How Persistence Restored a little Girl's HealthBy Jason Earle Google+
Source:Habitat Quarterly - Issue 1
Caitlin Murray had been sick most of her life - 2-1/2 of her 3-1/2 years. Her mother, Jill, had taken Caitlin to dozens of doctors for her chronic sinusitis, asthma and upper respiratory infections.
Doctors had tried every drug and every treatment they knew. None of it helped Caitlin. Her mother was at her wits' end. She suspected there was something about the house that was making Caitlin sick.
Fortunately, the Murrays had the means to act. They moved out of their house in Pennington NJ and into Jill's parents' home, where Caitlin immediately improved. Then they began building a new house. Caitlin stayed healthy for a year at her grandfather's house.
"After a full year of 100% perfect health, our brand new house was built and we moved out of my parents' home," Jill said. "To my horror, Caitlin's problems started again."
The next six months led to "a near nervous breakdown" for Jill Murray. Caitlin was now 5. After seeing dozens of doctors, Jill took her daughter to Dr. Scott Kay, an otolaryngologist in Princeton.
"I was dismissed by more than 40 doctors every time I brought up the possibility of an environmental problem," Jill recalls.
One of those 40 doctors, however, thought it might be a possibility. When she took Caitlin to Dr. Kay for her "untreated, horrid sinus infections," he noted that "a trigger like mold can do such damage, especially if a person is allergic."
Caitlin "had a severe upper respiratory infection, pansinusitis (complete inflammation of the sinuses) and asthma," Dr. Kay later wrote in an open letter to other physicians. "At some point, her mother came to the realization that she might be allergic to something in the house that they were living in. She made the dramatic decision to move out of the house.
"They lived with the grandfather for a short period of time, and during that time, the child did remarkably well. Her sinusitis and asthma cleared. Her parents bought a brand new house, which they built themselves. Within weeks of moving into the new house, the little girl began to develop the same symptoms all over again. Her mother became frantic and desperate, not knowing what the problem was this time."
That's when Dr. Kay remembered a segment he'd seen on Channel 6 Action News about a dog named Oreo who was trained to find hidden mold. He didn't remember the company or where it was located, but suggested to Jill Murray that she try to find someone who had one of these dogs.
Jill quickly discovered that Oreo and her owner, Jason Earle, were right there in Princeton, just a few miles from Jill's home in Pennington. The company was Lab Results LLC, which has since become the national franchise firm 1-800-GOT-MOLD?
Jason and Oreo wasted no time zeroing in on the problem. The basement staircase was being supported by moldy lumber, and Caitlin's play room was right there next to it.
"I had walked past it countless times and never noticed," said Jill. "It was so black with mold that I actually thought it had been painted black. Jason gave me thorough instructions on how to remove it."
Once the stairway supports were replaced with clean lumber, "Caitlin's health dramatically improved immediately," Jill reported.
Then, three months later, out of nowhere, Caitlin's respiratory nightmare suddenly resurfaced.
"Around the same time of her newest flare-up, during a severe rain storm I noticed a pinging sound in our chimney and also noticed that the surrounding carpet was damp," Jill recalled. "I panicked and called Jason immediately, even before calling my husband. I felt it imperative to investigate it immediately."
Oreo alerted on the wall beside the fireplace and on the carpet. After probing the wallboard with a moisture meter and doing some detective work, Jason isolated a roof leak caused by a flashing problem around the chimney.
"Our roofer confirmed Jason's diagnosis and made the necessary repairs to prevent a recurrence. The affected carpet and drywall was removed by professionals," said Jill. "The carpet crew later told me that they were out of work for two days with headaches and nausea from the mold exposure. I think they, like most people, underestimated the possible adverse health effects of mold exposure and will probably take further precautions when dealing with similar situations in the future."
While repairs were being made, Jill flew Caitlin out to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors confirmed that Caitlin's medical problems were more than likely the result of mold exposure. The Mayo Clinic found in a 1999 study that 97 percent of chronic sinusitis is caused by mold. Other medical studies since, by such institutions as Brown University, the EPA and Berkeley Lab, have clearly associated mold with asthma, upper respiratory ailments, and even depression.
"Prior to meeting Jason and Oreo, I had been so traumatized by the fears surrounding Caitlin's health that I was ready to seek therapy. I was so paralyzed by my own fears and feelings of inadequacy as a mother because of my inability to help my baby girl that I felt like I was truly losing my mind," Jill said. "And this is coming from a certified Master of Social Work (MSW); skilled and trained in stress management techniques and strategies."
"I now know what we are dealing with. I am so thankful to have found Jason and Oreo. If you are reading this and contemplating hiring 1-800-GOT-MOLD?, take it from me - it is worth every penny to know that your family is safe and healthy in your home."
And to other doctors, Dr. Kay had this advice:
"It may be hard to identify your patient who would benefit from this type of service, but indoor mold growth should always be a consideration in the workup of chronic upper respiratory tract infections and chronic illness that does not have an apparent cause or remedy."
Caitlin's story contains lessons for many people, but Jason Earle insists the most important lesson was his own.
"Caitlin and Jill Murray represent the reason I do what I do, and the reason I had to take my company to a national scale. There are millions of Caitlins out there, and there's no way I can personally reach them all. So a national franchise organization like 1-800-GOT-MOLD? became an absolute imperative. It's my goal to heal every sick home in America, and give every child and every parent a better chance at good health and peace of mind."
In the six-and-a-half years since the Murray family's repeating mold problems finally stopped and Caitlin stopped being sick, a lot has changed for Caitlin. The difference is astonishing.
"She's so healthy now," said Jill. "She's at average height and weight, she won the physical fitness award at her school, her asthma is almost gone.
"She's an incredibly healthy, remarkable, straight-A, perfect student, a great kid. You would never, ever know she was such a sickly kid."
Caitlin, now a radiant 12-year-old, remembers.
"I remember when I was sick, it was really hard to think, and my head was kind of spinning and my throat felt like it was closing up. It was really scary."
She has some serious thoughts for the future as well.
"I think that somehow we should find some way to stop this from happening to other people. I'm glad it just happened to me and no one else... and I should be the one who should help everyone so it doesn't happen to anyone else."
Doctors, she said, "should have learned this when they went to college, about how to deal with this (mold)... and they should train more dogs and they should send them, like, all around the world, and they can send them to help."
We're working on it, Caitlin.
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