Six Thousand Days Since Normal
In search of what I thought were better employment opportunities, I moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Raleigh, North Carolina. Within months, three individuals, including me, all became from ill from eating contaminated seafood at an internationally well-known hotel restaurant—hepatitis A. Not fun.
The lawsuit we pursued somehow went belly-up. It was very strange.
Finally employed again in a local telecommunications company, I found myself in a beehive of anti-Semitism. By 1990, as Bush 41's recession took hold of the country, my company went belly-up. Unemployed for over a year, I was starving. Bush 41 thought it was okay to veto extending unemployment benefits. Ever try living off potatoes for months? Not great for anyone.
After sending out hundreds of resumes and having interviews, I became employed as a systems analyst at a large public utility. Early in the autumn of 1993, workmen started tearing apart the elevators in the old building where the company was headquartered. Whatever the substance was, it fell on those of us using the elevators—it was just like snow. A few of us, including myself, developed horrible coughs. A few weeks later, my unit was moved about a half a mile away to the newly rehabbed data center. It had no windows, and it smelled…of something. Most of my unit members became ill. Here’s the rest of it:
- December 1993: I made a rare visit to a doctor to find out why I was hacking my brains out. He said I had occupational asthma.
- Despite the doctor's pleas to leave this job—they would not let me take another open position in another building—I stayed in there. I was warned to not speak to anyone about the environmental problems. Meanwhile, I was hacking so badly that I often would just collapse on my living room floor when I got home. This was also my introduction to corticosteroids, commonly known as Prednisone.
- June 1994: However, I did speak up. I was fired, thus beginning my career as a whistle-blower.
Since then, this company merged with a Florida-based utility.
The remainder of the year I job-hunted like crazy. Unfortunately, despite my extraordinary resume, word had gotten around this small, southern town.
I finally got re-employed as a software specialist in the large suite of operating rooms at a very famous medical institution. Meanwhile, I also had found a personal injury attorney who was very interested in filing a case against the public utility.
In addition, while I was still ignorant about the ramifications of "occupational asthma," I became exposed to something. I experienced my first emergency trip in an ambulance to a local emergency room. That was scary. Also scary: All the chemical exposures had caused me severe sinus issues. The doctors put me on antibiotics frequently. However, as I learned years later, CT scans are insufficient. You have to test the "stuff" to determine whether or not it’s fungal.
Early in March 1995, the night before my birthday, a physician on call gave me a prescription for amoxicillin. I started wheezing badly. I headed for the ER, something I had done a dozen times by now. But as I felt I was about to pass out, I struggled back into my apartment, grabbing the phone as I fell to the floor, and dialed "911." Within a moment of the EMTs' arrival, I passed out. I was very lucky that they arrived so quickly and were so competent. Bless paramedics everywhere—you are the best.