The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
My father, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, moved our family to the base in 1970. We resided at Camp Lejeune until 1980.
I’m the youngest child out of twelve others and of the thirteen of us, I, “Tara” suffered dearly from the day that I was born. Of course, when I was born, back in 1982, there were an awful lot of people who became very ill due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. No one knew just why they were ill. The one fact we could all agree on is that we all had very similar illnesses and signs of illnesses that had not even been diagnosed yet.
When I was born, I was born with three illnesses: club foot, neurobehavioral disorders, and scleroderma. It wasn’t until years after my birth when I had my first miscarriage that I was also diagnosed with fertility issues.
Because I was born having clubfFoot, I did not walk until I was six years old. From the very day of my birth to the present, I have had to have corrective surgery to correct the bone structure of my feet. All together so far, I’ve had over 50 surgeries between both feet with two amputations of two of my toes.
Club foot is a very painful foot disorder that has made my life very hard! For example, I have between two to three surgeries a year every year and therefore, if I’m in the middle of a college semester, I would have to take a medical leave of absence so that I wouldn’t fail the college semester to have the surgery that I needed. Once I recover after surgery and try returning to school, I’m met at the front door with a very large bill that I owed the college for having to take a medical leave of absence in the middle of a college semester. If I can’t pay the college what I owe, I can’t return to school!
I have also been diagnosed having scleroderma on the bottom of both feet. Scleroderma is very hard extra thick skin. It grows at the most on my feet about ten to twenty inches thick. I have to see a rheumatologist to have my scleroderma treated properly. I have the skin totally removed; however, the more I’m walking, running, or standing on my feet, the more scleroderma grows and grows. I always know just when I need to see my rheumatologist because my feet hurt so badly that either I can barely walk or at its absolute worse, I can’t walk at all! I have a wheel chair for when I can’t walk at all.
As a little girl, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), a neurobehavioral disorder which effects thousands of children and adults across the world. ADHD made my academic life as a child and as an adult very difficult!
I have four of the first fifteen proven illnesses on the list but yet, our federal government doesn’t even acknowledge me as well as a lot of others! Truth be told, our federal government fully knew all along that the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated and yet the federal government chose to sweep it under the rug and keep quiet, acting as if they knew nothing at all. The government went decades watching Marines and their families become very ill and some dying like all of the newborn babies born stillborn. Still, the government sat quietly, did nothing to help us at all, and continued to watch the traumatic experiences and illnesses we all endured because of our exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejuene all while continuing to keep their deep dark secrets to themselves.
This has impacted my life very negatively! I have not even been acknowledged, much less am I receiving any health care from the VA nor been awarded any settlement. None of these things will give me back what I lost like my first born baby who was born stillborn, nor will it even take away all the pain I have endured. However, having the VA provide health care for the illnesses I have would give me better treatment options, while being awarded a settlement will help with all of the medical and academic expenses I have accumulated over the years.
It’s past time for the government to start taking care of all the victims of Camp Lejeune contaminated water!
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Georgia. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.