Monday, March 12, 2007

Personal Story - Toxic Mold

Dr. Aristo Vojdani shared our diagnosis on ABC News. But the sad reality is a widespread environmental illness affecting lives all over the world.

We do appreciate the media. It takes courage and character to speak out when powerful entities are fighting you. But please read our personal story below. You may recognize some of the symptoms or scenarios. I hope the impact is great enough that you take toxic mold serious.

In the darkness of the midnight, may I be a shining light.

I’m living dying proof – it’s time to break the mold. It’s Reality - Not Allergy!

I sadly share the story of Iris and Tommy Lee Brooks. We are victims of toxic mold. We’re also victims of deadly trichothecene poisoning. I never thought I’d be writing such a tragic article. Tlee and I are lifelong songwriters and musicians. However, life as we once knew is a fading memory. Our health has been adversely affected with immune dysfunction disorder, multiple organ damage and near cellular death. By medical science we should not be living. Only faith and the grace of God can restore our health. Life’s journey down the road of physical, emotional, and financial destruction has been a long one. However, we remain strong in spirit and pray for a brighter tomorrow.

As far as mold related illnesses, we’re very concerned about the lack of concern. We want to help other victims. We also hope sharing our tragedy will prevent many from falling prey to this silent killer. Though I’ve shared many details along with human emotion I feel it’s things people need to know. For this to happen to us in our home – not in a storm-ravaged area such as New Orleans - how much more are they at risk? Please listen to us!!

First I want to assure any doubters out there; We are not suspected or probable cases; we are confirmed and even documented cases. We met all the criteria and biomarkers for trichothecene and mold poisoning. Blood tests showed very high antibodies to many molds and the specific mycotoxins they produce. Environmental testing confirmed very high levels of these same molds and the specific mycotoxins they produced in our home. This even included very toxic readings of the actual biological agent and potent trichothecene (Roridin A).

Genetic testing by PCR revealed very high copy numbers of the DNA of both aspergillus and stachybotrys in white blood cells and lung secretions. This test proves not only mere “exposure” but actual growth of toxic molds in our bodies. (The case has been documented because this is rare to test positive for both).

I went a step beyond the above mentioned testing and had a biopsy done. Tissue samples bore the pathological fingerprint for trichothecene poisoning. The diagnosis is not in question and if anyone thinks it is, they are wrong. I also have photos taken before, during and after the poisoning. If a picture paints a thousand words you’ll see obvious burns from Toxic vapors and the severe affect on my central nervous system, in a cross-contaminated situation.

I’ll attempt to tell you what took place. The health focus is on how it affected me, Iris. TLee reacted somewhat differently which is common. No two people have the same exact symptoms. Genetics and exposures vary with each case. You may recognize some of the things I mention. I am not a physician or medical expert nor do I claim to be. I am an innocent victim and I deeply care about the health and welfare of others. Personal experience is sometimes the best teacher. Countless hours of research has also given me an education. I’ve been very fortunate to have had total strangers lead me in the right direction. I’m forever grateful to them. I do not wish to remain in the victim mode, but rather be a living testimony of God’s healing touch. It’s really sad that it took me so long to find someone to believe I was actually being poisoned.

We, unknowingly, moved into a “sick house” in June 2003. I had no idea what a sick house even was. I was already a victim of chronic pain. I certainly never thought this small brick home was a health hazard. It was built in 1952, had a floor furnace and very little ventilation. But I never even thought twice about it. As my health quickly began to deteriorate, I did not attribute it to the house.

I had very unusual symptoms from the day I moved in. There was stabbing eye pain. I had intense muscle pain all over my body unlike any I’d ever experienced. Sometimes my muscles hurt so badly, I would hold back the screams and try to hide my tears. I hated for Tlee to see me this way.

Simple mosquito bites became swollen and actually bruised when I touched them. I got nauseated. I’d never reacted like this before, as I used to camp on the banks of the Savannah River every weekend.

I was sitting on my sofa one night and I went into a bizarre and “contorted” spasm of my face, arms and left leg. Tlee thought I was having a convulsion, yet I was fully aware of my surroundings. We were terrified! The paramedics asked if I’d gotten around any type of poison. I couldn’t speak and the pain was really bad. It looked like something out of a horror movie and I’m not exaggerating! I sat in a wheelchair at the Medical College Of Ga. ER for several hours in a semi-convulsive state as they continued to call patients who did not appear to be in serious condition. My Pastor went to the desk several times and told them I needed to be seen. By the time they called me back the episode had ended. No further testing was done to find the etiology of these continued attacks.

My blood pressure, especially when at rest, was consistently low (in the range of 70 over 35). Bradycardia with a heartrate of 40 to 50 bpm. My body temperature varied from 95.5 to 97.8. Physicians were aware of this but never explored the reasons.

I had chronic abdominal pain and nausea with bloody mucous in my stools. The severe muscle pain lingered. I thought I was going to die. What is sad is I almost wanted to die to escape the pain. Maybe I should not say this, but I actually tried to get my affairs in order and I begged Tommy Lee to drop me off at a motel where I could just end it all. I KNEW I really felt all this pain, but I had no idea it was my home! Thank God, Tommy Lee would not honor my request. I can only imagine how he felt and I'm so sorry I put him through that.

After a long rain around summer of 2004 a panel in the living room ceiling tile gave way. It exposed the 35 year old celluose insulation. Water began to drip onto the hardwood floor. We also noticed moisture coming from the floor tiles in the kitchen floor after it rained. I did not visibly see any mold! (It sometimes can act as a stealth poison).

I began to notice a crawling sensation in the left side of my face. My face, hands and arms began to have an irritable fiberglass-like sting to them. I’d often use my fingertips to apply lip gloss having no idea a poisonous vapor was on my hands. My lips felt blistered. My eyes were extremely dry and often appeared bloodshot. The roof continued to leak in my rental home. Moisture still appeared under the floor tiles. We ran a humidifier because it seemed to help the burning and dry skin. We had no idea we were adding fuel to the fire. (Moisture)

In early months of 2005 it became very evident something in the home was making me sick. I had highly visible burns to my eyes, nose, lips and face. I went to my primary care physician in frantic tears and pain. I couldn’t even hold my eyes open. They were swollen and had a bloody discharge. There were lesions and small white abrasions in my mouth with burning in the oral mucous membranes. He diagnosed me with “rosacea” which made absolutely no sense to me. I was back in his office several times during this timeframe as well as going to the ERs, my local allergist-immunologist, opthamologist, endocrinologist, and gastroenterologist. I even went to a psychiatrist at the request of my pcp in hopes they would believe there really was something TOXIC to me. We even had a written medical recommendation for a tox screen, but it was ignored. Even my Pastor was shocked at the lack of concern; (Was I imagining the blisters, seizure-like episodes and other highly visible symptoms)??

I continued to beg for a toxic screen and stressed how the roof had leaked. I explained I could not function. I was getting so frustrated because nobody took the time to listen or acknowledge obvious symptoms. They made comments like “her obsession with some toxic exposure is beyond the scope of reality”. The medical opinion seemed to be I was suffering from delusions, hypochondria, and a somatization disorder. This was clearly phychosomatic??? No, it was a living hell!! No one paid any attention to what I told them about my living environment. A few local physicians tried to help me as much as they could. The ones who should have helped me refused to take me serious even though I knew my life was at risk.

Toward the end, I was from motel to motel. I wore a mask when I had to enter my home. I still could not breathe. I’d turn as white as a ghost. The burning sensation moved from my face to my lungs to my stomach. I continued to look for help, even from the environmental aspect. Every agency referred me to another agency. It was like an endless circle which ultimately led to nowhere. Nobody would check out what was in this home!

When motel and food money ran out I hooked up a small heater with an extension cord and ran it to our van which had no heat. I just wanted to sleep and be warm. It was so cold outdoors; we even had a bad ice storm. My fingertips throbbed with pain. Teardrops stung my face. Many nights, I went to a local Huddle House just to be out of the cold. The waitresses knew my situation and graciously let me sit there. When the pain got so bad I had to cry out, I’d go into the ladies restroom and curl up on the hard floor in one of the bathroom stalls. I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I’d leave early in the morning and go sit on the front porch and make phone calls about other homes for rent. The landlord would not check out the house. He said we’d just have to move, instead of finding the culprit or having the problem corrected.

We moved out in March 2005, still not knowing what actually was in the home. My children came from out of state and loaded up all our possessions and we took them to our next residence. Finally, we would be safe!! WRONG!!!!! Everything we took with us was highly contaminated with toxic mold spores and deadly trichothecene. Although the insulation-fiberglass sensation on my skin got better, this toxin was already in my body and bloodstream.. I was still being exposed to it. With an increased hypersensitivity I was getting sicker. Eventually I couldn’t stay in this home either. I just wanted to this nightmare to be over!

Through an endless search for answers I was finally and I feel divinely led to the right information. I knew now I had not only mold poisoning, but trichothecene poisoning. I knew exactly what toxin was in my body. It was absorbed as a vapor through inhalation, dermally and through ingestion. I begged for a toxic screen and proper tests. I took photos of the initial burns to all my doctor my appts. I had reappearing burns where the vapors had first entered my skin. Nobody would believe me or either they just simply did not care.

I was so desperate by now. TLee and I had no idea where to turn. I managed to arrange and pay for testing of the toxic home we had first vacated. It showed very elevated levels of toxic mold. I could still get no medical help, so I made an appointment (on my own) with Toxicology in Atlanta, Ga. (thru Ga. Poison Control). I thought, “Finally, I’ll have a toxic screen and get treatment.” I sent photos and a chronological order to them weeks ahead of time. I showed them the environmental reports as well.

When TLee and I arrived we met with two toxicologists. I did not see the Dr. I was supposed to see, but 2 doctors who refused to listen. As we told them about the trichothecene, I had an attack on my central nervous system while sitting on the examining table. My face was twisted and contorted. I could not speak clearly as my speech was very slurred. I had visible burns on my nose and small lesions in my mouth. My eyes were blistered, bloodshot and had a clear, yet blood-tinged discharge. My vision was so distorted, pupils small (one of the first signs of poisoning).

I explained the toxins had penetrated my skin and I could feel them burning and also a crawling sensation in my left cheekbone. I had three abcess teeth at one time when in the first home. In the cross-contaminated home, I actually had my front upper tooth just completely fall out due to the poisoning. Strangely the toxins caused my teeth to ache, become loose and oddly show signs of decay, only at the gum areas. (Thank God a Christian dentist/friend recently gave me my smile back)!

I explained my prior medical records revealed interstitial lung disease (which nobody bothered to tell me despite horrible pain in chest and shortness of breath). My PCP had diagnosed me with COPD even though I’d never smoked and my pulmonologist had written him a letter stating there was NO evidence of the COPD; thus it was something else. I didn’t even know about this letter until much later.

I found out that I had a cyst on my spleen of unknown etiology and bacteria in my urine. (again, nobody had shared this; I saw it on my medical reports). My INR was abnormal and I showed signs of Epstein Barr virus. (Is it strange none of the doctors told me any of these findings)??

In Dec. 2005, I was finally in contact with those in the medical profession who believed me. One graciously donated his services and helped diagnose my illness thru extensive testing. I was now living in a cross-contaminated home. I had developed a hypersensitivity to molds. The trichothecene and other mycotoxins were still poisoning us. We could not run the heat, as it increased the symptoms. It felt like the heat made everything worse. Again, we were forced into motels. By now the illness had progressed. I had to get treatment out of state for nobody here believed me, even though we were now confirmed cases. I was very fortunate to get treatment for 10 months from an out of state environmental MD specialist and staff who really cared about the sanctity of life. (I had 2 doctors here who always believed in me but did not know where to send me, still I am thankful they never turned their backs on me)

As we were forced from our home again, we KNEW we could not take our belongings with us this time. On June 30th, 2006, we lost our lease at a home we loved. Though our situation was made known to all liable parties, we got no assistance. It was our responsibilty to get our belongings out of this home. Yet we had nobody to help us get our possessions out of this residence. It was over 100 degrees. Only one friend helped us move. We managed to get our small music studio, guitars, keyboards, antiques and anything we thought we could possibly save into storage. Most of our possessions were left sadly behind. Clothes, original lyric sheets, music CDs and tapes, all our important papers, cherished photos, musical awards, documents, my angel collection and most of our lives were gone forever. (We since have given up on ever getting our little studio or any possessions back. What we tried to salvage is so toxic to me, I cannot even get close to it without being totally debilitated) It's just hard to give up everything. But our priority is our LIFE..that's the bottom line. One does what they must to survive. So we have no possessions..

I made many requests from Grange Mutual Insurance for protective gear and assistance but none was given. I'll never forget June 30, 2006. We had been talking to Grange Mutual since our diagnosis and environmental testing in Jan- Feb 2006. They told us if we were harmed in this home we should certainly be compensated. They knew our lease would be up on June 30th, 2006. They called us that day as we sat there with everything in the yard and said "we are offering nothing to help you with your medical as we have questions as to whether the home made either of you sick".. They made us a small offer to "clean our remaining items of the contaminants, and pay us to replace our NEW $2500.00 Tempurpedic bed" IF we signed papers saying this is all they owe us and we let them come get our bed for salvage".. They tried to get us to sign off when we were at our weakest point of desperation.. This was all calculated, cold and heartless. Of course they wanted our bed which was highly contaminated with toxins and mold so they could destroy the evidence... They even tried to say they think our bed made us sick..NO thank you, Grange Mutual.. This is criminal..

We had no choice so I went through our belongings outdoors with a carbon mask and gloves, and the poisonous vapors and toxic spores, high humidity and sweltering heat almost killed us both. We sat there with all our possessions dumped in the front yard. My face was re-burned and swollen; the vapors dried my hair and blistered my eyes; Both Tlee and I had severe nausea, stomach pains, mental confusion and sheer exhaustion. The last day of packing I had another severe attack on my central nervous system. It was VERY painful! My face began to contort; I could not speak or even open my left eye or mouth; My face was cramping and pulling to the left. The hideous spasms went into both hands and my left leg. Neither of us could think clearly. We very easily could have died this day being forced into such a horrible situation. I often think of how much more poison we inhaled and absorbed...

It was very hard on me, but my heart went out to Tlee. What was this doing to him? He took photos of all this. To be so sick himself and see me in such agony – he had to walk away and cry (though I didn’t know this on that day). To endure something like this in this great land called America is a not only a shame, it is wrong! We needed help and we got none! We did nothing to cause this, yet we were treated inhumanely. I cannot even believe all this happened sometimes..

(UPdate: I do want to note that Tempurpedic heard in 2007 how Grange Mutual has treated us, even to go so far as say the bed could have made us sick. We had been sleeping on the floor or an air mattress in our little apartment we now have. They kindly replaced the bed I had bought from them. They delivered it on Christmas Eve of 2007. There is good and there is evil. There are givers and there are takers. We are so thankful for the compassion of Tempurpedic who cared more about our lives than money. Then there is Grange Mutual, Phil Urban CEO and the attorneys they use who have done eveything possible to make our lives even more difficult.)

Since the poisoning I developed chemical sensitivities to things that had never seemed to bother me before. I react profusely to pesticides, air fresheners, most cleaning products, asphalt, colognes, gasoline, etc... Mold and mildew cause a violent reaction even in very small amounts. It's a very hard illness because many times by the time you detect an odor or mold, it's usually too late; it's already made you sick. I refuse to quit living and stay in a bubble! I do the best I can.

My Pastor has a special room with a tv screen set up of our church services. This is the only way I can go to church and not get extremely ill. I have one place I go to eat and they sit me in a back booth and do not use any chemicals.. I still have to leave once in a while if a customer gets too close to me with something on their skin or clothes... Under doctor orders my apartment has no bug spray.. They've been very good about this... But we know our lives will never be the same again.. Those days are gone...

We spent over 10 months homeless.. stayed with friends, lived in an old and cold van and slept on 2 air mattresses in a Sunday School room at my church. I had to get rid of my Buick LaSabre as it was highly toxic to me from my contaminated belongings. We made weekly 400 mile trips for medical treatments without heat since Jan. 2006; During summer months we had no air conditioner and it was very hot and humid on these weekly trips.

We only had the clothes our church ministry and another toxic injury victim gave us. We had no refrigerator for food while sleeping at the church, so we tried to eat out as we could afford it; our funds were totally depleted and our health severely compromised. We needed a warm and dependable vehicle. We finally found a small, but safe living environment; Our apartment is still pretty sparse. Imagine starting your life all over and also trying to survive this bizarre and painful illness at the same time. We are trusting God’s Agape love and compassion of those who care. We have to be very careful of things. They must be very clean as we are super sensitive to mold and mildew due to such a heavy exposure. Life for mycotoxic people becomes very frustrating. (Little by little we're trying to piece our lives back together. We do have a bed to sleep on and some items were given to us. We sit on the floor for the most part, but you know what? We are very thankful to even be here today and hope to bless others. 05-02-08)

We are not the only people living though homelessness, sickness and disaster because of toxic mold. There are victims all across this country. They have nowhere to turn. Many will lose hope and simply give up. That does not need to happen. When I think of anyone living like this it hurts. But for little children to suffer or die from toxic mold absolutely breaks my heart. How many must die before the truth comes out? People all over this country are losing their homes, health and careers due to mold contamination or water damaged buildings.

We are both thankful to be alive. We are nothing short of a miracle and we surely have a greater purpose. I always knew God had something for us to do that would share His love, our music, and have a positive impact on many people. I don’t know exactly why this happened to us. But God knows all things; even when we fail to understand.

I do know that our mission includes working to educate people about the adverse effects of toxic mold; to give hope, courage and inspiration to other mold victims; to be instrumental in getting laws incorporated that will give us the medical and financial assistance we deserve; to hold liable parties responsible for their actions. We must work together for the good of all involved.

We thank everyone out there who is taking a stand for mold victims. We are real people with a very real disease. It needs to be recognized as such. We appreciate all the physicians who publicly support us. We are indebted to those who are truly researching our illness. There are millions of dollars of research grant money going to various places for this purpose. We need those on the receiving end of such grants to take advantage of using our tragedy and others we can supply to learn. We are ready to share all we have experienced. Where are the funds going? What have you learned about treating patients with this type poisoning? If you know how to treat us, don’t let us suffer. If you don’t know how, then learn from us and maybe you’ll learn how. There are several victims right here in the state we live in. We get calls from countless victims across the nation.

Trichothecene is an agent of biowarfare. It ONLY comes from toxic mold. The fact is we are not lab animals, but actual victims of this type of poisoning. Who better can physicians learn from than those who are living this nightmare? What happens when it is used as an agent of war? How will people be treated in mass numbers if nobody can even help two confirmed cases?? We need more medical research done on all types of mold poisoning. There are 1000’s of us waiting for help and willing to help others.
Why learn from autopises? Learn from those who are still alive but enduring a horrible illness.

You may be able to share our musical backgrounds on a website we did just prior to becoming homeless. I'm not sure if the site is still there or not. We lost everything so we no longer have a music studio or produce demos for people.. It's just a website but that part of our life is gone forever and we miss it so much. We hope to produce an entire environmental CD of original songs should God provide the means as we think it would reach many people. For ANYONE to downplay the last three plus years of our life is more than inhumane. It’s cold-hearted and almost criminal! Shame on each one of you! Don’t even bother telling us this did not happen and it is not REAL! It DID..It IS..and it happens every day.

We surely are not living this way for the recognition; and certainly not for the fun of it. We’ve watched our hopes and dreams become a toxic nightmare. We need the entire medical profession, governmental agencies, insurance companies, media, politicians and even our friends and families to LISTEN to what we are saying. Listen and comprehend! Take the time to learn about this illness. We need your support! We are free to speak with anyone who will take the time to hear our cry.

On behalf of mold victims everywhere, our desire is as our song says: BREAK THE MOLD! Please contact us. Share our website and help get the truth about mold illness to the public. (We recently had the first Mold Health seminar in Augusta, Ga. and had 85 present, about half being sickened by toxic mold. This was such a blessing!)

I also am here to help direct anyone who has a serious mold issue in your home. It seems like anyone can get a certificate for mold testing and remediation anymore. Many will take advantage of you being in such a situation. Sadly, they prey on the elderly or those who just don't know where to turn. There are some who are highly respected, honest and truly care about helping you have a safe living environment. Let us know if you need direction.. Don't just call someone out of the yellow pages as your life and your health matter too much... We can be reahced at 706 595 7620

Iris Harden & Thomas Brooks PO Box 1928, Thomson, Ga. 30824 706 595 7620

Please contact us. I really want to help direct you in the right direction. You can email me at or

God bless.

We have 2 websites. and (there is a lot of information on mold and mycotoxins.

11-24-07 This is the same post I did in March 2007..with a few updates..

UPdated 12-2008


The Masked Avenger said...

I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties, which are similar to my own, but glad that you are fighting back for recognition of the reality we are both living.

Iris said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm soory to hear you're dealing with similar difficuties. If I can be of any support, please feel free to email or call us. I'll keep you in my prayers..and We HAVE to speak out - or no one will ever do anything to help people like us who were innocently harmed by mycotoxins or whatever poison. iris

LovesGuitars said...

Iris & Tlee your story touched my heart deeply. You are my hero's & my angels. You both have saved my life & my best friend Isabels also. How many more lives you will save!! If the world were a perfect place more people would speak out with courage, strength, love, & compassion. More people need to share their stories too about toxic mold. Please don't allow anyone to stop either of you in God's work to help others. Your work is so important to our world especially after 911 & Katrina. Even our homes aren't safe anymore, however you provide wisdom and education to those who need it. WE NEED YOU IRIS & TLEE. Not a day goes by that I don't thank the Lord for you. God bless you both now & ALWAYS!! sincerely, Dene Casados

tmkingsurvivingtoxicmold said...

I too have been exposed to toxic mold and had to leave my life long dream job, to preserve what little health I had left. I have taken air samples of my home and samples from work. Long story short, my home is clean and free of mold and work had 78,000 mold colonies in my working room full of aspergillis pennicilium...I too suffer from facial numbness, coughing, sinus congestion, constant Headache, fatigue, dizziness, lung and throat irritation, "like scratchy insulation has been blown down my throat", memory loss and slow reaction time. I have contacted my HR, attorneys, doctors and more, with no help, just seemingly concern at first, then the looks of "oh no, here she goes again". I am an educated and level headed person, so this has been difficult for me to be dismissed as a hypochondriac...Seems like we have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to toxic mold. Any advice, suggestions, comments, would be appreciated, because I feel so alone, until I read your comments. Thank you for sharing your story.


When I read your story I could not hold back my tears, It felt like you were telling my story. my symptoms are very simular to yours,Ive been exposed to (Stachybotrys)a Toxic Mold poison from an apartment with a water leak seven years ago, and I cant find anyone to help me let alone believe me. My own family wont take my illness seriously whenever Id speak of being ill or cry out for help they would look at me like I was crazy,or like they were tired of hearing me complain so Ive learned to pretend like nothings wrong and I suffer in silence. Ive moved three times with my symptoms still being the same . I just recently learned about cross contamination and although Ive gotten rid of most of my personal things, I stll kept a few and I believe that I reexposed myself by doing that,so Im going to have to get rid of everything. I want to thank you for posting your story and being so open and honest it has truly made me feel better just knowing that its not just me, Im not crazy and that this really exist.I am 37 years old, this disease has taken seven years of my life, I want my life back I want to be normal again . Is there any medical help out there for us now? I live in New Orleans, La and I havent found anyone to help me .