Claudia Kalb, senior writer, Newsweek November 28, 2010
For years, chronic-fatigue syndrome has been dismissed by the medical establishment. Now researchers may be closing in on a culprit.
It’s hard, even years later, to read Laura Hillenbrand’s wrenching description of her pain. Hillenbrand, 43, is the author of Seabiscuit and the new and widely acclaimed book Unbroken, an account of the World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini. But she is also the most articulate spokesperson for chronic-fatigue syndrome, the mysterious disorder that has plagued her since college.
Many patients, including Hillenbrand, have been referred to psychiatrists. For years the disorder was not a priority at the highest levels; in 1999 a government audit found that the CDC had diverted millions of chronic-fatigue research dollars to other programs.
“Patients are clearly ill and suffering, and we need to address treatment as rapidly as we can,” says Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity.
One day, everybody hopes, the layers of wrapping will come off. The cause—or, very possibly, causes—of chronic-fatigue syndrome will become clear. Treatments will become available. And Laura Hillenbrand and millions of others can start reclaiming their vitality and their lives.