Imagine watching your children suffer but not getting answers. You take them to see many different doctors. Your newborn is born with a heart defect and requires open-heart surgery. Yet not one expert can tell you why.

This happened to the Shellenbergers, a young family of six.

In 2003, the Shellenbergers built their dream home — their forever home, they thought. But something wasn’t right. The whole family — including both parents and all four kids, ranging from ages 1 to 10 — began suffering, and no one could tell them why. Finally, after exhausting all medical avenues, they decided to have their home’s air quality tested.

Uncovering the danger

Days before spring break, they discovered their home was filled with toxic levels of black mold. Spores formed everywhere, but were invisible to the naked eye. This was making everyone very sick.

“During construction, roofers cut corners. As a result, water slowly leaked into the ceiling and walls. We never saw it,” says Ryan Shellenberger, still devastated by what his family endured. “By the time we learned of the problem, our family had paid the price.”

Calculating the costs

“By the time we learned of the problem, our family had paid the price.”

The health effects the family was left to cope with were difficult to say the least, but having to get rid of everything they owned — losing clothes, toys, pictures — was beyond anything they could imagine. The mold spores and toxins had permeated all their belongings, and it was too costly to try and salvage them. To make things worse, their home insurance didn’t have a mold rider, which meant they lost everything and all the expenses were out of pocket — over $40,000 spend on industrial hygienists, immuno-toxicologists, mold remediators and more.

“We vacated our home and everything in it and lived in multiple locations in the course of a year,” Shellenberger concludes. “Everything is not better by any means, but we know we did what we had to do for the sake of ourselves and our four children. I only wish we had figured it out sooner.”