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"I Remember Me": Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Documentary Reviewed by Roger Ebert

  [ 166 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Roger Ebert • www.ProHealth.com • December 7, 2001




I REMEMBER ME / *** (Not rated)

Featuring: Kim A. Snyder, Michelle Akers, Blake
Edwards and Stephen Paganetti. A documentary written
and directed by Kim A. Snyder. No MPAA rating
(unobjectionable for all). Running time: 74 minutes.


I now believe in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was one
of many who somehow absorbed the notion that it was an
imaginary illness. I am ashamed of myself. At the
Hamptons Film Festival, I met Kim A. Snyder, who was
working as an assistant producer on a Jodie Foster
film when she contracted CFS in 1995. For the last
five years, while still battling the disease, she
directed "I Remember Me," a documentary which does
what the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta
shamefully failed to do: connects the dots.

Snyder begins in Lake Tahoe, where the disease struck
hundreds of people. She talks to Dr. Daniel L.
Peterson, who first started treating CFS patients
there in 1984, has had seven who committed suicide
because of the disease, and has no doubt it is real.
She also talks to a spokesperson for the nearby
Incline Village Visitors' Bureau, who says CFS is
promoted by "quack doctors and mostly overweight
women." This person succeeds in becoming the living
embodiment of the real estate brokers in "Jaws," who
don't want anyone to believe there's a shark.

Yes, Dr. Petersen sighs, investigators from the CDC in
Atlanta looked into the Lake Tahoe outbreak: "They
came out here and skied and looked at a few charts."
The conclusion was that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was
psychosomatic, or hysterical, or misdiagnosed. We are
reminded that until the 1950s, multiple sclerosis was
also considered a hysterical condition.

Snyder is an investigative journalist who does her own
detective work. She identifies many earlier outbreaks
with the same symptoms as CFS and goes to Punta Gorda,
Fla., to visit five women who had the disease 40 years
ago. Investigators visiting their community at the
time concluded it was a real disease and not an
imaginary condition, and said so in a report--which
the women never saw. Snyder shows one woman the report
on camera. She expresses her anger; this report would
have informed her she was not, as many assured her,
going crazy.

Snyder interviews two famous CFS sufferers: the film
director Blake Edwards, who has continued to work
during remissions in a 15-year struggle with the
disease, and the Olympic gold medalist soccer player
Michelle Akers, who walked off a field one day and
collapsed. But Snyder's most touching [interview
is]the depressing visit to the bedside of Stephen
Paganetti, a high school senior in Connecticut. He has
been on his back in bed for years. The slightest
exercise exhausts him. He is fed through tubes.
Determined to attend his high school graduation, he's
taken there by ambulance and wheeled in on a gurney.
Few of his classmates had come to see him imprisoned
in his bedroom; one says "you get better--and we'll
talk!" They give him a quilt they have all contributed
patches to. Just what a high school kid wants for his
graduation.

By the end of filming, Stephen is still suffering, and
indeed less than 20 percent of CFS sufferers get
better, Snyder says. The disease strikes as many women
as HIV. There has been recent progress. Robert J.
Suhadolnik, a biochemist at Temple University, has
identified a blood enzyme that acts as a marker of
CFS, after many doctors claimed it had no physical
symptoms. A whistle blower at the Centers for Disease
Control has revealed to government accountants that
$13 million was illegally diverted from CFS study to
other diseases. Yet TV comics still joke about the
disease as a form of laziness. Ironic, isn't it, that
Kim Snyder wasn't too lazy to make this film--while
the CDC and the medical establishment are only now
stirring into action.

Note: For more on Paganetti's story, visit
http://www.cfids-me.org/cfscc/bass0498.html .

Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.



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