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Tonya Papanikolas ReportingA Tooele family is having to change their lifestyle and maybe even where they live, all because of their pet birds.
Freeman Schneider is a six-year-old little boy who likes stuffed animals, but the real animals at his home are more problematic. The Schneiders have had their pigeon, Grace, for three years; and last year they acquired a dove named Sheridan.
Freeman Schneider, Developed Bird Fancier's Disease: “She would just stand still and let me tickle her."
The bird's feathers can be found all over the apartment and Freeman started collecting them. But his family never thought the pets would pose a problem, until Freeman got sick.
Edward Schneider, Freeman's Father: “Near the end of October he would start having coughing fits that would go on for about a minute or so.”
Doctors first thought Freeman caught pneumonia, but a series of tests at Primary Children's Hospital showed he had "Bird Fancier's Disease." The condition is like an extreme allergy to bird serum, droppings or feathers.
Sera Kathryn Schneider, Mother: “Eventually his immune system decided it doesn't like the pet dander at all and it starts attacking his lungs."
Freeman is now home from the hospital. His parents test his blood oxygen levels during the day and give him oxygen at night. But that's not the hardest part.
Freeman Schneider: “They told me never go near birds ever again."
The family has been living with a friend until they can find a new apartment or clean out their old one. The bird dander is everywhere, so if they stay, they'll have to get rid of all their fabric-covered furniture, like couches, chairs and mattresses. They'll also have to replace their carpet and clean out their ventilation system. Clothing and stuffed animals will have to be sterilized in hot water. And they'll have to find a new home for the birds.
The family says the renovations will be tough financially, but they're just happy their son is okay.
A local allergist told us "Bird Fancier's Disease" is pretty rare and hard to diagnose.
Donations to assist the family can be made in the name of Freeman Schneider at any Washington Mutual branch.