Black mold turns home into a prison
By DONNA HARRIS
BASIN -- Like a convict on death row, Frances Prescott spends her life in
a gas chamber waiting for the poison to kill her.
Red and Frances Prescott's home in the southern George County community of Basin
has been invaded by black mold that is spreading through their ceiling and walls.
Some of the airborne mold spores have started growing in Frances Prescott's
lungs, slowly suffocating her to death. Chained to an oxygen tank by its plastic
tubing, Prescott, 70, must stay in her home because she has nowhere else to
go. Her "Home Sweet Home" has become her prison.
Most of the mold can't be seen because it's hidden inside the walls, attaching
itself to the sheetrock like white bread left in the wrapper too long. Other
areas in their house show big brown spots, like coffee stains on a paper towel.
There's a stain the size of a softball on her bedroom ceiling just four or five
feet away from the bed she sleeps in. At night, as she's sucking oxygen from
a huge machine to stay alive, the mold continues to spread.
The Prescotts both get by on Social Security checks in their mailbox once a
month. They don't have the money to buy another mobile home and their children
aren't in a position to take them in. Their only solution is to tear the trailer
down and build another framed building in its place. "The doctor told her
plain and simple to get out or make sure her burial insurance was paid up because
it's going to kill her," he said.
The mold first made its appearance after Hurricane Georges hit the Coast in
1998. After the storm, which ripped several holes in their ceiling, water was
left standing an inch or two deep in their carpet.
Red Prescott, 71, who has worked construction since he was 12, had already started
remodeling the modest single-wide trailer, so he let it dry out, fixed the roof,
put hardwood floors in and continued his renovations. "I didn't realize
that after it dried out I needed to rip the whole thing out. I covered it up.
I remodeled the whole thing. It's in the walls, the ceiling, the floors,"
he said. "I thought the problem was solved, but I just made the problem."
The Prescotts never received any money from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency for structural damage, but they did receive a check earmarked for purchase
of furniture only. "Even though we had all this water damage and everything
was wet and just totally destroyed in here, FEMA gave her $700 to buy a piece
of furniture," he said.
She got symptoms about a year and a half ago. Doctors began treating her for
lung disease, but when she had open heart surgery in September they discovered
"That's when they did the biopsy on her lungs and said she had the fungus
growing in her lungs," he said.
Doctors told them that the mold must be in their house. "She can get to
where she's just at the point of passing out 'cause she can't breathe, she goes
to the hospital and she's breathing good. She comes back home and three or four
days later she's back to where she can't breathe so it's in this house,"
Their home must be replaced. "This has got to be tore down to the ground
and the ground underneath the house treated," he said. "If we kill
it here where she lives she won't be breathing new, but we don't know if what
she's already breathed will ever leave," he said.
They have tried to get assistance, but haven't had much success. "We've
called the Red Cross, Salvation Army and FEMA and EPA. We've called anyone with
a telephone number," he said.
Family and friends are having two back-to-back benefits to raise the $10,000
needed to rebuild a simple frame house under the 28-foot by 64-foot tin roof
that covers their trailer. They're taking orders for barbecue dinners to be
delivered around George County on Friday, Nov. 15, and they're hosting a barbecue
dinner and yard sale at Wayne Lee's Grocery in Lucedale on Saturday, Nov. 16.
On Friday, customers can choose between barbecue chicken dinners with the traditional
side items or the hand-pulled pork soaked with Prescott's homemade barbecue
sauce. Either dinner is $3.50 delivered. For Saturday, Prescott has the pork
and chicken available for pick-up and may have barbecued beef as well, he said.
To order meals call (601) 947-7764 or (601) 766-3848.
The Prescotts'also have an account set up at Century Bank for a building fund.
The account number is 1840685.
"We're hoping to raise enough money to frame back once this is torn down,"
he said. "If I could lay my hands on $10,000 tomorrow, by Thanksgiving
we'd be back in a house."
Besides losing their home, the Prescotts have to get rid of everything else
they own that can't be washed, like the living room suite they purchased a year
ago. "We're just sitting here at the mercy of the world right now,"
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