The following interview appeared in the May 2014 newsletter of Samaritan Ministry. Samaritan offers a Biblical, non-insurance approach to medical care, and after six years of pursuing health via nutrition and other alternatives, we are excited about the unique program offered by Samaritan. (Read more about Samaritan here. Read more about our decision at Our Decision to Opt Out of Health Insurance.)
Thanks to Brittany Klaus of Samaritan for all of her work in compiling this interview.
Chris and Andrea Fabry and their nine children began experiencing puzzling health problems after they moved from Chicago to Colorado. They saw dozens of doctors and specialists for the next eight years, but their health continued to deteriorate. Despite the insistence of medical professionals that the family members’ illnesses were unrelated, a determined Andrea put the pieces of the puzzle together in 2008 and was finally able to identify toxic mold exposure as the culprit. Below, Chris and Andrea give a brief summary of their family’s ordeal.
Chris Fabry (CF): We moved to Colorado in 2000. We bought a dream house—5,500 square feet. We thought we would grow old and die in that house. We almost did. Behind the walls, unseen by us, were two leaks that were in the original construction.
Andrea Fabry (AF): In the first year of moving into the home our 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, another daughter developed food allergies, and another a mood disorder. Our dog developed diabetes, a bird died, and we found ourselves at the doctor constantly for viruses, colds, and respiratory problems.
We made no connection with the home until we found black mold seven years after moving into the home. We hired the wrong remediators who tore open the walls and blew toxic spores into our ventilation system. Within six weeks of the remediation our 7-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and within three months our 11-year-old son developed ringing in the ears, and ultimately a serious balance issue. He was wrongly diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. Our 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency (a vision disorder), our 6-year-old showed severe behavioral problems, and the list went on. After one year of the most serious illnesses we found mold again and finally made the connection.
We saw more than 60 doctors in 2007-2008. Not one doctor suggested the home might be contributing to the myriad of illnesses in the family. In fact, they were not interested in the other illnesses. They focused on a particular child only.
CF: Most of the medical professionals just wanted to treat the symptoms of the individual kids. What we learned was that a good veterinarian, when he sees that you have multiple animals that are sick in the barn, will ask, first, “What are you feeding them?” and second, “What’s going on in that barn?” But none of the doctors asked, “What’s going on in the house?” It was just, “No, it’s not related to that. We don’t think it’s that.”
I was very resistant. I was totally convinced that it wasn’t the house. I was the biggest apologist for the other side, thinking that if we just get the right medication, we’ll get this thing cleared up. Then when it all came together for me, I realized that if there’s anybody out there who really believes that this is a problem, we’ve got to find who that is. And that’s what my wife did—she did all the legwork and found the doctor down here [Arizona].
AF: Only thanks to the Internet did I figure out the connection. Once I started to research Stachybotrys (our prevailing type of mold) did I see how many of the illnesses were related.
After corresponding with a leading toxicologist in the field of toxic mold we made the difficult decision to treat the home like a fire and leave everything behind. We chose to start over. Once we did this and we were still symptomatic we sought medical help from a mold specialist in Arizona. As I was having difficulty functioning with a severe brain injury and liver problems, I suggested we seek refuge in the desert to try to turn our health around. My husband agreed to do whatever it took.
CF: We did a regimen of prescriptions and detoxing for several months, and we realized that we were reacting as much to the medication as we were to what we still had inside of us from the mold. That’s when we tried to figure out the best way to combat this in a natural way, and that’s when we went more toward an approach of less drugs and more alternative methods: What you eat, what you put into your body, exercise, living as naturally as you can. We stayed away from processed foods and pesticides. I lost 70-80 pounds in the next 16 months from the diet change and exercise, so this ordeal has, in a way, made me healthier than I’ve ever been.
AF: We developed severe chemical sensitivity several months after leaving the home. This commonly occurs in individuals exposed to high levels of mold. The detoxifying capability of the body is compromised and therefore is unable to cope with normal, everyday toxins such as pesticides, fragrances, carpet chemicals, etc. We used activated charcoal, clay and other supplements to detox, and during the initial phases we became much worse. As we stuck with the radical dietary changes and continued with alternative treatments, we noticed improvements. It took several years of patience.
Before, our kids could not work or be in school. Now, all are able to participate in life again. The chemical sensitivity has improved dramatically, and my brain function has improved. There are still lingering effects from the mold exposure. Our son has Type 1 diabetes. Mood issues are still present. Post-traumatic stress plays a role. Our son’s ear ringing and vertigo can reappear. Rashes still exist (though vastly improved). I still struggle with memory problems.
CF: It’s still controversial because the mold diagnosis is not accepted in mainstream medicine. I get emails and people will write these nasty comments on things that we’ve posted that say “This is crazy” and “You guys are all making this up.” The only thing I know is that I’ve lived through it, and I saw what it did to my body, I saw what it did to my wife, to my kids, to the pets that we had. So, for us it was a very real thing that we had to figure out. Our home insurance and our health insurance didn’t cover any of the damages, but our family and the body of Christ came alongside in unbelievable ways. Until recently we had health insurance, but we don’t go to the doctor much anymore. We’re eating healthier, exercising and allowing our bodies to repair themselves as much as possible.
When we first got out of the house, it was all about mold, all the time. Mold’s bad, mold hurt us, mold stole our house, mold stole our life. We were going to write a book about the experience, but the longer we’ve lived the more we’ve realized it isn’t really about the mold. It is in the sense you have to deal with the problems and struggles, but the deeper issue here is about what God is doing inside of you, what God is drawing you toward through whatever you’re struggling with. He’s bringing you to a new place in your life, and you can either make it about the bad that you’re trying to get over, or you can make it about moving toward Him, and moving toward life. That’s what we’ve seen with the level of losses we’ve had. This is the purpose—He came to give you life and give it abundantly. I don’t know that I would have stopped eating the way I did. I probably would have heart disease and die a lot sooner. I don’t know if I’d be spiritually where I am today, if that hadn’t happened in 2008. It’s just a fact of life—when you go through that kind of struggle and you lose just about everything, it does something to you, it does something inside of you.
This interview first appeared in the May 2014 newsletter of Samaritan Ministries.
- 46I am the wife of Chris and mom to 9 children. I like to think outside the box and encourage others to do the same. I have an incessant curiosity about environmental health, one of the many outcomes of our family's encounter with toxic mold. (Read more here.) I am certified…
I read your story in Samaritan and that is what led me to your website. I have really been touched by your story and willingness to help others by sharing what you have learned. I pray that your whole family will continue to heal as you lead a healthy lifestyle.
I’ve referred this website to a couple of my friends who have had some issues with health/mold in their lives.
You have a beautiful family!
Andrea Fabry says
Nice to hear from you, Caroline! I appreciate the encouragement.
We had to leave our home because of mold and mold became a bogeyman. I used to curse that nobody understands and how I’d been victimized. Life is still upside down two years (and 5 residences) after we vacated. I have health problems and these have improved but I’ve realized it wasn’t only about my bd luck with mold. I suffered from emotional trauma that had never been resolved but papered up with mood altering psychiatric drugs that made things way worse. After I withdrew those drugs I thought for a long time I was a victim of pharma-psychiatry since I’d had so many issues at the home.
I resonate with this article because it’s not really the mold. The mold was a gift to see how toxic I really was. It’s hard to say about being a gift sicne I still have health challenges like immune deficiency, heavy metals, nerve damage, bowel/digestion damage and on and on … But I see now there is more to health and even the world than I ever could have hoped to have realized had this extreme and unusual health crisis forced me to look at the facts and make my old determinations even if some of my realizatoins struck me as pretty revolutionary and crazy-sounding!
Thanks for your great blog.
Andrea Fabry says
Thanks for taking the time to share, Bryan. I struggle still at times to be grateful for the mold – but I also know I would be missing all of this knowledge. Thanks too for the encouragement!
I can’t pretend I am always grateful for the mold but I try to be and I do believe that once I am better I will be grateful for it.
I’m still detoxing mycotoxins 20 months after leaving our home and recently damaged my brain with a new supplement. I am not feeling grateful at all right now. I am scared and stuck on a tightrope of life where I am not really participating but attempts to get well have backfired badly. It is easy to fall into victim thinking but I check myself as best I can because victim thinking only adds to the problem.
I am also lucky because I think I will fully recover and not everyone who got as sick as I did will even get 1/10th of my opportunity to heal.
I am a big fan of your blog btw for the last year and a half. You have a wonderful family, very photogenic.
Andrea Fabry says
Thanks for the encouragement, Bryan. I so agree that victim thinking increases the load. 20 months is not long. You’re on a good path.
Thanks for posting this. It brought me to tears. Our experience was similar, yet on a much smaller scale than yours… and yet, the big bad mold still finds its way into my thinking, day in and day out. I try not to let mold (and our experience with it) have more power over us than our Big Awesome God, but it is still so difficult! Self-pity and regret do no favors. Trying to be thankful, but it’s a fight.
Or, maybe it’s just the detoxing that makes me so emotional. 😉
Also, did you ever think that you would never be healed from it all? Do you feel that way now?
Andrea Fabry says
Hey Danielle! I assumed we would get healed and then eventually I didn’t really care one way or the other. Not sure that makes sense…but I think I let go. I honestly don’t think about healing so much now. I don’t think so much about mold either – which surprises me. It’s been more than five years, though. It sounds like an emotional time for you and that’s a very good sign in my mind. I have been there…ask my family. 🙂
Thanks, Andrea. 🙂 I think that’s exactly what I needed to hear.
Andrea Fabry says
Sure, Danielle. It’s a journey to say the very least. I sure do appreciate you!
Thank you for this endearing site! Funny is I am now going to schedule an appointment to see if mold could potentially be my issue as well. For the past few years I have had changes in my skin (dry and weird tiny bumps that just pop up that look like tiny flea bites), cold limbs, discoloration in my skin, my dog has lost a lot of his fur and black spots..I have been from doctor to doctor, dermatologist to dermatologist…I have no real sinus issues but definitely histamine issues I have never have had… Funny thing is at one point I thought scabies because of the rashes and I literally threw everything out of the house but the air/heat..Now than I am thinking about it..we have seen black colored mold but the cleaning person jest bleached the walls down…I live on the ground floor and the unit above had leaking issues but now I wonder if they fixed it correctly. I am calling tomorrow to get mold testing.
Andrea Fabry says
You’re smart to make this connection, Hannah. Dust sampling would be optimal in this case. Let me know if I can help in any way!
Thank you for your informative blog.
I’ve tested positive for mycotoxins through RealTime Labs, but don’t know if my exposure is from my current place or a previous one. But I’m concerned about the pattern that seems to exist where people who do the extreme avoidance always seem to then later develop severe chemical sensitivity.
You said above that that’s because the detoxification capability of the body is impaired, which is what I don’t understand. Why would one develop MCS after they have left a toxic mold environment, especially if they never had it before? Wouldn’t the body be able to handle or detoxify things easier once one is away from the toxic mold?
Andrea Fabry says
This is a great question, Douglass. You would think the body would simply be relieved and detox immediately. Some people really do recover quite well without the MCS. I used the MCS as a message from my body to give it a complete break from everything and tried to spend as much time outdoors as I could to allow the inflammation to settle down. For a more scientific answer to the MCS issue I really like the explanation offered by Datis Kharrazian in the book “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” I have a post called “Is your loved one crazy?” that discusses this book…here’s an excerpt:
The author notes that TILT develops in two stages. The first stage is the breakdown of the body’s natural tolerance. This can occur over a long or short period of time. The second stage is when an ordinary exposure suddenly triggers an immune response.
Kharrazian lists several case studies:
A woman has mild sensitivities and then stays with a family member who uses heavily scented commercial laundry products. Because the apartment is small and the air quite concentrated, the woman experiences debilitating vertigo.
A woman works as a florist, regularly mixing buckets of pesticides with bare hands. She develops severe lupus as a result.
A woman helps her parents clean with a variety of chemical solutions and then develops symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Let me know if this helps or needs further clarification.
Thank you for your kind reply. I didn’t know what TILT stood for, so I appreciate the link to the more detailed information from the doctor you mentioned. I thought this quote was very interesting, but puzzling as well:
“When a person suffers from TILT they aren’t necessarily sick from the toxicants, they are sick from reacting to them.”
That seems to fit in with the ‘brain-retraining’ school of thought, which is also kind of confusing, but I guess means that after someone reacts severely to some chemical or toxin, then that becomes deeply ingrained in their amygdala or in their brain someplace, so that even though the ‘toxicant’ might not cause a reaction, their past reaction becomes automatic, and they say, goes away when the brain is ‘retrained’. I don’t get it, but that’s what they say over on the Planet Thrive website.
The examples he gives that you quoted seem to make sense, but they don’t explain again why so many people develop severe MCS-type reactions after getting away from chemicals and mold. That’s what I just don’t understand.
I can understand if someone was having increasing reactions while living in a moldy house or around a lot of chemicals for a period of time, but I don’t understand why these people who never had reactions to chemicals suddenly develop them after living out in the fresh air and wilderness.
I appreciate your efforts to help me understand this, and will see if I can get the doctors book at the library.
Andrea Fabry says
I’m only surmising here, but it would make sense to me that after one leaves a contaminated environment the body demands a break…the sensitivity is a good thing in moderation, but the fact that it becomes too reactive shows an injured immune system that might not manifest until leaving. I bet you’ll glean more from the book.
I so wish I could get help with this … me and my children have been in and out the doctors since we moved in this house no one belive me yet I have photo grafic evidence .. .. I just know one of us will end up dead at someone point .. I keep asking for strength and health from my angels but I can’t ever imagen not waking up and having a allergie that cause my fave to have lesson .haor loss …tonsiliouse?? 12 ear infections .In 6 months thrush . Rashes .. flu like symptoms. Never been ill b4 .. keep asking what I did so wrong to deserve this .. ? I just want to die .. social services won’t take my children as they can see something wrong but they are able to move us
Andrea Fabry says
I’m so sorry to read this, Gemma. Please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruth Ruddock says
Found your website tonight…can’t sleep, again, leg pain, smelling the house, etc.
Question: my partner and I are thinking of leaving this house, with an RV in mind, to travel to an area where we can see a mold specialist…this will take enormous effort and all the money that we can scrape together…wondering if this is a good plan. We are in a very rural area of northwestern Nebraska, and so far we do not know of anyone who specializes in mold illness and treatment. There is a Dr. Joseph Brewer in Kansas City whom I will be in contact with this coming week, but not sure he will take new patients now.
We must do something and soon. My partner has need of arthroscopic knee surgery and will have that first…he has asthma as well, which has worsened this summer. The house is concrete blocks and has had mold issues over the past several years. We had a company come in to clean it using our choice of products (Nature’s Eradicator) and it has helped, paneling was removed in areas of visable mold, air tests were taken before that, but no follow-up testing was done…there is not enough money to do this. We do not feel much better, and both have sleep issues, food sensitivities, MCS, panic attacks when driving (me), and EMF sensitivity (me).
When you are 71 years old and have only social security to live on, it is scarey to think of what lies ahead with a drastic move, etc.
Is it necessary to leave everything behind? Is it necessary to move away to a location to actually see a specialist?
Thanks for any help you can offer.
Andrea Fabry says
Hi Ruth. I will email you directly. You are wise to consider leaving this home.
Our family has been exposed to radon and we have had some surface black mold exposure too. What I’m wondering about it what to actually do to detox our family safely. Our boys are 8 and 10. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Andrea Fabry says
This post will give you some options. Alternative health care practitioners may not know the specifics of mold and radon, but they understand the principle of detox.
It also might be adviseable to test your home for the mold, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with. You can email me with further questions if needed.