A few months ago I visited a friend who owns a beautiful home on Bayou St. John. She gave me a tour, we lunched, and after two hours or so of chatting with her, I got ill. Dreadfully ill. My head pounded under pressure and ached from nasal congestion; it was obvious I’d developed some sort of spontaneous illness or infection. But I found out soon enough that it wasn’t a cold or the flu or food poisoning. I knew this much when my face became prickly and I started to feel dizzy.

Coincidentally, at the same moment, my friend was just at the point of describing to me everything that happened to their home after Katrina. Like many others Crescent City abodes, theirs sat for weeks in 7 feet of water while they were hundreds of miles away, helpless. Fortunately they’d managed to move most of their possessions to the second floor before evacuation, but everything left below the waterline got destroyed. Naturally, I expected to hear that they’d gutted their entire home during renovations but was shocked when she told me they only stripped the drywall and redid everything up to 8 feet. The rest of their nearly three-story house remained untouched.

And that is when I figured out why I was so sick: There was mold — lots of mold –– lurking somewhere in their house.

I’ve always been severely hypersensitive to mold and penicillin, which isn’t much of a surprise because penicillin is derived from the mold spore, penicillium. Let it suffice to say, there’s no real connection between these two allergies, but when it comes to my mold allergy — it’s damn near debilitating.

Unfortunately I was unable to convince my friend that there’s a mold problem in her home. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t think of any other substance that would cause such a severe physical reaction on my part, not to mention that within an hour after leaving her house, I felt fine. Nobody seems to believe my stories about my über-sensitivity to mold, the hubby included. For months I told him about a subtle mold smell in our bedroom and complained about my sinuses and violent sneezing, but he’d respond rather lovingly yet matter-of-factly, “You’re paranoid when it comes to mold.” So all this time I’ve slept with my back to our floor-to-ceiling custom closets — which I’d suspected housed the source — afraid that I’d stop breathing in the middle of the night or wake up with welts on my face.

On Sunday, however, we discovered I’m not paranoid, not even close. I found the source during a zealous sniff-search that led me less than 15 feet from where I rest my head every night. Turns out, our shotgun neighbor’s shower has a leak that trickles directly into our closet. As I pulled out neatly stacked shoe boxes and removed clothes from the closet, I discovered the black and green fungal beast breeding in full force.

The mold is cleaned up now, but the next phase ensues: inspection. It’s almost certain that there’s mold damage inside the walls, and if not repaired, it can resprout and worsen. All of this comes on the heels, too, of some serious flooding in our neighborhood. Several of our neighbors’ cars flooded in the deluge of rainfall this past weekend, and some even suffered flooding in their homes.

I suppose with the enormity of hurricanes, humidity and heat here, mold is an inevitable outcome. “Welcome to the potential perils of living in New Orleans,” some might say. So I’ll just add it to the list of things to expect while living here, No. 38:  “possibility of mold remediation at some point in the future.”

And just in case you’re wondering — yes, my list of New Orleans caveats continues to grow, but so does my love for the city.

Got any warm and fuzzy stories about mold you’d like to share? Please do.