Oct. 22, 2008 -- Elizabeth Feudale-Bowes will stand before the Allentown, Pa., town council tonight and hope her bubble doesn't burst.
Feudale-Bowes is fighting for her right to live inside a bubble, a steel-and-porcelain shed outside her house that serves as a haven for the 52-year-old who says she was diagnosed with "environmental illness" several years ago.
"It's my sanctuary," Feudale-Bowes said.
A judge already ruled that the 160-square-foot building -- complete with a toilet, metal cabinet, metal coil-exposed box spring and aluminum foil on the windows -- has to be taken down by the end of the month.
"This could be a death sentence for my wife," said Craig Bowes.
Feudale-Bowes' neighbors in suburban South Whitehall Township complain that the structure is unstable and unsightly.
"It's just gonna diminish our property value," said neighbor William Zotter. "I don't want it to be there."
The couple also hooked up electrical, water and sewer services without securing permits.
Life in a Bubble
But Feudale-Bowes and her husband said they need the shed because she is allergic to almost everything. Anything from perfume to the smell of plastic from a sneaker or a whiff of fabric softener can make Feudale-Bowes violently ill, they say. Feudale-Bowes says she has battled multiple chemical sensitivity for more than 15 years.
"[The] reaction can vary," she said. "[Some days my] throat can close, breathing becomes labored. Your heart can start to race [and] feel like you can pass out."
As a result, Feudale-Bowes spends 10 hours a day, every day, alone inside the building to deal with her multiple chemical sensitivities.
When she's not inside the structure, she's in her home next door, where metal and glass are safe, but there is no couch and everything is in sealable plastic bags.
"When you put things in Ziplocs it keeps chemicals from coming out," Feudale-Bowes said.
Feudale-Bowes and her husband even wash their clothes in separate machines.
"My husband goes into places that I can't and his clothes will pick up scented material," she said. "If he washes them with mine that will be transferred into my clothing."
Even with all the precautions Feudale-Bowes says she still can't sleep inside her own home because she gets sick.
Doctors argue about whether Feudale-Bowes has a mental or physical condition.
"It's emotionally devastating to have this illness," Feudale-Bowes said. "Then it feels like you're public enemy No. 1."
"Fighting an entire town has not been good for me," she said.