Stanford leads fight against chronic fatigue

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Kelsey Vischer spent much of her teen years playing sports and performing in an Irish dance troop. But on the verge of leaving for college, her active life suddenly came to a screeching halt. That's when a case of mono evolved into a grueling battle against exhaustion.

"I couldn't get off the couch. My dad had to pick me up off the couch and carry me to the bathroom. It was very intense," Kelsey remembers.

Kelsey was finally directed to Jose Montoya, M.D., at Stanford's Chronic Fatigue clinic.
The clinic is dedicated to treating a condition that skeptics have challenged as not being a real disease.

"They've seen 10 to 15 specialists, their primaries, and many if not all do not believe them," says Dr. Montoya.

But Dr. Montoya believes the drive to find a treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome could finally be at a turning point. First, a Stanford research team identified biomarkers in the brain they believe could provide the first test, to accurately diagnose the disease. Then, recently, the Institute of Medicine issued a report validating Chronic Fatigue as a devastating illness. Raising hopes for increased funding from agencies like the national institutes of health.

"It's a huge historical jump forward," Dr. Montoya believes.

Even more encouraging for patients like Kelsey, an emerging treatment now being used at the Stanford clinic. It focuses on drugs with both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Montoya cautions the treatment still needs to be studied in clinical trials. But with increased energy, Kelsey believes the therapy has helped her reclaim her life.

"I never thought this would be my life. Never thought I'd go back to get my masters. I have a full time job. I love my family. We have a very active life, and I never thought that would come back to me," says Kelsey.

Dr. Montoya has now received a grant from the national institutes of health to continue his research into a treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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