Wow. My last post was August 12, 2010. We were just getting ready for a trip to Hawaii. Hawaii has been a place of regeneration and renewal for Kim & I since our first trip in 2005. For the last several years we have been struggling with various seemingly inexplicable health issues. Kim in particular has had great difficulties with no real answers to her fatigue and strange symptoms like constant ringing in the ears and dizziness. I’ve had issues with chronic sinusitis, insomnia and at one point last spring a trip to the ER for what turned out to be “exhaustion”. Even our dog had respiratory problems.
So Hawaii. We rent a condo half way between Kona and Kailua, ocean 25ft from our balcony, green sea turtles basking in the tidal pools, a pod of spinner dolphins swimming by at precisely 9:22am every morning. Fish tacos made from yesterday’s caught Ahi and papaya for breakfast every day. Snorkeling, hikes to Kilauea, playing music at open stages and hanging out with some great friends. 2 weeks of this – of course you’re going to feel renewed. First day we arrived, Kim was barely able to make it up the 4 flights of stairs to our condo. By the end of the trip, she was jogging up them. Pele is good to us. We return home with a sense of purpose and energy we haven’t felt in ages.
It was not 5 days after returning home that things began to fall apart. Kim’s problems with her ears became extreme. She described it as having owls in her ears. A constant, frustrating and eventually scary hooting presence. Her dizziness became so bad that she could hardly get out of bed let alone teach. Kim is a violin teacher and has a studio in our basement. My issues which had pretty much disappeared in Hawaii, returned, but mostly to the level they were before. One night we had a revelation. (ok to be honest, Kim was sure there had been something wrong in the house for quite some time. I wasn’t listening) Something in our house was making us sick. A quick web search shows a few things for sick house syndrome, many of them relating to outgassing of chemicals in newer houses. Our condo is 30 years old. That probably wasn’t the issue. Then one giant red flag, Well, perhaps a black flag showed up. Mold. Black mold. [cue scary music]
I started poking around in the basement and sure enough, we had mold under the floor (probably from a water heater that flooded the basement about 5 years before. We also had an indoor pond/fishtank feature that had leaked at some point. Not just a dusting of mold. A carpet. I thought I had dealt with these problems when they happened. (I’m sure that’s dry enough…) I hadn’t.
Everything started to make sense. Kim was sicker because she was teaching from home. Teaching in the basement. Everyday. We had some suspicions that something was not quite right in the basement just before summer break last year. Kim could teach for a while in the basement, but became utterly exhausted by mid afternoon. She actually taught in the living room for most of last part of the spring session, without really knowing why.
Less than 2 weeks after returning from our holiday, I was tearing out a large chunk of our basement. Floors, walls..everything. We decided that if we could get the basement cleaned, we’d take our time and build the basement we wanted. We’d talked about putting in a bathroom down there so now seemed to be the time to do it. At a leisurely pace. Once the mold is out of the basements things should be ok right? Not so much. Kim did not get any better. We thought perhaps it was just going to take some time. After several weeks with no improvement, and maybe even a decline, we were at a loss, and at this point Kim was afraid she would be unable to recover.
Then one day, I was speaking with a coworker and we got to talking about the reno’s I’d been doing. He said he had an issue with mold in his upper bathroom. Sitting on the couch in our living room that night talking to Kim about this, we looked at each other, looked at the water stain on the living room ceiling that I’d been meaning to fix for several years and thought oh no not there too.
I immediately went and looked. I started pulling away lino, a layer of particle board and 2 more layers of lino. The mother load of mold. Right next to our bedroom. The particle board had turned into a moldy black soup. The bathtub sealant had been leaking and the toilet had never even been properly attached. A complete disaster. Everything had to come out. Even the subfloor. And that wasn’t the only thing that left. In November, Kim went and stayed with a friend for a month while I demo’d our only bathroom with a tub. Oh and I had to remove a good chunk of the living room ceiling and one wall as well.
So… You might guess that I haven’t had much time and more importantly energy for blogging, tweeting and going out to dinner. But I’m getting to the end of it. The downstairs now has a brand new jetted tub and a heated floor in the bathroom, the living room has a new ceiling, paint and new laminate flooring (cause why not at this point) the upstairs bathroom should be ready for paint this weekend. Kim returned just before Christmas and while she still has her bad days, she is getting stronger and feeling better every day, with the help of meditation and some fantastic chinese medicine/acupuncture from Dr. Aung and one of his students, Barb.
I can’t be sure how much I’ll be writing again, but I guess I’m wanting to, so that’s something. I’m hoping to get back at yoga, which I had to give up in the fall.
It does feel good to write again (hell, it feels good to anything that doesn’t involve home renovation)
I do feel pretty crappy for taking so long to figure this thing out but I am glad to have it mostly behind us.
One ironic twist on this. I’ve renovated this condo to be our dream condo. It’s really going to be great when it’s done. But Kim and I have found a house near the river valley that we really want to buy. We know who is selling it and it looks like it will be available right about the time the last coat of paint dries. Oh well, Pele put us on an interesting path.