"I was angry at myself for not protecting my child."


“I was angry at myself for not protecting my child.”

This would seem a natural reaction for any parent.  We are all focused on protecting our children and making sure they are strong and healthy.

The lead in the paint that made her daughter Lucy sick was not her fault, yet Kristin was angry at both herself and her husband.

Then anxiety set in and she took action. She went into “Mama Bear” mode.

Many children in Grand Rapids' neighborhoods are being exposed to high levels of lead in their homes. Kristin and her husband, Matt, detected lead in their home and in their backyard after their daughter Lucy had her blood tested by her physician. They concluded that Lucy enjoyed playing in the dirt outside and would crawl around in their living space, picking up the dust from lead that was tracked in and lingered in their home. They started taking a proactive approach by frequently mopping and vacuuming. They also made sure no shoes were worn inside and renovated their porch because it had chipping lead paint.

When she was first tested, Lucy had a blood level of 45 (a level of five is the reference level set by the US Centers for Disease Control). More reliable testing revealed a result of 32 and then follow-up testing returned a result of 21. A year later Lucy's blood lead level is 7.

This was an emotional time for the Fowlers. They felt sad and overwhelmed. Kristin was constantly anxious about Lucy coming in contact with more lead. They are thankful that they had support from friends and family, although no one could truly understand what they were going through. Kristin and Matt felt that they had failed as parents. They blamed the poisoning on themselves. Their first instinct when they found out about the lead was to move. Kristin said she didn’t know what else to do because she was angry and felt grief. She was also experiencing anger towards Matt. He would arrive home from work everyday in his dirty work outfit and boots and he would instinctively hold Lucy before washing his hands. Kristin worried that this also led to Lucy being poisoned.

Kristin and Matt heard about Healthy Homes from a friend and took advantage of the resources offered. Healthy Homes taught them simple things like low-cost cleaning methods and supplies to control the lead dust and other strategies to get the lead out of their home.

There are so many factors that go into lead poisoning. There can be several different areas located around the house that trap lead. Kristin and Matt are fortunate that their lead issue is under control as of now. They mentioned that it will always be in the back of their head now. They will continue to frequently clean and monitor Lucy’s actions.

The Fowler family has a message to all parents who are going through the same issue, “You can do it, it’s going to be ok.” They want all parents to unite and know that there are people in the same situation and there is always someone you can reach out to for help. When parents feel alone, they can turn to the community, friends and neighbors. Parents are all in this together.

The Fowlers’ message to community leaders is that we need to stress importance of educating the public. Too many families are unaware of lead hazards in their home until it is too late. “There needs to be a way to make the process easier," said Matt. Too many people are stuck and don’t have the money or resources to get rid of the lead. When it comes down to it you have to decide between money and your child’s health.

Matt and Kristin chose Lucy's health.