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.
I was born at Camp Lejeune (where the old hospital was that shows complete contamination with toxic water on ATSDR studies and Navy and Marine Corps maps) on September 15, 1981. I was premature, had misshapen blood platelets which required a blood transfusion. I had meningitis, which are holes in my brain and later caused me to start wearing glasses at two years of age.
I was kept in a incubator in the hospital on Camp Lejeune for 30 days the first time and was fed baby formula mixed with the toxic water. I was sent home after 30 days and was told I was recovered, but then got meningitis again and was brought back to stay in the Camp Lejeune hospital for an additional month or two. I was again fed the toxic water and baby formula during that stay.
I had to go through speech therapy as a child because I wouldn’t talk. When I did talk, I couldn’t pronounce S’s and R’s correctly. I had poor grades in school and had trouble learning. To this day, I have trouble concentrating and associating with people. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. This year, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. My nerves in my body from my feet to my neck go numb, tingle and have pain.
In 2005, I enlisted into the United States Air Force. While in basic, I fell and hit my back and twisted my leg. My whole right leg turned black and my mid back started to go numb. Then came my anxiety, depression and PTSD (which I felt was due to the harassment I was receiving while I was at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola Florida in 2006 attending my Technical Training for Aircraft Structural Maintenance). I was 24 at the time and, due to the circumstances, I received an entry level separation. I currently receive 30% VA disability for service-connected injuries that I sustained.
I wanted to share my story because after reading about neurobehavioral disorders, I wanted to know if fibromyalgia is a neurological disease or neurobehavioral disorder due to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune? Also, I contacted a law firm in 2017 after speaking at a CAP meeting for Camp Lejeune. I told the VA and ATSDR about my time as a baby on Camp Lejeune and my issues I had as a baby and child. I was told by someone in the audience that this law firm was helping people with a case for the Camp Lejeune toxic water exposure.
When I reached out to the law firm, I was not diagnosed with fibromyalgia (nor my anxiety, depression or PTSD that I attributed to the service and started in service). The firm told me I did not have one of the conditions connected to the toxic water and to basically get back in touch when I did. That was February of 2017.
My question is this. Since I’ve heard there is only a 24-month time span of statue of limitation that you can file a claim/lawsuit from the time you became aware of the service-connected injuries to the toxic water and the time you file – is fibromyalgia considered a neurological disease and linked to Camp Lejeune? Or is it a neurobehavioral effect?
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in North Carolina. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.
Editor’s Response: Thank you for your patience as we continue to dig through scores of messages. It takes a while, but I always want to answer every single message personally.
First, my heart goes out to you for the suffering and issues you’ve had to endure all your life as a result of being born at Camp Lejeune. My educated guess is that your neurological issues are indeed a result of exposure. That said, the issue is a bit complicated in terms of how to proceed. Let me explain.
I would encourage you to revisit the law firm quickly and explain your full story once more. As you can see in our article on Neurobehavioral Effects on our website, a definition states that they are “conditions of or relating to the relationship between the action of the nervous system and behavior. These may include: poor memory, dementia, depression, poor concentration, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, fatigue, motor problems, and many others. Exposure to TCE and other VOCs has been shown to be linked.”
Given your history of anxiety/depression, PTSD, motor problems, etc., I think you could certainly have a decent chance to qualify to be in the big lawsuit with the rest of the claimants that have filed. To my knowledge, that firm, along with others, is dealing with 1000’s of potential legal claimants in this matter.
That said, they are unable to move forward given the Circuit Court of Appeals continues to uphold the statute of repose that exists in NC, which is holding up all suits. To my understanding, they are continuing to try to find ways to work around this hurdle. Regardless, you should return to them and ensure that you can get involved based on the entirety of your history of problems. Even if fibromyalgia isn’t a qualifying factor, you’ve had other neurobehavioral issues that are.
Plus, I would speak with your personal doctor about the impacts of chemical exposures in utero and otherwise from the chemicals prevalent at the base (specifically TCE, PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride, etc.) at toxic levels in the water supplies. See if they can put together a nexus letter for you to give to the legal firm that states you are “more likely than not” to have derived your neuro issues from exposure at birth, especially with early onset conditions you expressed in your story.
Do not give up on this. If they still refuse to help you, let me know. I’ll see what I can find out for you. – GS