OKLAHOMA CITY – A metro family is trying to raise money for their son’s medical treatment after being exposed to a crude oil spill earlier this year.
In May, Oklahoma City firefighters and hazmat crews were called to the 16900 block of N. Pennsylvania Avenue following reports of a yellow liquid spewing from the ground near an oil well site. Authorities later determined a pipeline had ruptured and was releasing raw crude oil into the air.
Amy Borg and her husband were less than quarter mile away, playing with their son, Bobby, at a nearby playground.
“All of sudden, we started smelling, and we didn’t think anything of it at first but, within minutes, it became intolerable,” Borg said. “Bobby got off the swing, and just like reached up and was like… pick me up. We had to carry him home and, by the time we got home, we couldn’t even keep our eyes open and we were coughing; it was terrible.”
Borg said, when Bobby was a toddler, he was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy. Doctors also told them he had a condition known as mitochondrial dysfunction, so his body cannot handle exposure to harsh chemicals.
The family had kept him on a restricted diet and said it was manageable. Borg said it did not take long after the exposure to notice a change in Bobby’s health.
“He developed this horrible cough and, then, this terrible rash appeared all over his body,” Borg said. “We basically spent thousands of dollars to get him where he’s not coughing like that. For months, his brain was so inflamed that he could only sleep for a couple of hours a night and, then, he would wake up just screaming in pain.”
The family told News 4 they went to several doctors who now believe Bobby’s exposure set back his health. Borg said her son never had more than three to four seizures a year but since the exposure, he’s had up to five a week.
“It was the environmental doctor who said my fear is that he can’t excrete the benzene and it’s making his way into his neurons,” she said. “We’ve been doing the kind of detoxing that they would do but just on such a smaller scale because, if we try to even give him charcoal, which they often give for poisonings, that will trigger a seizure.”
Borg said doctors have recommended they send Bobby to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for treatment. The family has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds.
As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the funding page for Bobby has raised closed to $2,300. The family has a goal of $5,000.
"It has been a nightmare that has kept getting worse. I mean, my husband and I are so exhausted because we’ve only been able to get a couple hours of sleep each night," she said.
In May, a report from the pipeline company Sunoco stated the company conducted soil tests and air monitoring since the incident. Their report stated the air quality was “safe and consistently within established air quality standards” and “residents and neighbors of the SilverHawk neighborhood that our initial surface wipe samples and soil testing results indicate that any residual hydrocarbons are well below health-based screening values, which means there are no concerns for residents related to any health impacts for your families or your pets.”
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission told News 4 on Tuesday that samples including Beneze from the neighborhood have come back below the threshold levels for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons, which means they were below the minimum levels requiring action.
News 4 reached out both the pipeline company Sunoco as well as its parent company Energy Transfers for an updated comment on Tuesday regarding this story. We are waiting for a response.