27 April 2015

Mold exposure symptoms?

In my few previous blog posts, I have mentioned that I have recently had major health issues. I felt like I wanted to blog about that, since maybe it could help somebody or possibly help me, if somebody reading this has some useful comments (if so, please leave a comment!). Perhaps it is best to start with a disclaimer:

I am not a health care professional. All the things mentioned in this blog or based on real-life experiences, articles and comments found from the internet and things I have been told by doctors.

So, I and multiple other people I know have suspected that my symptoms, that have been going on for a long time, have been caused by mold in the apartment from where I just moved away. There is no confirmation on this, expect now that I have lived elsewhere about three and half week, my symptoms have gotten so much better. I could be wrong about this, but all seems like this was the case.

As a background information I need to tell that when I was a child, I lived in multiple apartments that had mold in them. I believe in two or three different apartments, though I do not remember exactly, especially since kids are not told so much about this kind of stuff. We eventually moved out of those apartments, but overall I was exposed to mold quite few years, maybe even six to seven. I myself do not remember, but my father recently told that we once went to a holiday and when we came back, the air in the apartment felt so horrible and hard to breath.

I have had health issues through my youth. I do not know if these have something to do with the mold, but they could. I am very often in fever; ie. during my primary school years (when we were living in the mold apartments) I was sick so often that people believed I was just faking all the time to skip school. I have also throughout my life always been very tired.

The symptoms caused by mold are similar to those caused by flu. These are in short the symptoms listed on the website of The Organisation for Respiratory Health (which is a major health care organization here in Finland):

  • Eye and respiratory symptoms
  • Increased amount of respiratory infections
  • Abnormal fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Mold can raise blood pressure and pulse
  • Asthma and shortness of breath, even radiological changes in the lungs
  • Upset stomach and diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint symptoms, sometimes rheumatic disease
  • Skin symptoms, ie. redness
  • Increased amount of facial herpes infections
  • Neurological pain, numbness of the limbs
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

I have also read that exposure to mold can cause lifetime long symptoms, in person's overall health, in example it can lead to infertility. Sinusitis is a very common mold symptom.

I moved to my latest apartment in the summer of 2012. (There was possibly mold in my previous apartment too.) In that autumn I started at high school. I just recently noticed, that whenever I tell something about my school time, I usually include the words "I was sick back then". That should tell something about how often I was sick while living in that apartment.

Last autumn (2014), my health had a major crash. I remember feeling very sick during my math finals and barely able to do the exam. That evening or the next morning I felt so much worse and I checked my temperature, which was 38.5 Celsius degrees (according to google that is 101.3 in Fahrenheit degrees). My normal body temperature is 36 to 36.2 (96.8 to 97.16), which is about half degree less than most people's temperatures, so on somebody else this would mean a fever of 39 degrees. I do not even remember when was the last time I had this much fever.

I was diagnosed with sinusitis (infection in sinuses). My doctor said that there rarely is so clear results from the ultrasound (sinusitis is diagnosed with a small ultrasound machine). I got antibiotics. My fever went down, though not completely. I was still feeling very sick.

I visited doctors multiple times within the next six months. All of them told me it was just a flu and would go away with time. Nobody I know that I talked with considered a half year long flu normal and I was all time told to go to see a doctor, but results were always the same. Only the last doctor I saw couple weeks before moving out, said that maybe there was something wrong in my apartment's air (no mold mentioned though).

This actually makes me a bit angry now; I compare what I told the doctors to what is said about mold symptoms and it feels like I am a textbook example of mold exposure patient. The mold symptoms explanations I have read are almost exactly what I told my doctors. From the list above I had pretty much all the symptoms: of all the ones I could tell myself I was only missing facial herpes (though come to think about it, I have no idea how a facial herpes is suppose to look/feel like). Still none of the multiple doctors I saw mentioned mold. Yay, Finland's public health care!

The last months in the apartment went mostly sleeping. I slept so much I can not even imagine how many hours it was in total. I had constant flu-like symptoms and I felt so sick. I barely was able to get through my school work. Even thinking about doing something else was too tiring. In example, I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games series, but I have not yet seen the most recent movie which was released in November. I just did not have the energy to get to the movie theater, which I could see from my window, let alone sit through a movie. Even staying awake two hours to watch a movie, that I had anticipated, was too much. That is how in bad shape I was.

Few weeks before moving out, I seriously started to suspect mold as the cause. It did not make any sense that it would be this long lasting flu. I compared my symptoms to the mold exposure symptoms, and like I said it was a perfect match. My father said that since I have been exposed so much to mold in my childhood, I would react more heavily on mold exposure. Internet confirmed this theory.

Here are two photos I took just before moving away. They were like this even when I moved in, but nowhere near this bad. The black parts got bigger while I lived there. I could not see the first one, since it was mostly covered by a table, so I was surprised it was this bad:

In front of the radiator. The floor was actually a bit elevated around the black.
black by the kitchen sink

"Mold", was the first thing my father said after seeing them. We obviously could be wrong, but they do look like mold and considering my symptoms, it is a very good guess.

I have now lived three and half weeks at my father's place. I have read that it takes time for the symptoms to go away, some may never leave. But so far I am feeling a lot, I mean A LOT, healthier. My nose barely runs, I rarely cough (my father mentioned this already sometime ago), my nose/cheek area does not feel painful, eye symptoms are gone, headaches have lessen, I am still tired often but not as bad as before, etc... I consider this as yet another sign of that there was mold in my previous apartment.

Now I think all I can do is just wait. Like I think I stated before, I have never been completely healthy, so I do not expect to get totally healthy, but hopefully to the state I was before moving to my latest apartment. I strongly suspect that the mold exposure as a child ruined my health. Hopefully this new exposure (two and half years of exposure sound really worrying) did not make things worse.

My advice: if you suspect there is mold in your apartment, act on it! Moving away is a lot less trouble than possibly ruining your health. For me this may come too late, especially since the worst of it was done while I was a child and unable to affect on this myself, but I am hoping that maybe this post could someday help somebody.

Well, that is my story. If you have any comments (advice, questions, anything), please comment. Any input is highly appreciated!

20 April 2015

From Turku to Rovaniemi

As I am always in the swim (I have no idea did I use that term correctly, I just tried to google for a fitting idiom...) here is my moving story, only two and a half weeks late! Well, it is not like it is a post that should be on real-time anyway.

So, I use to live in a city called Turku, which is located in the southwest tip of Finland right by the coast. I want to write more specific post or two about Turku, especially from the point of view of a visitor, so I will not talk about the city more right now. Let's just say I lived there for nearly five and a half years. I do not have any deep connection with the city, but it must be the best city I have lived in so far.

Here are few photos of the city center. I took them the day I moved away:

Looking at the market square.
Also looking the the market square, though from the opposite corner. I have walked home this way so many many times.
The market square.
One side of the Hansa shopping center.
This beautiful building was almost at the neighbour of the house I lived in and I still have no idea what it is. I believe it is some sort of a museum.
My home street. I lived in the pink building ahead.
The view when stepping outside from the building I lived in. Also the length of street that I walked to most in Turku; my main grocery store is visible as the third building on left and the library is just one block from there.
The view from my former window.

By the looks my latest apartment was fairly good, but honestly it was the worst one I have lived in; ie. zero sound proofing and a neighbour that played music loudly most of the nights, mold, which possibly (most likely) caused me all kinds of health problems (about which I will soon write more about), et cetera. I so will not miss this place, but since it was a really old building, from the 1920s I believe, it was so much more beautiful than more recent boring buildings:

Doors in the building. My former apartment on the left.
The building's doorway.

I had my father and my brother helping me with the moving. Since they came from hundreds of kilometers away, my father drove to my brother's place at the previous day and then they drove to Turku early the next morning. My father had borrowed a van from his friend, but unfortunately it was a tad bit too small and we have to leave three chairs behind. Which was not such a big loss since they were in fairly bad shape already. Amazingly my moving helpers managed to fit everything else in the car.

I myself packed rest of the stuff inside and tried to save my energy (referring to the health problems mentioned above) for the last (or second last actually) high school exam. Luckily my last exam, that I needed to do at the school, was on the moving day and not the day after. This meant I could move away smoothly and not have to stay at a hotel or something for one night and then follow my stuff with train.

This is how the packing process looked like:

 

After I was done with my exam (from which I got one of my best grades in a subject that has been hardest for me!), the moving party set away from Turku. And I said goodbyes to the city, not knowing I would be going back there in couple of months for a university entrance examination, haha. We drove to my brother's home almost 400 kilometers away. It was already very late when we got there and my brother had to get up really early to go to work. Me and my father had to also get up early, but we got couple more hours of sleep than my brother. Which is good since we had a long drive ahead...

Before we left the area where my brother lives, we made a short stop at my brother's ex's home. There I met my niece for the first time. She was born almost a year ago, but since they live so far away, I have never visited them before. Evaluation: my niece loves to rip and eat my long hair. My father's long beard also got its share of rips. :)

From there we got approximately 550 kilometers to go. We had to make couple stops at Oulu and Kemi in order to get me food and an internet connection, since we realized we did not have enough time to get to Rovaniemi (where I was moving) in time before stores close. Besides those and few mandatory service station / rest stops, this is what most of the day looked like:

On the road again...
550 kilometers is a LONG drive, especially if you are tired and have driven almost the same amount the day before (= overall app. 1000 kilometers). It was a bit easier for me, since I did not drive the car (I have never gotten a driver's license), but still extremely boring. There was not even a CD player in the car. And it was very crowded; the van's back was filled to the last centimeter. After the trip to the grocery store in Kemi, we had to fit in four full plastic bags of food and some of my stuff to the cabin. They did fit in, but all the space to move even a little was gone:

My leg space too was shared.

At least I got some delicious salad from a store in Oulu:

Yes, I am one of those people that just MUST photograph their food.

The photo couple of photos ago showed what the almost entire way looked like. There really is nothing interesting on the roads in Finland and we did not even drive through any cities really. (Though we drove through the city of Jyväskylä on the first moving day at very late hour. I have to admit it was very beautiful with all the lights and nice buildings). The most interesting thing for me was the endless amount of wind farm windmills (or how do you call them?) around Kemi. I absolutely love those. Besides being a good source of energy, I find them looking very pretty. Obviously I had the spend lots of time photographing them (not like there was anything else to do anyway):

A small collage of some of my photos of the wind farms.

Finally 20:28 o'clock there was this familiar sign welcoming us:

On a side note: a camera's flash and these signs do NOT make a working combination.

We still had over an hour to drive, since the city of Rovaniemi is huge (by area) and the sign is at the edge of the limits and we were heading to my father's place which is far from the city limit where we entered the city. But at least it marked the last leg of the drive!

I am originally from Rovaniemi (the city of Santa Claus at the polar circle in Finnish Lapland), so I was sort of coming back home. Even though I really do not feel this city as my home anymore; I have been gone for so long, that everything has changed and honestly I do not thrive here. Luckily this is only a temporary living situation.

The reason behind of moving away from Turku was that I wanted to save in rent money. I do not need an apartment here in Rovaniemi, which means I can save a little. I am hoping to get in to a university in Autumn, so every cent is welcome addition to my savings. And also since the apartment in Turku was causing me health problems, I really needed to move away from there. And on top of that, I need to store my belongings in my father's storage anyway, since if I will move to Denmark in few months, I will definitely not be dragging all of this with stuff me. So, moving here made sense in many ways.

17 April 2015

Life right now

I have been less active on this blog, partly because with all the school work it is hard to find inspiration and partly because for the same reason my life has been fairly uninteresting recently. Besides I have been sick for months now (more on that later), which just adds up to these. But I made a decision to focus on this blog too once I have moved and am finished with the school work. Since that has happened, I will try to start blogging on this blog too.

SCHOOL RIGHT NOW

My high school studies are at that point now that I can say I am done with the school! *Insert some confetti and party horn sounds here.* I have the mandatory amount of courses done and I am done with the finals. My history grade from the finals is likely going to be (at least based on the pre-grading done by a teacher) not as good as I hoped with the amount of studying I did, but other than that I could not be happier with my grades. 2 and half years of work definitely paid of. I will write a deeper analysis of my high school studies later on.

Though I still have one more high school course to do. Few weeks ago while I was sending my university applications, I found out that one of the universities required more history and/or social studies courses than the others. I had totally missed this previously since all the schools had same requirements in Danish grades (I am applying to universities in Denmark) and it did not cross my mind that they would have "translated" those into Finnish grades differently. So, I must do one more history course in order to fulfill the requirement. I was kind of hoping to be done with high school now, but at least it just one more course and on an interesting subject.

I have now send my university applications to Danish and Finnish universities. For Danish universities there is no entrance exams (which I think is a good thing), but for Finnish universities there is. Denmark is my number one choice, but I am going to study for the Finnish entrance exams just in case. There is three books and also a math course, that I already did in high school, to study, so I am going to be focusing on those too. I will be doing to entrance exam at the start of June in Turku (from where I just moved away and now I must travel back there, haha!).

SPRING AND SUMMER PLANS

The next month and a half I will be focused on the studies mentioned before. After that and possibly at the same time, I plan to study more Japanese and piano + music theory. Since in Autumn I will be most likely starting in a university, I want to take summer more easily to rest. But I find Japanese and piano fun to study, so I do not think they will stress me out. I also want to start exercising my actively, since so far my exercising has been a bit irregular. I just bought new running shoes; I have never run before, but maybe now I will. I also want to practice riding my bike, which I have not done in years. Roller skates could be a lot of fun too. This probably ends up so that in few months I will be blogging about hitting a reindeer with my bike...

As you might be able to guess from the reindeer comment, I am currently living at my father's place in Lapland (Northern Finland) in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing but forests with reindeers here. Since there is nothing to do around here, I am filling my time with the activities mentioned above and of course blogging. It is almost an hour to the closest city and I get car sick, so I am mostly staying put here.

I do also have plans for some travelling. I obviously need to save many for university (number one reason why I gave up my apartment), so I can not spend a lot for travelling. Besides the day trip to Turku for the entrance exam (I have some other plans too for that day), I need to go to Helsinki for a English language test (IELTS), which is required by the university I applied to. I am hoping to go to Tallinn, Estonia's capital, at the same trip. It is only a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki to Tallinn and Estonia is a fairly cheap country, so it should be affordable, since I anyhow need to go to Helsinki. Also we, me and my father that is, have talked about taking a road trip to North, into Norway and possibly Sweden too. I really would like to go to Alta, Norway to see the rock carvings there. We could visit some other places on the way too.

BLOGGING PLANS

Well, like I said I plan to be more active on this blog. So far my life has not been that interesting for a life-style blog with me focusing on the high school studies. Now there is more variety to write about. And if I get into a Danish university, then starting in Autumn I have so many things to write about! If this happens then I plan to write ie. about how a foreigner sees the Danish society and culture, and what obstacles a person can face moving into a strange country (I have only briefly visited Denmark) completely by herself and without really understanding the language.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words and videos must be worth even more, I have plans to start vlogging too. I have no experience in video editing, but since I am highly interested in video editing, I hope to get a hold of it. I think my experiences from Denmark would be more interesting on a video than text. But I want to start vlogging already in order to get practice so that by Autumn my videos will be decent. I think I need a lot of practice on being comfortably holding a camera, especially in public places! I still need to plan on this a bit more. And, quite essentially, I need to get a vlogging camera!