Dana Anhalt spent the majority of her childhood getting sicker, and by the age of 37, she couldn’t use her hands or walk. According to her GoFundMe page, the Huntington, New York artist was down to 70 pounds at times. “Excruciating joint pain ravaged me,” Anhalt wrote. “My symptom list was four single-spaced pages long. “I began to fade quickly as every system in my body failed.”
For many years, doctors were unable to identify her symptoms. She had been diagnosed with CVID, Lyme disease, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, among other things. Something recently came up that helped them figure out what it could have been. Anhalt’s residence was infested with black mold. Chemicals in the environment, including microbial growth, triggered the reaction she was having.
Anhalt had a number of genetic defects that prevented her body from recognizing those foreign substances, resulting in severe inflammation and pain. “The genetic testing was difficult to look at, but it was also one of the most empowering things I’ve ever witnessed,” she told Caters News. “All of a sudden, decades of my life made sense.” Mold is a problem in many buildings, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but most people only experience allergy symptoms similar to hayfever and are not adversely affected by the exposure.
However, when people have certain immunological or respiratory disorders, the consequences can be far more severe. “For the most part,” the CDC advises, “one should take routine measures to prevent mold growth in the home.” This could include things like lowering humidity, ventilating bathrooms and kitchens, and cleaning with mold-killing products. Anhalt’s medical team advised her to leave the majority of her belongings behind when she relocated.
“We had to rush to find a new apartment and we had to leave all of our belongings, everything I had accumulated over the years,” she explained to Caters. “It was heartbreaking.” Despite her difficulties, she remains optimistic about the future. She intends to advocate for other people with complex medical issues. “Of course, there have been times when it has been tempting to give up,” she admitted. “I persevere not only for the sake of my loved ones, but also because I believe I have something to offer the community.”