For the first time since their 10-year-old son Peyton was poisoned by pesticides, the McCaughey family is sharing their story. They sat down exclusively with the Contact 5 Investigators.
"This is a kid who played baseball, played hockey, was learning to surf and for the doctors to tell us, well, pretty much all of that is more than likely gone..." said Carl McCaughey. He says it's a new reality for him and his wife Lori and a new way of life for their son Peyton.
"Do you feel like he was cheated, like your family was cheated?" asked Contact 5 Investigator Jared Werksma.
"We don't want to publicly criticize anybody or any company but yeah we're angry towards Terminix," said Lori.
"We're mad and we're hurt and our 10-year-old son is the one who has to suffer for it," she added with tears in her eyes.
Florida's Department of Health says Peyton is suffering the effects of sulfuryl flouride poisoning. The toxic gas used hundreds of times a day in fumigations across Florida.
"From what we've been told, people have symptoms like we had, the nausea, not feeling well or they've died. Peyton seems to be in this in between," said Lori.
It's an 'in between' Peyton started to enter on August 17, 2015. A date the McCaughey family will never forget.
"We got home about 7:30," said Lori, just after their Palm City home was fumigated.
"There was a placard on the door telling us that any time after 4 was safe to come home," Lori said. But within a couple of hours Peyton wasn't feeling well, she added.
By 6 in the morning the following day, the whole family felt ill and Peyton had gone from bad to worse.
"Peyton started to say funny things that didn't make sense. He said something like 'mommy how are we going to help all those sick people again?' Like out of nowhere and that's when I said 'Carl, we've gotta get out of here, something's wrong," said Lori.
The family rushed to a nearby urgent care facility. Concerned about the possibility of poisoning, Carl says he called Terminix.
"(They) explained to me that there was no possible way that there was any gasses or anything, they had checked (the house)," said Carl.
The family says the urgent care doctor disagreed.
"He said, 'No, your families been poisoned,'" said Lori.
"He called ahead to St. Mary's. He said get in the car right now. Peyton may have a seizure on the way down but keep driving," said Lori.
"Did it hit you at all at that point what was happening or how severe this might be?" Werksma asked.
"To me at that point I was like, 'OK we're on our way to Saint Mary's, they're going to make it all better,' " said Lori.
Unfortunately that was not the case. That evening Peyton started to show signs of the damage done to his brain.
"At that point his head would flop side to side, his tongue's hanging out of his mouth," Carl said.
"Uncontrollable movements in all four of his extremities for twelve hours at a time until he was so exhausted he would just sleep for two hours. Then, he'd wake up and it would just gradually start all over again. It was a nightmare," said Carl.
"Was Peyton scared when this was going on?" Werksma asked.
"He couldn't talk well but he asked if he was going to die at one point," said Lori.
Peyton spent nearly six weeks at three different hospitals. Lori and Carl refused to leave his side. Some of Peyton's favorite players from the Miami Dolphins even stopped by to make his hospital stay a little brighter.
Peyton was finally able to return home on September 25.
"Explain to me a little bit about why Peyton isn't here?" asked Werksma.
"Peyton just doesn't want to be in the spotlight. He just wants to be a normal kid going about his normal business. This was not his choice, no one gave him a choice," said Lori.
Unfortunately Peyton's life has been anything but normal since returning home.
"From the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed he needs one of us there," said Carl.
The family's dining room is now the physical therapy room. It's where his mom says he spends hours a day.
"He has his speech therapy. He has some exercises he does with his mouth and his tongue to regain some strength and he is talking a lot better. He has his occupational therapy to help him re-learn how to go to the bathroom by himself, dress himself, brush his hair, brush his teeth," said Lori.
The McCaugheys say their son has taken every challenge in stride.
"Never once has he said, 'Why me, why is this happening to me?' He's just pushing through it," Carl said, with a proud look on his face.
"As far as he's concerned, he's fine," said Lori "And he's gonna be fine," she continued.
"(Peyton) talks to all of his therapists and he says 'When I'm all the way better we're going to have a kickball game and I want you to be there', and um," Lori teared up in mid sentence, turned to her husband and said simply, "sorry."
Peyton's injuries may leave him with the need for life-long care, according to his parents. It's part of the reason the McCaugheys are suing Terminix, its subcontractor Sunland Pest Control and the chemical manufacturer Ensystex.
The McCaugheys are hoping their story will help change pest control practices. The Contact 5 Investigators have been looking into fumigations and alternatives since Peyton was poisoned.
Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. we'll air the results of our investigation live on NewsChannel 5 and show why some say Florida is behind the times.
Story updated to clarify name of pest control company is Sunland.