The doorbell rang. Kathi Wilson was coughing heavily as she sat there, hunched over on the couch. Then she grabbed her walking stick and stood up. She shuffled towards the door as her cane scraped the wooden floor. The contractors had come. They headed upstairs to complete the job while she went back to the place she was most comfortable in—her couch. She hoped that a short nap would get rid of her body aches, so she closed her eyes. Then, she heard them shouting her name.
Wilson was a 41-year-old woman living in Shelbyville, Indiana. She wasn’t necessarily a fitness champ, but she had lived an active life. She had no choice. She had to work hard to provide for her family. But ten years ago, she got sick. She assumed that work and stress had left her worn out. But her daughter was concerned and for a good reason.
Wilson tried taking vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and zinc in conjunction with a couple of over-the-counter medicines, but nothing worked. Eventually, her daughter, Ashley took her to see a doctor. But the doctor told Wilson what she already knew in her heart. She got a note that told her to take some time off of work to recharge. But Wilson’s sickness didn’t go away.
Wilson’s condition was getting worse. She had grown pale, her appetite was non-existent, and she was tired all the time. This worried Ashley. So, a couple of weeks after the initial doctor’s visit, Wilson went back to the doctor. The doctor was stunned. Wilson was young and strong, so she should have been able to overcome the flu by now. Now, even the doctor was worried.
Dr. Mary Beth Hensley ran allergy and blood tests to screen out any possible illnesses or intolerances that Wilson might have had. But all the tests showed that Wilson was healthy. But despite the lack of an illness, Dr. Hensley put Wilson on antibiotics as a precautionary measure. Dr. Hensley believed that Wilson’s reaction to the antibiotics would provide a clue as to what was causing her sickness, but her reaction had the opposite effect.
Wilson wasn’t getting any better. She couldn’t keep her eyes open. Her body hurt. And this mysterious illness was starting to affect her mental well-being. Family members and friend were worried. Could the sickness have been in her head? Wilson knew better. And besides, Ashley had seen her mother deteriorate, so she was convinced something was wrong.
Wilson went online and researched all of her symptoms. She even reached out to alleged experts online. Then she gave natural remedies a shot. But the herbal treatments did nothing for her. At this point, she had plenty of questions, but no answers. Eventually, everyone around her started to question her symptoms, which didn’t help the situation. Then she pondered, was the illness in her head?
Wilson spent the next decade visiting her doctor. Dr. Hensley did her best to help her find the answers that she needed. The doctor ordered that Wilson get all the necessary testing done, which included, “cardiac testing, chest x-rays, MRI’s [of] the brain, the spine, to see if something was related.” But the results showed that everything was just fine. “I felt we were very thorough but didn’t come up with a solution.” Wilson was fed up.
Wilson’s illness continued to affect her quality of life, which included her work, as well as her relationships. Mentally, she was exhausted after ten years of dealing with flu-like symptoms. Then, she decided to help herself by coming up with a bathroom makeover. This would involve turning her old bathroom into a new sanctuary. And she had contractors take care of all the work. That’s when they discovered something shocking.
The contractor’s forehead crumpled as he asked, “When was your water heater installed?” Wilson recalled that the installation occurred before she got sick. Her daughter, Ashley, was a child when it happened. “Maybe 10 years ago?” she answered. The contractors were shocked because they learned that the water heater and furnace weren’t fitted right, leading to a carbon monoxide leak in the house over the last decade. But carbon monoxide is toxic, isn’t it?
Carbon monoxide is virtually invisible. It has no odor or color. But long-term exposure disrupts oxygen in the blood. Over time, it can damage the brain, the heart, and other organs. But tiny traces of carbon monoxide will cause symptoms like confusion, fainting, muscle weakness, and vomiting over time. Some people will even experience nausea, headaches, dizziness, chest pains, and fatigue. In the worst cases, someone could lose their life. So how did doctors miss this over and over?
The answer to Wilson’s decade-long illness was clear. She had practically given up on ever finding a cause for the way that she felt. But thanks to the contractors and their unexpected discovery, she now had the answers she needed. “I was shocked,” she explained. Wilson had spent years feeling like she was physically older than she really was. How could she hope to repay them?
Wilson’s daughter, Ashley, was happy to hear that her mother finally had proof of her condition. With the leak fixed, Wilson would finally become the woman she was. “Over the years, it kept getting worse and worse,” explained Ashley. But now, she had a chance to go out for lunch at a restaurant and do some shopping. There was still plenty of time for Ashley to bond with her mom. But could Wilson forgive doctors for not seeing the obvious?
Wilson did get a new bathroom, but she also got a new lease on life and she’s feeling great. Her mind, body and spirit are back in sync despite the fact that she’s still recovering from years of exposure to carbon monoxide. Despite this, she claims, “I feel great. I haven’t been this happy in I can’t tell how long.” But there’s one side to this story that’s still quite troubling.
Over the years, Wilson was called a hypochondriac because her tests were all negative. Doctors prescribed her a bunch of medicine. They even recommended exercise and bed rest, but nothing worked. And Wilson has one regret. She wishes she had tried harder to get the right diagnosis instead of waiting ten years for the right answer. Now, she’s looking forward to her new life, but she hopes her experience will prevent others from going through what she did at the hands of carbon monoxide.