A Racine County family is in the fight of their lives for their health and their financial future. They’re caught in the paralyzing nightmare of black mold.
Ashley Rutkowski tells me each day is a debilitating disaster.
“I’m struggling on a daily basis to cook and do laundry and raise a family,” she said. “Some days I can’t get out of bed,”
Ashley Rutkowski, her husband Mike, and their two young children are suffering. Their dream home has turned into a house of horrors with black mold at the center of it all.
“The mold was everywhere,” Rutkowski told me during a 30-minute interview here at our studios. “We had to demolish our floors. It was in layers of plywood, sandwiched there. We never would have even known it was in there.”
But it wasn’t always this way. Eight years ago, the Rutkowski’s bought an old fixer upper in Franksville in rural Racine County. It was on a quiet street with mature trees. The Rutkowski’s bought the house in foreclosure. The bank did not require a formal home inspection, only a cursory inspection that deemed the home ‘livable’. They now know not having an inspection was a mistake.
A few years after moving in, Ashley got sick. She got emotional as she described full body pains and chronic fatigue. “Initially doctors couldn’t find anything. We did CTs, scans and every test imaginable. I thought I was going crazy.”
Then as doctors struggled to help Ashley, her husband Mike got sick. And then her kids came down with raging fevers, unrelenting nausea, and debilitating fatigue.
Traditional doctors found nothing. Eventually integrative and functional doctors tested for and diagnosed acute mold toxicity.
Their five-year-old son, Nolan, has Down Syndrome. He is so sick that he’s been pulled from school.
“When he had his mold testing done, his levels were higher than any of ours,” she explained through tears. “I felt hopeless.”
The good news is that the Rutkowski’s have a diagnosis. The bad news is the family is on the hook for of the medical costs of treating the mold.
“Unfortunately, none of this is covered by insurance. Functional medical doctors and specialists are all out of pocket,” Rutkowski told me.
The medical total is at $30,000 and climbing.
But the worst part is the house is a total loss with nothing covered by their homeowner’s insurance. The Rutkowski’s have a $217,000 mortgage on a home that doesn’t exist with no money to build anything new. They now live in a small camper looking out a concrete slab where their dream home once stood.
“We have nowhere else to go.” Rutkowski said. “I feel like we are taking a part of kid’s childhood away.”
Where their house once stood now sits a 35-foot storage container. All their memories, some still contaminated with mold, are in that big, steel box. The Rutkowski’s are afraid to sort through the pictures and personal items that came from their contaminated home. Their three-year-old daughter Brooklyn is lost.
“Every day she looks out the window of our camper and sees her daddy working near the concrete slab and asks, ‘is daddy fixing our house?’ She doesn’t understand where her house went.”
Mold toxicity thrives on stress. And with desperation and despair as daily companions, Ashley is worried, really worried.
Exasperated, she told me, “All the work we put into that house, watching it get torn down and thrown into the dumpster, all that money we spent to fix up the house of our dreams; it’s just gone.”