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Hidden family issues keep ‘perfectly healthy’ 37-year-old woman with dementia

An Australian woman has revealed a secret mould infection at her Sydney home has led to her being diagnosed with dementia and even forgetting her name.

The wet weather that has plagued Australia’s east coast for the past 18 months means many residents are now acutely aware of how quickly mould can take root in their homes – and how difficult it is to get rid of it.

While most people know that mold is bad for our health, it’s hard to know how much of an impact it can have until you experience it for yourself.

Amie Skilton is one of 25 per cent of the Australian population with a genetic predisposition to mycotoxins, which means exposure to the mould can trigger a massive inflammatory response in her body that can even lead to organ damage.

However, the 42-year-old only discovered this five years ago after a horrific experience in a musty flat in Manly.

In 2016, Skillton, 37, moved into the apartment with her now husband.

mold
Amie Skilton has a genetic vulnerability to mold.
Amy Skillton

She was “very fit” at the time, had just completed a fun 9km run, had spoken at two conferences in the US in the six months prior to moving in, and delivered 39 keynotes.

“My brain is fine and so is my body,” Skilton, a naturopath and nutritionist, told news.com.au.

Unbeknownst to her and her partner, the waterproofing of the shower had been screwed up in a recent renovation, resulting in water leaking under the carpet and out of the apartment every time it was used.

“After about two months, I started to get sick, obviously,” she explained.

“It probably took so long just because it was summer and it was really sunny and we always had the windows open and we never noticed there was a leak.”

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

bathroom
The waterproofing of Amie Skilton’s shower stall was compromised during a recent renovation.
Amy Skillton

“The first symptom I noticed was allergies, chronic allergies, and I suddenly gained 10kg,” she said.

“I’m also a nutritionist and I’ve been the same weight all my life. I gained 10kg in a few months and was very tired.”

Over the course of several months, her brain function also began to decline.

She was unable to concentrate and work, and when she was at the deepest point of her disease, she was referred to a neurologist who diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease type 3, also known as inhalational Alzheimer’s disease .

Simple things like leaving the house will become a daunting task as things develop, as she will forget where her keys are and once she finds them an hour later, she will misplace her phone.

“Some days I don’t know how to wear clothes. I’ll look at clothes and I’m really confused and don’t know how to put them on,” she said.

Skillton has a Vespa that she rides to the local store, but when she goes out, she forgets where it was parked, and when she finally finds her bike, the key is on the ignition.

But her worst symptom was the day she couldn’t remember her name.

“One day I filled out a form and I stared at the box with my name on it and I thought what was that? I stared at it, looked for it,” she said, describing forgetting to be so “very personal” fear of something.

Amy Skillton
Amy Skillton’s health problems became so severe that she forgot her name.
Amy Skillton

Because she and the doctors she saw were unaware that the mold problem in her home was getting worse, all the tests they did came back to normal.

Mold-related illnesses are one of those conditions for which not many health professionals are trained, she said, meaning most people end up being diagnosed with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia because they have similar symptoms.

A normal blood test isn’t enough to show an actual problem, she said.

“That’s exactly what happened. Everything went back to normal, the white blood cell count was normal, the red blood cell count was normal,” Skillton said, adding that most doctors dismissed her and told her she was fine.

“Black mold all under the carpet”

At the same time, something serendipitous happened that made her realize that her home could be the source of all her problems, Skillton said.

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

In February 2017, she realized for the first time that something was wrong, and by May, the penny had fallen.

She was first told by an online post by a friend of hers explaining how her husband was carrying the mold gene and they had just discovered a leak in their Bundy flat that was causing mold and affecting his health .

This prompted Skillton to recall the strata asking the plumber if they could check their bathroom when they first moved in, because there was a leak in the garage below, which they thought might have come from their apartment.

The plumbers came and went, and they never heard any more, so, of course, she thought all was well.

Once she remembered that, Skillen called in an architectural biologist to evaluate the unit, which mapped the leak and found that water had flowed from under the carpet to their bedroom and study.

“The rug looked really good on it, but when she lifted it up, it was covered in black mold. When we finally peeled off the mattress cover, the mattress was green,” she said.

When she confronted the estate, they admitted they knew the leak came from her apartment and had known about it for five months.

The owners have reportedly been arguing with the property over who should pay for the settlement.

“So they deliberately left us there, and that’s probably the thing that annoys me the most. They know it’s poisoning us,” she said.

mold test
A construction biologist found a leak under Amy Skillton’s carpet.
Amy Skillton

Once she knew all this, Skillton was able to test for the right things, which were specific markers of inflammation and a specific set of genes encoded by human leukocyte antigens.

Once she had the results of all those tests, “it was 100% clear that not only was the place leaking and moldy, but my immune system was responding in the way we know my genes respond to mold.”

Five years on, Skilton now lives in an unspoiled house in northern NSW. Her brain function has returned to normal, her energy has returned 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 reacted so direly to mould exposure over the years that she was in a coma for three years.

The woman, who also suffers from Lyme disease, spent years living in a house where the bathroom was leaking from the bedroom wall.

Mold tests eventually found that the house not only contained a lot of mold, but some of the most virulent strains.

She was so ill as a teenager that her body eventually began to stop functioning and she fell into a coma.

Skillton was in touch with the woman when she was 27, but the dietitian said at first she thought she was a child because her body reacted so badly to prolonged exposure to mold that it affected her health. development.

What to do if you think you are reacting to mycotoxins

There are two main ways you can determine if you have a mold problem in your home that is affecting your health, Skillton says.

“You can get a construction biologist to inspect your home, or you can get a certified mold testing technician. All construction biologists have this training, but not all mold testing technicians continue to do the rest of the construction biology work,” she explained.

You can also get tested to see if you have a gene that makes you susceptible to mold, which can usually cost around $100 or $150, depending on the lab.

“You’re going to see a GP, you’re going to want to see an integrative GP or someone who practices functional medicine,” Skillton said.

While some mold conditions are more severe than others, there are steps you can take to control mold growth in your home.

Silica in bathrooms is a prime place for mold and mildew to start growing, says Trevor Grindley, adhesive and tool manager at Beaumont Tiles.

Due to the porous composition of the grout, this can spread into the grout line, especially in wet areas such as showers. “He says.

“Without epoxy grout, most other grout lines will not be able to resist mold or mildew without the use of a dip sealer, which provides deep and long-lasting protection with an invisible finish.”

Bathroom add-ons like underfloor heating can fight mold by drying out your bathroom, Grindley says.

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

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

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