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Community pulls together to help family

Ashly and Nicholas Clayton have truly sensed what living in a small town is all about after people in the community came together to help them move into a new place when they lost almost everything they owned in a mold-infested mobile home.

“I want to thank everybody that helped us because we really needed it,” Nicholas said.


When the couple moved into the three-bedroom mobile home on Mason Chapel Road in Alton in October 2012, they had no idea that what they thought was a dream come true would turn into a total nightmare.


On Nov. 10, only weeks after they moved into the new home, their 2-year-old son, Nathan, became seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital.


According to Ashly, her son was having difficulty breathing, and he was “panting really loud and really fast.” 


The mother of two said she called 911 to let them know she would be speeding down the highway to get her son to the hospital when the dispatcher, who could hear the young boy struggling to breathe, told her to meet the ambulance at Turbeville Volunteer Fire Department because her son needed oxygen immediately.


After being rushed into the Emergency Room at Halifax Regional Hospital, Nathan’s pediatrician, Dr. Samantha King, had him transferred to VCU Hospital where Dr. Ronald Williams discovered Nathan had suffered severe hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an allergic reaction triggered by excessive and prolonged exposure to mold.


Until her son became ill, she had no idea mold was growing in the family’s home.


For three weeks, Nathan was sedated and remained on life support because his small body couldn’t handle his rapid heart rate.


In the weeks Nathan was in the hospital, Ashly, who is the main income provider for her family, was forced to work fewer hours so she could stay with her son in the hospital.


 The family was on the verge of losing everything.


 To make matters worse, Ashly said she and her daughter also began experiencing health complications as a result of the mold.


McKayla, age 4, experienced asthmatic symptoms, while Ashly said she noticed her own tonsils swelling and was scheduled for an tonsillectomy earlier this month.


However, after moving into a new home, she no longer is experiencing any problems with her tonsils.


In addition to being sick, Ashly said her family was unable to celebrate Thanksgiving, and her daughter was unable to celebrate her birthday while Nathan remained in the hospital.


Dr. Williams issued a letter to Ashly stating Nathan should not return to the home under any circumstances, and no one should enter the home without appropriate breathing protection because of risks associated with toxic mold exposure.


 The family was forced to move immediately but had no place to go. 


Ashley said they couldn’t take anything with them from the mobile home because most all of their belongings had become infested with mold.


Many items of sentimental value also had to be thrown away due to exposure to mold.


“We had to throw away thousands of dollars worth of stuff,” she said.


Ashly said she had been very upset about what was going on and turned to her friend, Dianna Allen, sharing her hardship.


Earlier, she had met Allen while looking to buy a rabbit for her daughter, and the pair became friends.


Allen didn’t hesitate to help out the Clayton family and rallied members of the community together to hold a benefit for them.


“I want to give a big thanks to Dianna Allen who was there for us beyond the end,” Ashly said. “ She is like a second mother to me.”


Local businesses and individuals donated a sofa, chairs, dresser, a kitchen table, clothes, lamps, towels, blankets and bunk beds for the kids.


“Look at my bunk beds. They’re amazing,” a proud McKayla said.


 They even pitched together and rented Ashly a car to pick Nathan up from the hospital because her vehicle was leaking oil. 


And people in the community came together to ensure the Clayton children had a Merry Christmas collecting gifts for the children.


“If it wasn’t for the community, I don’t how we could have pulled it off,” Allen said of the efforts to help the Clayton family.


Barbara Mabe, worked with the Claytons by allowing them to move into a mobile home she owns on such short notice — they were in their new home in three days.


 “The community furnished the home in less than a week,” Allen said.


  However, the whole ordeal has taken an emotional toll on her family, Ashly said.


 “I missed Nathan. I missed him everyday when he went to that hospital, and I love him so much,” said McKayla who went to sleep each night her brother was hospitalized holding a photo of him.


Ashly said McKayla would say a prayer for Nathan each night.


“Please God, touch Nathan and make him well. I love you so much, Amen,” McKayla prayed.


According to Ashly, what she and her family endured has brought them closer together and has brought positive changes in their lives.


“They definitely went through a lot. It’s brought their family closer together. I’ve seen a big change in the family since everything started,” Allen said.


Ashly said she tries to look at the silver lining of her dark cloud saying much good has come out of the tragic events. Both she and her husband have become saved and are now members of McGee Mill Baptist Church where the Rev. Frankie Reeves is pastor.


The ordeal has made Ashly realize how valuable her husband and her children are to her, she added. Now she tries to work night shifts so she can be with them during the day.


Nicholas even stopped smoking, Ashly said, to be mindful of Nathan’s breathing difficulties as the child still experiences lung complications.


The Claytons along with Allen said they have learned a great deal from this ordeal including that when looking for a home, families need to make sure the windows do not leak, and they caution people to be aware that mold can be deadly.