Kristina Baehr seemingly had it all: a successful career as a lawyer and an adorable family with newborn twins. Together, they lived in a beautiful house that she considered her “forever” home. But a mysterious and insidious foe was slowly undermining her health, her career, her marriage and her family.
The 9-year-old home of the unsuspecting Baehrs of Austin, Texas, became infested by a common American enemy: toxic mold. The mycotoxins produced by the mold caused health issues that were difficult to diagnose.
“I felt like I had been hit by a truck,” said Kristina Baehr. “I started getting migraines that I didn’t understand. I felt drunk in the middle of the day. I felt dizzy and lost. I’m losing and forgetting things.”
Across the United States, thousands of people struggle with mold growth in their homes. It is often hidden behind walls, buried under flooring or lurking in air ducts. Though the exact number of cases are hard to come by, mold has been identified in all types of residences from military and public housing to dormitories at colleges across the country. Social media groups devoted to mold exposure have attracted tens of thousands of people, who discuss the ways mold has disrupted their lives.
It took several years for the Baehrs to figure out what was causing Kristina’s symptoms. But now she hopes to use the knowledge she’s gained to help others in similar situations.
Initially, Evan Baehr chalked up his wife’s complaints to the struggles that come along with balancing a demanding career with parenting four children.
“I wasn’t super sympathetic, ” Evan Baehr admitted. “I said ‘Hey, we run hard, we have careers, we have young kids at home. Just deal with it,’ which is not a great response.”
But then the children started getting sick, too. Their oldest son, Cooper, developed a sinus problem. Seven-year-old Madeleine complained of frequent headaches, stomach problems and severe anxiety and behavioral issues. Her youngest son, Scott, was showing signs of developmental disabilities that became so severe teachers questioned whether he might have a serious disorder on the autism spectrum.
″[Scott] was melting down for at least an hour a day, every day. And they just couldn’t calm him down, and I thought something’s going on,” said Kristina Baehr.