Hidden domestic problem left 37-year-old woman with dementia ‘perfectly healthy’

An Australian woman has revealed how a secret mold infestation in her Sydney home led to her being diagnosed with dementia and even forgetting her own name.

The consistent wet weather that has plagued the east coast of Australia for the past 18 months means that many residents are now acutely aware of how quickly mold can take hold in the home – and how difficult it is to to get rid of.

Although most people understand that mold is harmful to our health, it’s hard to know how much of an impact it can have until you experience it.

Amie Skilton is one of the 25% of the Australian population who has a genetic vulnerability to mold toxins, which means exposure to mold triggers a huge inflammatory response in their body and can even lead to organ damage.

However, the 42-year-old only discovered it five years ago following a horrific experience with a moldy flat in Manly.

Skilton, then 37, moved into the apartment in 2016 with her husband.

Mold
Amie Skilton has a genetic vulnerability to mold.
Amie Skilton

At the time, she was ‘in perfect health’, had just completed a fun 9k run, had been to the United States twice to speak at two conferences and had given 39 keynote speeches in the six months. before moving in.

“My brain was fine and my body was fine,” Skilton, who works as a naturopath and nutritionist, told news.com.au.

What she and her partner didn’t know was that the shower’s seal had been damaged during a recent renovation and as a result water was leaking under the carpet and through the apartment. with each use.

“I started getting sick, visibly sick, about two months later,” she explained.

“It may have taken so long just because it was summer and the weather was great, we always had the windows open and we never noticed there was a leak.”

The result of the secret mold problem was a “systematic breakdown” of Skilton’s body.

bathroom
The seal in Amie Skilton’s shower had been damaged during a recent renovation.
Amie Skilton

“The first symptom I noticed was allergies, chronic allergies, and I gained about 10 pounds out of nowhere,” she said.

“I am also a nutritionist and I have literally been the same weight all my life. I gained 10 kilos in a few months and I was very tired.

Within a few months, his brain function also began to decline.

She had trouble concentrating and working and, while in the depths of her illness, she was referred to a neurologist who diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease type 3, also known as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s by inhalation.

As it progressed, simple things like leaving the house became a daunting task as she would forget where her keys were and once she found them an hour later she would have misplaced her phone.

“Some days I didn’t know how to dress. I was looking at the clothes and was really confused about how to put them on,” she said.

Skilton had a Vespa which she rode to the local shops, but while she was out she forgot where she had parked and when she finally found her bike the keys were in the ignition.

But the scariest symptom she had was the day she couldn’t remember her own name.

“I went to fill out a form one day and I was looking at the box that said my name and I was like what the hell is that again? I was looking at it, looking for it,” she said, describing the horror of forgetting something so “deeply personal.”

Amie Skilton
Amie Skilton’s health problems got so bad that she forgot her own name.
Amie Skilton

Because she and the doctors she was seeing were unaware of the growing mold problem in her home, all of the tests they performed went well.

She said mold-related conditions are one of those conditions that few medical professionals are trained for, which means most people end up being diagnosed with things like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia because they have similar symptoms.

She said normal blood tests aren’t enough to show what’s wrong.

“That’s exactly what happened. Everything went well, white blood cell count was good, red blood cell count was good,” Skilton said, adding that most doctors dismissed her. and told her there was nothing wrong with her.

‘Under the rug there was all this black mould’

Skilton said a few fortuitous events happened at the same time to make him realize that his house could be the cause of all his problems.

For some people, the diagnosis can take years, but for her, it happened within months.

She began to realize something was seriously wrong in February 2017 and by May the penny had dropped.

What first tipped her off was an online post from a friend of hers explaining how her husband had the mold gene and they had just found a leak in their apartment in Bondi which had caused mold and had impact on his health.

This prompted Skilton to call Strata back asking if a plumber could check their bathroom when they first moved in as there was a leak in the garage below and they thought it might be from their apartment.

The plumber came and went and they never heard from again, so naturally she thought everything was fine.

Once she remembered, Skilton called a building biologist to do a unit assessment who mapped the leak and found that the water had gone under the carpet and into their bedroom and their office.

“The rug looked great on top, but when she lifted it up, there was all this black mold. When we finally pulled our mattress cover off, the mattress was green,” she said. declared.

When she confronted the real estate, they acknowledged that they knew the leak was coming from her apartment and had known it for five months.

The owner allegedly argued with strata the whole time over who should pay to fix the problem.

“So they knowingly left us there, which is probably the thing that annoys me the most. They knew and it poisoned us,” she said.

mold test
A building biologist found water leaking under Amie Skilton’s rug.
Amie Skilton

Once she knew all of this, Skilton was able to get the right things tested, which are specific inflammatory markers and a particular group of genes encoded by something called human leukocyte antigen.

Once she got the results of all those tests, it became “100% clear that not only was the place leaky and moldy, but also that my immune system had reacted the way we know my genetics did. would dictate dealing with mold. ”

Five years later, Skilton now lives in an undamaged house in northern New South Wales. Her brain function has returned to normal, she has regained her energy, and she no longer suffers from any of the horrible symptoms she was experiencing.

She is now a qualified mold testing technician and aims to use her knowledge to educate others.

The 42-year-old revealed that one of her clients had such a horrific reaction to exposure to mold over several years that she went into a coma for three years.

The woman, also with Lyme disease, lived in a house where the bathroom leaked through her bedroom wall for years.

Mold testing eventually revealed that the house not only contained a huge amount of mold, but some of the most toxic strains.

She became so ill as a young teenager that her body eventually began to shut down and she fell into a coma.

Skilton was in contact with her when the woman was 27, but the nutritionist initially said she believed she was a child because her body had such a severe reaction to prolonged exposure to mold that it had had an impact on its development.

What do you do if you think you are reacting to mold toxins

Skilton said there are two main ways to determine if you have a mold problem in your home that is impacting your health.

“You can have a building biologist check your home or a certified mold analysis technician. All the building biologists have taken this training, but not all the mold analysis technicians have taken the rest of the building biology,” she explained.

You can also be tested to see if you have the gene that makes you susceptible to mold exposure, which can usually be done for around $100 or $150 depending on the lab.

“You go to see a GP, you would want to see one who is an integrative GP or who practices functional medicine,” Skilton said.

Although some cases of mold are more serious than others, there are steps you can take to control mold growth in your home.

Beaumont Tiles adhesives and tools manager Trevor Grindley said silicone in the bathroom is the main place mold starts to grow.

it can spread down grout lines, especially in wet areas like the shower due to the porous composition of the grout,” he said.

“If epoxy grout was not used, most other grout lines would not resist mildew without the use of an impregnating sealer which can provide deep, long-lasting protection with an invisible finish.”

Grindley said bathroom additions like underfloor heating can fight mold by drying out your bathroom.

“Providing adequate ventilation is another way to fight mold,” Grindley said.

“If you have an exhaust fan or an open window in your bathroom, it can help prevent mold growth in your bathroom.”

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