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November 26, 1997

The Night Side: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Illness Experience

Author Affiliations

Middleton Lodge New Ollerton Nottinghamshire England

JAMA. 1997;278(20):1709. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550200085043

Floyd Skloot, poet and public policy analyst, fell ill on December 7, 1988. The Night Side describes his illness experience.

Let's sketch out his story, as he describes it. Aged 41 years, a lean, fit, and busy man, Skloot wakes up in a Washington, DC, hotel feeling ill, "too exhausted to fold back the sheets." He does not recover. Through early 1989 he and his wife visit half a dozen doctors. A Dr Mudgett suggests to Skloot that his postviral fatigue may be complicated by "psychological overlay." Skloot is not amused. It takes 5 months before he is correctly diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). But finally he meets a doctor who understands his illness, who is an exception to the rule that most doctors and researchers have "virtually ignored" CFS. While other CFS sufferers belong to a "vast subpopulation of Americans who feel betrayed by the medical community," Skloot is