Once a year, I travel to Maryland for an in-person visit with my EI physician Dr. Grace Ziem. Under her care, my chemical sensitivities had improved quite a bit, then recently plateaued while my food intolerances have spread. We are theorizing that whatever imbalance is causing the GI issues is probably holding me back from fuller chemical tolerance. While I have struggled with GI issues, so has my daughter. She was born with food allergies, but last winter they spread to gluten and soy intolerance. So this year when I traveled to see Dr. Ziem, my daughter came with me so that the doctor could see us both. We reviewed some test results, asked and answered a lot of questions, and came up with a 6 month plan for us each. Dr. Ziem sets aside a half day for each patient who travels to see her, so we cover a lot of ground. I am incredibly grateful for her care and the way she manages her patient time but it does make for a long day and a lot of critical thinking. Unfortunately, the travel required to get to her means that I am usually exhausted and foggy brained for the appointment.
The rental car is usually the worst of it. Airports, airplanes, and perfumed fellow travelers can be a problem; but the enclosed space of a rental car, with its stain and fragrance treated surfaces, is awful. Usually I employ a carbon mask-open window combination plan that necessitates extra clothing layers for Maryland in the fall. With Lelu along for the ride, I thought my open air approach might not work as well so I intended to bring along my portable car filter. Both mask and filter were forgotten. By me. When I packed. Ooops.
I remembered my medicines, the freezer pack to keep them at the right temperature, some allergy safe food items I knew we couldn’t find in grocery stores (no restaurants for us), warm layers, new books and games for a traveling child, and all my medical paperwork. I remembered to arrange for child care and carpooling for my son for the 3 days I was gone. I forgot the mask and air filter.
And yet, there were small victories. The hotel windows opened! The nearby grocery store had the foods we needed to make some easy safe meals in our cute kitchen! The fallen colorful leaves delighted my Florida child so much that I didn’t need to plan any outings beyond a walk around the block for her entertainment!
Still, by the time we flew back and picked up my son from school on our way home, I was white knuckling it a bit. The head was foggy, joints were swelling, eyes were getting weird and my safe air quality home was the shining light at the end of the tunnel. So when we walked in to my house, the smell of home repair gone wrong was very unwelcome.
In what we thought was very clever planning, we had scheduled the final stage of the leaking roof repairs to be done in my absence. The roof itself was fixed weeks ago, outside my air space. But the ceiling was in my air space and so it was to be done the Monday I departed so that any materials could stabilize by the time I got back Wednesday afternoon. We had plans and a list of safe materials. But my husband had to leave earlier than expected for out of town work, so he was not on hand to supervise. Apparently our main contractor left the end of the job in someone else’s hands and did not tell him about the material safety list. That somebody used a primer paint with fungicide. In my house. And that is what I walked into. Deep sigh. So I am standing there in shock, my kids are dropping suitcases and backpacks and asking what’s for dinner (breakfast because there is not much in the frig) and do we have a sleeping bag for tomorrow’s school sponsored overnight trip (yes, but you have no clean clothes for the trip). Full tilt y’all.So first, I put on the damn mask that should have been on a lot the past few days. Then I open every door and window to the strong wind coming straight at us across the bay. I position 3 fans to move that stuff out of my house, isolating the bedrooms as best I can. And I find the Safe Seal, anti-matter to most VOC laden paint products. AFM makes some truly awesome products for the chemically sensitive. This one seals in outgassing from porous surfaces. And I have some on hand- yay, I am brilliant! What I don’t have is a paintbrush. I am digging through toolboxes and cabinets and all I find is one crusted, stiff, rusty brush. By now the symptoms are a real problem and I have children to take care of. So I go outside for a while, give myself a pep talk, then grab some kids craft paintbrushes and start sealing up that stuff as best I can. Here is how happy I am about the whole situation.
Over the next 48 hours a lot of wind blew through the house (we stayed bundled up), I wore the mask constantly (my kids got very good at translating the mumbles) and I applied three more coats of Safe Seal (which worked very well). Laundry got done, grocery stores were shopped at, children were driven to school. I was moving fast, but at a constant heavy tilt. I have now tilted all the way to horizontal and the dropped balls are rolling around the floor next to me. See what I did there? I am experimenting with visual analogies here to convey the full off-balance sensation I experience when unexpected exposures knock me off my normal routine. Did it work? I mean that delayed chemical reactions are apon me, I am moving very slowly, and most of my time commitments are on standby till I am back on my feet.
Here is what we learned. Advanced planning is better than reacting. Trust no one. Remember your damn mask. And always keep some AFM products on hand.