Scott and Trish Johnson were ecstatic when they bought their home in Preston, Minn., in January 2016. After working hard and saving money they were able to purchase the home they had been dreaming of. Two years later their lives were turned upside down when a drastic black mold problem was discovered throughout the house.
On January 22, 2018 there was a winter storm that dropped a mix of rain and snow for many hours. Scott says, “We had water actually come in through the foundation wall into the bathroom downstairs,” in the basement.
“We pulled the baseboards just outside the bathroom because the carpet had gotten wet there also,” explains Scott. When they removed the baseboards they saw black along the floor.
They were very alarmed by seeing this and decided they would check the bathroom area since that’s where they saw they had water, states Trish.
“I knocked out a 12” x 12” square of sheetrock thinking we have to get this dried out and we see black,” says Trish.
They called America’s Best Cleaning and Restoration Services out of Rochester, Minn., the next day. “They did an air quality test and it was off the charts; they said you can’t live here,” states Trish.
This would be shocking and upsetting for any family but the Johnsons had even more reason to be worried. In 2010 their second child, Slade, was born premature, weighing a mere one lb, four oz and spent 118 days in the hospital, leaving him with many complications including additional surgeries.
Slade has an underdeveloped and compromised respiratory system which makes even minor sicknesses, such as a common cold, very dangerous and possibly life-threatening.
The Johnson family, which includes Scott, Trish, Xander, 9, Slade, 7, and Paizley, 3, moved out of their home the next day taking very little with them. Traci Corson, owner of the Trailhead Inn & Suites in Preston, Minn., generously offered the family to stay in a suite for two weeks.
“At that point we thought okay we have to gut out the basement,” explains Trish. So they called American Waterworks from Rochester. “They did a whole beaver dam system to get the drainage out,” and did waterproofing, according to Trish.
Another air quality test was performed and it failed – upstairs. So they started opening exploratory holes throughout the house and kept finding black mold everywhere. Before long it was apparent that the entire house needed to be gutted.
The family had to throw away most of their belongings due to the mold issue in the home. Being shortly after Christmas many of the items that the children had to give up were toys and other presents they had gotten for Christmas.
As any homeowner who may come across a mold problem, the Johnsons contacted their insurance agent. To their dismay, they were told they would be getting no financial help from the insurance company.
“With the water that came in it was an issue of the water coming in from outside the house so since it wasn’t a water source or a pipe or something inside the house it wasn’t covered because the water actually came through the structure,” states Scott.
“As far as the mold, the types of mold that were coming up have been growing for years and years,” he says. “Ten years plus it had to be growing in this home to be at the level it was at,” states Trish.
Since there is not a pinpoint of when the mold started it’s considered a “maintenance issue,” explains Scott, so it is not covered by their homeowner’s insurance.
For two months it seemed like every day they got worse news. By this time the family had moved again, into a rental home, generously offered by Eric and Tara Corson where they have been staying for the last two months.
After the discovery of the black mold in their home, the Johnsons contacted Slade’s doctor, concerned about the effects of the black mold, especially since the boys’ bedrooms had been in the basement. They were advised to bring Slade in to the infusion center right away as many of the symptoms Slade had been experiencing the previous months were about to be explained.
“Slade was so sick and we couldn’t figure out why,” states Trish, saying, “they thought it was cancer — they did CT scans, MRIs, blood draws, bone scans,” to try to figure out why his bones were closing (aging) and they could not figure out what was causing him to be so sick. “He kept deteriorating and losing weight and we knew something was wrong but didn’t know what,” states Trish.
Slade was diagnosed with Black Mold Toxicity. The Johnsons decided to have Slade’s mattress tested for mold spore count, and with 30 considered infested, the mold spore count on his mattress was 18,000.
“So if nothing else, I have to say we are thankful that our house flooded,” says Trish, rather than living in the house for who knows how long without finding out about the black mold and “not figuring it out and how bad he would have gotten,” she adds.
There is good news. Slade just had a repeat bone scan and although the damage that has been done is permanent, his bones have stopped closing. “He used to take naps at school; he’s not napping anymore, he couldn’t make it through phy ed; now he can run three laps in the gym,” notes Trish.
Major work is being completed on their home as it has been gutted completely and anything that needs to be treated to prevent mold has been treated.
Meanwhile, the Johnsons have moved once again, this time into an apartment, until they can move back into their home. It’s been very hard as the family has been living out of boxes because “you don’t even want to unpack because you know you’re going to leave again,” states Trish. The family just wants to go home.
The Johnsons are very thankful to so many people that have been helping them get through this situation that has completely taken over their lives. Their families have been wonderful and very supportive. “Friends and family have definitely been a huge piece of maintaining sanity,” says Scott.
Members of their church, Greenleafton Reformed Church, “have blessed us so very much,” states Trish. “For three weeks we didn’t have to cook,” states Scott, as members of the church brought them meals after they had to move out of their home and also helped pull staples in the basement that needed to be removed.
Scott and Trish are usually the ones who are offering their help and support to others. Scott was a member of the 79th Military Police Company, serving in Iraq as a medic. His brothers and sisters in his old unit have been awesome, states Scott. They have started a GoFundMe page for the family. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/2nvspr-military-family-in-need. Donations can also be mailed to the Johnson Family at P.O. Box 673, Preston, Minn. 55965.
Scott’s sister, Bethany Johnson, says, “They always look out for others and do what they can to help anyone that they can, asking nothing in return,” and now they are in need. Being in a situation where they need to ask for help “is a hard pill to swallow,” states Scott, but what is most important to Scott and Trish are their children and their children need a safe home.
Between paying the mortgage on their home and rent on the apartment where they are staying, along with regular monthly bills, construction costs, cost of replacing necessities, meals and numerous other expenses, the family is in great need of financial help.
Everyone has been so supportive, with neighbors stopping by to check on them, and the local food shelf offering assistance. “Preston is amazing,” says Trish.
They would like to thank the businesses that have helped or are helping get their house fixed including America’s Best, who are “amazing” and “have gone above and beyond,” says Trish, American Waterworks, Byler Const., Haakenson Electric, Kingsley’s Mercantile, Lifetime Insulation, Hiller’s Carpet, and Clay and Dylan who are scheduled to do sheetrock and finishing work.
The family hopes to be back in their home on June 1, or as soon as possible, at which time they will need to replace their furniture and other items so the needs of the family will be ongoing for some time.
“We know that God’s hands are at work in this process. From finding the medical answers for Slade to the love and generosity from even strangers. While we appreciate financial support we ask, even more, for support through prayers,” state the Johnson’s.