My brother and I purchased a home together in Grand Rapids MI. A new start and something we could both afford. Our first home! He and his family lived on the main level and I lived in the loft.
Soon after moving in, I started my own family.
I was going to be one of those super moms! I went to all the parenting classes. I made educated decisions about feeding, sleeping and discipline. I breast fed him for 12 months. I thought I had done all I needed to do to set us up for success! But… nothing prepares a parent for the long-term effects of lead-poisoning.
Brandon was born in December of 1998! A happy blond haired little boy. I was elated!
He had his one year check up. A couple shots, a poke for a lab draw and we were out the door with his blanky tight in his little hand.
Then, on December 10 of 1999, our lives were forever changed. I was asked to come back into the office to discuss lab results. The doctor told me that Brandon had an “elevated lead level”—of “24”. He said I would need to monitor his diet, give him vitamin D and iron supplements and they would monitor his blood levels.
I was so ignorant. Nobody said anything about “poisoning”. Nobody talked about “chelation” or long-term effects. I was so trusting. I thought the doctors knew best.
On the return visit, I had so many questions. The doctor told me that if he had a BLL of 25 they would do chelation, but because it was a 24 they would not. That monitoring of his diet with supplements and vitamins was the way to go. I still trusted them. Finding information on lead-poisoning 14 years ago was difficult—there was little to none readily accessible to a lay person.
So where had it come from? Yes, the old (new to us) Victorian home we had just purchased. It was there in our paperwork—a little box that was checked off, “contains lead”. The realtor had done nothing to help make us aware of the hazards of lead. We were just another closing on her list. We had no idea at that time what the implication of “contains Lead” really was—that it would be highly toxic to our families.
Brandon’s journey begins at 8 months of age when he first started to crawl on the lead painted floors of the loft. Four months of tiny hands and fingernails touching the sill of the floor-level window that was covered with unseen lead dust (the one I often opened and closed to let in the summer breeze.) Four months of playing on the floor with his toys, of watching Barney and Teletubbies while laying on his Boppy, of picking up spilled Cheerios and pacifiers and putting them in his mouth. Only four months to produce a BLL of 24!
How long does it take to get lead out of the body? Well, the doctor told me this: he said,”it is much like gaining weight; it’s really easy to put it on but takes a LOT longer and a LOT more effort to take it off”.
Because Brandon was diagnosed with a high BLL, a report was sent to the city and we only had a certain amount of time to “fix” the problem—or pay fines!
We had to pay for professionals to come to our house and test all the painted areas. To find out what places had been covered, whether they were “bleeding through”—or if it was an fully exposed layer of original lead paint. It was a long painstaking process. After the house was within city compliance, we left.
Brandon is now 15 years old. We have come a long way but this story is only the beginning.
I am thankful to have the opportunity to share our family’s story. I want parents to know they are not alone. We just need to find each other.