratory issues and extreme fatigue. I still am without work and do not know when I will be able to go back. We lost my medical insurance when I lost my job, and are running up huge bills but are unable to pay the insurance for it. We are unable to pay our bills and our mortgage as our savings is all going to the repairs of the house and hotels. This has all been a total nightmare. It has been hard to try and learn how to deal with all of this and there is so much contradictory information out there, especially when we are sick and unable to think straight as it is.
Insurance companies sent out specialists to see how the mold started and if it is an acute problem that they will have to pay for. That is all they do. After that the work is on the property owner and you should find your own plumber, abatement team, and then contractors that are specialized in that area.
We did all the regular maintenance on our home and there has been no real visible mold anywhere. Now we know you should inspect for leaks regularly.
If you are feeling ill, get out of the environment regardless of what people say. We feel a little better just from being out of the home yet we have no idea what internal damage has been done to our bodies that may affect us down the road.
This has been a life changing nightmare with no end in sight. If anybody has any advice or knowledge please feel free to share.