Chris Mole
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Coping with chronic fatigue

Kingman woman fights rare illness
Terry Organ
Kingman Daily Miner
Aug. 6, 2004 12:00 AM

KINGMAN - Rena Dreisen was tired of being continually tired when she went to see her doctor last September.

She had little energy during the preceding three months and wanted to find out why. A blood test provided the answer.

Dreisen was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which could cause a person to seem perfectly healthy one day and be sick the next, Dreisen said. It's caused by a virus and is not contagious.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an emerging illness characterized by debilitating fatigue (manifested as exhaustion and very poor stamina), neurological problems and a variety of flulike symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Core symptoms include excessive fatigue, general pain, mental fogginess and often gastro-intestinal problems. Other symptoms that vary by patient include fatigue following stressful activity, headaches, sore throat, sleep disorder and abnormal temperature.

"My serotonin levels are way off," Dreisen said. "They have to do with brain activity and depression."

Dreisen was given a prescription for Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant that boosts energy. Hotter weather aggravates her condition.

Before being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and put on medication, Dreisen could not do routine household tasks such as vacuuming or even pick her head up off the couch, she said. She was bedridden about 22 hours per day.

"Chronic fatigue syndrome can be debilitating, but it's not life-threatening," Dreisen said. "Some doctors do every test in the book, from diabetes to leukemia, and wind up using the umbrella term of chronic fatigue when they're not sure.

"It's gradually gaining recognition. But because it's not a killer like cancer, heart attack, stroke or AIDS, it's not heavily funded (for research)."

Information on the CDC Web site states that several studies suggest there may be a genetic component to chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dreisen, who moved to Kingman in 1993 from Woodland Hills, Calif., said she would like to start a chronic fatigue syndrome support group in Kingman. The only such groups presently in Arizona are located in Tucson, Scottsdale and Pinetop-Lakeside.

"I don't have a computer, but I'm talking with people in trying to start some interest in a group," she said.