While staying in Dallas, we’ve rented an environmentally friendly “suite” at the Marriott Residence that is in a building that is owned and managed by the Environmental Health Center. Everything in the room has been done in a way that makes less of an impact on a person with environmental illness/allergies. The room has not been renovated in a long time, but that is actually a good thing for people like me. New things off gas into the air and the fumes can certainly cause serious symptoms. All of the flooring is tile, the beds metal, the sheets and blankets are organic cotton, the blinds are metal, the sad cookware options are metal and all of the furniture is metal. There are no curtains and no table or computer desk. The place is really small, but a desk would be nice, as the couch is actually a futon, so computer usage equates to the worst possible posture EVER (AKA, appreciate this blog . . . it hurts! LOL!) They also provide air purifiers like the ones I use at home. We actually brought one from home, just in case the ones they have might have developed a smell or something from the previous renter. So far, everything in the apartment is treating me well and I feel better here than at home. Unfortunately a previous tenant obviously used aftershave and stored in in a bathroom drawer, which is against the scent free rules, but we just don’t use the drawers (just like home).
My days at the center start at 9:00 and last until 4:00/5:00 p.m. This full schedule will continue for the duration of our time here, which will last until approximately the middle of June. We are still very much in the diagnostic stage, but I feel things are going well. For a corn allergic person, just having blood drawn can cause a reaction because of the antiseptic used or the adhesive to cover it. Fortunately, my skin has not reacted to what they’re using and we brought our own medical tape. We both like Dr. Rea and feel he can really help me to gain some, if not all, of my freedom to live a more “normal” life again. Areas we are currently testing are foods, molds, and general immune function.
Every day I do a pretty long round of subcutaneous allergy testing for molds and foods. We will test for other things like chemicals, pollens, etc. in the future. Right now, we’re testing on some foods I’m currently eating and a lot of common molds. Dr. Rea wants to get an idea of how well I’m doing with the few foods I regularly eat, since I’m unable to rotate. When someone who is prone to allergic responses routinely eats the same thing, they are at an increased risk of developing new allergies to those foods. Food rotation is a very good idea for most people. Unfortunately, because corn contaminates soooooo many very basic foods like meats, dairy, produce, nuts, etc., it is very difficult to find enough food to rotate. Today we learned that my instincts were correct about oats and wheat. :o( I hadn’t been eating wheat in a long time, so I had to eat a few crackers a few hours before testing and I felt like crud. They are both common allergens and since they’re grains, and I’m already highly allergic to one grain, there is a higher chance of being allergic to others. (Note: rice and sugar cane are also grains. Sometimes people tend to trade one grain for another & go wild with it, so be careful if you’re experimenting with grains when you already know you’re allergic to one.) On the upside, I am NOT allergic to coconut. I eat coconut, and coconut oil frequently and also use a lot of personal care products that contain coconut, so that is a huge relief. Also, I am not allergic to eggs. I’m border line on turkey and potatoes, which I also consume frequently. Turkey is the only safe meat I can eat right now and only the Empire Kosher Organic kind from Trader Joe’s. I’m going to have to stop turkey for a while and try it again in a few weeks.
My husband and I are quite impressed with the technique Dr Rea uses to tailor his allergy testing for each patient. His office is able to perform testing that identifies the exact level of allergic response. They accomplish this by iterating on the dosages until they identify the specific level for that patient. There can be infinite combinations of the dosage and strength. To accomplish this each step change in the testing routine is five times less than the previous dose. Example: Oats - he started me at dose level one, which is the highest amount. I reacted, so he lowered to dose 2 (cut five times) and I reacted again, he went on to dose 3 (cut five times again) and I stopped reacting. And in case you’re wondering, an antigen for oats can be created and I can do allergy shots to try to gain oats back again. Because my reaction to oats wasn’t horrible, there is a good possibility I will get to have oats again at some point. :o)
Testing has also revealed another suspicion that I had: mold Using the above example, I tested positive at levels 6 and 7 to two to three groupings of molds. This means I’m actually QUITE allergic to various molds and we’re still testing. He is careful not to test too many things in one day, particularly molds as he doesn’t want to overload an already delicate and damaged system. Treating mold itself and a mold allergy can be quite difficult to manage. Again, a custom antigen to specific molds can be created for me. We were told that food allergies, when food antigens are used will clear faster than mold allergies, again with antigen use. This info. is most helpful, as it’s starting to put some puzzle pieces together for us.
A couple of months ago, I became unable to tolerate our bathroom due to what I believe was a mold issue. My husband cleaned the VERY obvious mold in the shower that had gotten out of hand. After this hard core cleaning, we ran an air purifier and vent fan for 2.5 weeks to get rid of the smell from the “environmentally” safe cleaner that nearly knocked me over. (If anyone’s searching, it’s called Vital Oxide & it can be purchased online at The Allergy Store. Corn allergic & chemically sensitive beware. WORKS well, stinks to hell!) Once the cleaning smell dissipated, I could, once again smell something (Poor hubby, he worked so hard) I described the smell as “biological, not clean and earthy.” He didn’t smell anything . I don’t think it’s the only underlying cause for what has happened to me, but I do think it has a compounding effect and may have been affecting me greatly without me even realizing it. If you’ve been keeping up with me and/or this blog, you already know that our family lived in England from early July ’11-late Jan. ’12. I can’t think of many places that would be much better suited to harbor mold in just about anywhere imaginable. I suspect that being in such a moldy environment contributed to my over sensitivity to mold. My “allergy bucket” was already quite full and my health was impaired with years of other issues, so I have to suspect that traipsing about in old buildings and castle ruins and riding buses that REEKED of it, did a number on my already ravaged immune system. Makes sense to me (shrug). At any rate, there will need to be some considerable changes made to our home to make it more livable for me again.
Well this seems like a good stopping point, as my back is rebelling to the futon awful. (How did we live on these things in college? WOW!) In all seriousness, I feel very blessed to be here and despite getting sick from the testing and exposure to other people in the center, I feel very positive about this place and what they have to offer. This just “feels” right and as many know, I am a very spiritual person. I don’t do anything if I don’t feel the presence of God is leading me to it. My prayers and talks with Him lead me to believe this is not a mistake. Things seem to be falling into place.
So speaking of prayers . . . ummm, if you’ve got a few to spare, throw them my direction around 9:00 a.m. CST tomorrow. We’re testing another food. It’s one you might be familiar with. I call it many things: “satan,” “evil,” “my nemesis,” and a few words I won’t share. You might know it as “corn.” The test HAS to be done in order to make the antigen. Scary? Yes. Will it hurt? Yes. Does God have my back? Always.