In 1988, Rich Carson saw a need. In striving to meet that need, he founded Pro Health, Inc., and its subdivision, the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Health Resource. He then began a partnership with the CFIDS Association of America that has helped to make a difference for those with CFIDS.
It was August 1981 when Carson first awoke with what seemed like the flu. When the symptoms did not let up, an internist diagnosed him with “a chronic cytomegalovirus or a chronic Epstein-Barr virus infection.”
He became jaundiced, suffered memory problems, and was forced to quit his job as a top salesman and move in with his parents. While living there, he started treating himself by taking vitamins, getting plenty of rest, exercising moderately, and avoiding alcohol. By the middle of the decade, Carson connected with researchers who were investigating a new illness which had been dubbed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Determined to put his destiny in his own hands, Carson spent several hours a day on the telephone with CFS patients and researchers. He also started one of the first CFS support groups in the country.
Carson was absolutely determined to conquer the illness that had taken away his career as a salesman and stockbroker. “People with CFIDS have got to wrestle with this disease, do whatever they possibly can. The worst thing is to sit back passively and wait for medical science to come up with a cure. You absolutely have to participate in your own wellness.”
Rich Carson had been ordered by his doctors not to work and to avoid all stress. But it was his decision to “wrestle with the disease” that led him to what would become his new purpose; raising money for CFIDS research. Through phone calls and personal contacts, he opened the door for large-scale fundraising, especially within the entertainment industry. Committed to solving the mysteries surrounding CFIDS, Carson raised money to fund continued research.
Having developed a reputation as a CFIDS activist and fundraiser, Carson caught the eye of Marc Iverson, founder of the CFIDS Association of America. After Iverson read journalist Hillary Johnson’s series of articles on life as an Epstein-Barr virus patient (published in Rolling Stone magazine July 20, 1987), Iverson telephoned Johnson. It was this call in which Johnson mentioned Carson’s fundraising activities.
Iverson contacted Carson, and the two men with similar goals struck up a friendship. “We were both interested in making a difference by funding research to develop a cure and encouraging publication of articles in scientific journals to increase legitimacy for CFIDS,” said Carson.
Carson was learning more from doctors about CFIDS, and also continuing his quest to “participate in wellness.” He began identifying nutritional supplements, which fight against CFIDS symptoms. This led naturally to the genesis of Pro Health and the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Health Resource.
“When I started the Health Resource, I knew it had to be more than a vitamin store. CFIDS patients don’t need that. What they do need,” Carson asserts, “is a resource for hard-to-find nutritional supplements, sold at affordable prices, that can help ease their symptoms.”
Carson was committed to providing these services, but he also knew he had to do more. “CFIDS patients also need to know there are credible fundraising efforts out there, as well as a reliable, well-connected resource for ongoing information and updates on CFIDS research.”
With the Health Resource, he saw the opportunity to meet both needs. Today, members of the CFIDS Association of America receive discounts on nutritional supplements and other products from the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Health Resource, which offers a variety of products at discount prices catering to the special needs of persons with CFIDS.
Membership is free with any purchase, and members of the Health Resource receive HEALTHwatch, (a CFIDS newsletter) which is published by the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Health Resource. According to Rich Carson, “Pro Health is constantly on the cutting edge of the latest treatments for CFIDS. We review nutrients and their possible use by individuals suffering from CFIDS.”
This information is then made available through resources such as HEALTHwatch. Carson’s dedication extends to the quality of his products. “Pro Health is obsessed with quality,” he says. “We use only the highest quality pharmaceutical grade ingredients available. Quality, potency, and purity are guaranteed.” Carson is also proud that Pro Health is known for being an industry leader in customer service. This reputation is evidenced by their stringent quality control and continuous market research. “We are proud of our reputation of excellence.”
Over the last several years, the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Health Resource has raised over 1.8 million dollars for CFIDS research. This total makes Pro Health and the Health Resource the largest single fundraiser for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. According to Carson, “These donations have been made possible by the incredible partnership between the Health Resource and its members who continue to enjoy the benefits of our products and services.”
Kim Kenney, executive director of the CFIDS Association of America, calls the relationship with Pro Health a “win-win-win” situation. According to Kenney, “Pro Health has served thousands of Association members’ needs for high quality, low-cost nutritional supplements recommended by leading clinicians. Pro Health’s knowledgeable and caring customer service representatives gladly assist CFIDS Association’s members with helpful product information and rapid delivery of supplements, many of which are difficult to find elsewhere. This successful combination of smart business practices and stewardship has enabled Pro Health to make generous donations to our education, public policy and research programs.
(This article originally appeared in HealthWatch, July 1996.)