Desert Rose and the Story of Stray Currents Monday, 14 July 2014 10:05
Daniel Ross By Daniel Ross, | Report
When Kathy Seacrist looks back over the past eight or so years, 2007 marked the beginning of a long nightmare. It was the year that her son, John McDonald, 37 at the time, started suffering from seizures.
“John was so healthy. Ate healthy. Everything. He was really buff. All my girlfriends fancied him,” she said. McDonald, his daughter Malia, and Seacrist all lived together at her home in Desert Rose, a subsidized housing community in Palm Desert, California.
In 2009, Seacrist’s own health began to deteriorate rapidly. “It started with terrible sinus infections and got progressively worse. I had slurred speech, my hands couldn’t stop shaking,” she said. By 2010, Seacrist, naturally slight, almost birdlike, someone always proud of staying trim and fit, thought that she was on the brink of death. “I was down to 82 pounds. For a while, doctors thought that I had MS. I told my mom, ‘If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.’ “
Tests conducted in her home in 2010 revealed the presence of toxic mold spores. “The whole insides of the walls were covered black with mold,” she said. As a result, Seacrist tore out the walls, threw away all of her furniture and conducted ozone shock treatment in her home – a treatment designed to kill all of the toxic mold spores. In April 2011, Seacrist and her son filed a lawsuit against the City of Palm Desert for damages resulting from there being no condensation line connected to the air conditioning unit in her home.
Despite ridding her home of mold, Seacrist’s health continued to decline.
The original symptoms didn’t fade, and were exacerbated by insomnia. She started getting knifing migraines, heart palpitations and found herself slipping into a slump of depression. She began experiencing stabbing pains in her feet and legs that were so severe that she eventually had to leave her job as a waitress at the nearby Fantasy Springs Casino through disability.
“It started getting so bad that by the end of my shift, it felt like all of the bones in both feet were breaking,” she said. “Pains shooting up my leg. It was so weird. My hearing became so sensitive, too; the slightest noise felt like knives going in my ears. But on February 27 of last year, I had just finished, clocked out, took off my shoes and sat there. I didn’t even think I could make it to my car I was in that much agony. That was my last day at work.”
The issue of stray currents is a muddy, complicated one, made all the murkier by an array of differing expert opinions and a lack of comprehensive testing as to the human health effects of long-term exposure to low-level electrical currents.
In December 2013, Seacrist and her son, represented by the law firm of Swanson and Peluso, filed another lawsuit against Southern California Edison. The community of Desert Rose is separated from the Indian Wells electrical substation by the width of a narrow lane, and the lawsuit claims that Seacrist and McDonald’s illnesses are the result of electrical current passing via the earth back to the substation – a phenomenon widely called stray current, and one more commonly known to harm dairy cattle.
But while Seacrist, now 58, and her son are the only plaintiffs in the lawsuit, a significant number of residents, especially those residing toward the substation end of the community, share an array of similar medical symptoms with Seacrist and her son – symptoms that some medical experts believe are associated with prolonged exposure to low-level electrical currents.