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Help! My Condo Is Killing Me (Seriously)

Curbed Chicago Horror Stories are reader reports of real estate disasters, from bad roommates to infestations and from decorating disasters to shoddy construction. Got a cringe-worthy tale of your own? Send it to chicago@curbed.com.

This horror story comes from Brad Wells, the owner of Unit 541 in 1000 W. Washington, which we previously wrote about here. Due to his exposure to asbestos and toxic mold in his condo, Brad experienced from some truly stomach-turning symptoms. The following is an excerpt from a questionnaire he filled out for Discovery Health Channel's Mystery Diagnosis and forwarded to us:

In 2001, I started getting very painful small blisters on feet and fingers, small headaches, night sweats and a cough. I didn't really think anything was wrong in a serious sense as I, initially, thought that maybe it was a weird cold or a delayed reaction to anesthesia (I had a cyst surgically removed from my right wrist a couple of months before). My girlfriend at the time was a doctor at Rush University Hospital (finishing residency before completing interventional hypertensive nephrology fellowships) and she said it couldn't be a reaction to the anesthesia due to the time period and thought it was simply a reaction to my being stressed / exhausted due to work and travel. Nonetheless, the blisters kept getting exponentially worse and spreading to more areas and although I felt something was wrong, I kept believing my girlfriend that I was "over-reacting." However, the first time I truly felt something was seriously wrong and could not be ignored anymore was the morning after I had woken up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat (sheets / pillow soaked) thinking that I was having a heart attack (felt like the wind was knocked out of me and I couldn't breathe) before I then started to projectile vomit. Then, after finally falling back asleep, I woke in the morning with a mouth that felt completely dry / filled with and tasted like dirt. When I tried to wet my tongue and that action caused my tongue to split open and start bleeding heavily down my face onto my chest / sheets. That was when finally convinced my girlfriend that I needed to see a specialist and if she could ask around her work to get a good recommendation.

In 2007, Brad found dermatologist who correctly diagnosed him, and his condition has improved.

In January 2006, well over a year prior to meeting Dr. Cardellio, I had an "idea" that my symptoms might be related to mold when my condo Association sent a contractor into my condo unit to look at all the water / debris damage caused when my condo Association did some masonry repairs / roof replacement and he said "you know, that looks like mold up there." Then, at my urging, the Association sent their engineering company into my unit in February 2006 and he too said that, besides the damages, it looks like some mold is on the walls / ceiling and it should be tested. Then, after making requests for testing to be performed, my condo Association hired an environmental firm to do "testing" and then write a report in March 2006. However, even though they didn't test where the prior engineers / inspectors said to perform the testing, I received a report a couple of months later that stated that my unit tested positive for many types of mold, including aspergillus niger.

After researching molds and aspergillus niger in particular, I started to think that if the mold was the reason I was sick then my wishful thinking / hoping to being cured wasn't that wishful anymore as I now could potentially get the real diagnosis and actually fight a disease rather than just masking the symptoms.

The more I researched the more hopeful I became, however, when I mentioned my "idea" to my doctors, they didn't think it was mold related due to prior test results. As I wanted to be sure and because my condo Association would not allow me to hire their environmental company to perform full testing, in June 2006, I ended up hiring Dr. Robert Brandys of Occupational & Environmental Health Consulting Service, one of the top mold experts in the world, to inspect and test my unit.

OEHCS came out, inspected my unit and collected some samples to send to a lab. Although I suspected that the mold results would come back positive, I had no idea that the levels the lab tested were not just high but "off the scales high" which was when I finally felt, for the first time, true hope that I found the cause of 6 years of extreme pain, frustration, sickness.

Brad also has a few words of caution for Chicago condo owners:

If you (and your neighbors) start to get sick (and worse) while living in your home and your doctors are unsure about a diagnosis (or their treatments are not working) immediately have your home tested by an independent professional company (your homeowners insurance policy generally covers the testing 100%).

Don't own a condo / townhouse "outright" as you have no way to "Walk Away" from a unit that is damaged as your homeowner's insurance, by law, only covers your paint and your personal property in your house and ALL repairs require, by law, the Board of Directors involvement and approval).

Also, no matter what the Board or their contractors say, IF they are going to be working in / around your property INSIST on getting a Certificate of Insurance that lists both you and your property as "Additional Insured" and "Loss Payee".