Mold Sabbatical Recap

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I went out west for 5 weeks with our 3 kids to take a Mold Sabbatical (as outlined in Lisa Petrison and Eric Johnson’s book, A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance). See my previous updates here.

Although it was worth it (and our time apart from my husband Micah went very well all things considered), it was still hard.

Our main goals in going to Utah were:

  1. To be completely removed from the mold, humidity, and agricultural toxins in the Midwest
  2. To see if an arid environment had any positive effects on our health
  3. To start therapy to try to lower sensitivities to environmental triggers and foods

All three goals were met very successfully, and we learned quite a bit in the process.

  • We learned that chemical reactions are less severe when the mold and mycotoxin component is removed from the equation. We rented a brand new, high-VOC, mold-free minivan, and lived in high-VOC hotels and rentals for the first few weeks. Constant rashes disappeared, all hive-inducing food reactions dropped off over the first 10 days, and swallowing issues improved (Jotham is prone to gagging due to Chiari II brain malformation, and inflammation makes these symptoms worse. He swallowed fluids and foods very well while we were in the desert).
  • We learned that even though removing the mold component was good, the VOCs were still really holding us back. Sleeping in fresh air made everything start to fall into place. Jotham turned around very quickly when we chose to camp in the mountains at night. His energy started coming back (mine got a boost, too!).  He also started smiling and laughing again and was reaching for toys and foods he wanted.
  • We learned that the therapy Jotham and I started gave very quick, amazing results. After the first day Jotham was talking/babbling, waving, reaching out to interact with strangers, wanting to do everything the other kids were doing, (he was hard to hang onto because he was so set on reaching for what he wanted!), and he started sitting up straight for the first time in his life! Other positives included his teeth remineralizing (they had lost most of the enamel and crumbling before our trip west). By the time we left Utah, he’d regained the developmental milestones that had been lost over the winter.

After such exciting progress, our hope was that we could return to Illinois and continue the therapies we had started, and get a good feel for how everyone would handle the Midwest. But that did not work out so seamlessly. Instead, we’re still waiting on the prescription to be prepared for the therapy equipment we thought would be ready to take back with us.

Jotham and the kids shared several sicknesses that they are still recovering from, so that has made our return to the Midwest even more disappointing. It’s hard to tell if lethargy is from sickness or environmental reactions.

Though all progress has not been lost, we have lost ground since stopping the therapies and battling sicknesses. Jotham has been very lethargic, and I’ve had certain symptoms I was blissfully free of gradually creeping back (respiratory symptoms, rashes, and tiredness to name a few).

Looking ahead:

  • We are waiting to see if the therapies will give the same results in the Midwest as they did in Utah. The prescriptions could still take several weeks before we have them in hand, so we’re in somewhat of a “holding pattern” as we wait.
  • We need to make decisions regarding housing. We’re in a very temporary living situation, and it has quite a few environmental downsides. Our preference is to gather more info in order to make informed decisions, but we’re also antsy for a more permanent housing situation. The biggest decision we need to make is whether the Midwest is going to work. The past few days Jotham has had adverse reactions once again (in the form of hives and skin rashes).  His triggers appear to be contact with substances and toxins in the environment (smoke seems to be a big one).
  • Midwest or West? – This is the question. Ultimately we are both willing to make a location change if it’s in our family’s best interest – but it’s not necessarily the simplest solution for this part of our journey!


    • Aunt Kim, VOC stands for Volitale Organic Compound. Thank you for bringing this up; it’d probably be good for us to be more explanatory in the future! Here’s more info:

      Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. Volatile organic compounds, sometimes referred to as VOCs, are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen.

      Volatile organic compounds are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also emitted from oil and gas fields and diesel exhaust. They are also released from solvents, paints, glues, and other products that are used and stored at home and at work.

      Many volatile organic compounds are also hazardous air pollutants. Volatile organic compounds, when combined with nitrogen oxides, react to form ground-level ozone, or smog, which contributes to climate change.

      Examples of volatile organic compounds are gasoline, benzene, formaldehyde, solvents such as toluene and xylene, styrene, and perchloroethylene (or tetrachloroethylene), the main solvent used in dry cleaning.

      Many volatile organic compounds are commonly used in paint thinners, lacquer thinners, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, degreasers, automotive products, and dry cleaning fluids.

      • Thank you, Rebekah, for taking the time to give me your thorough answer. I should have just researched it myself instead of bothering you.

  1. Sarah we are here to glorify God and you are definitely doing that with your reaction to circumstances. I am not minimizing what you and Rebekah are going through, but the joy of the Lord shows on your faces. we love you two and will continue to pray for you.

  2. whoah this blog is excellent i love reading your posts. Keep up the good work! You know, many people are hunting around for this information, you can help them greatly.


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