I Was Exhausted All the Time
What's Wrong with Me?
On New Year's Eve 2005, Karen McGinnis headed for the movies with a friend. McGinnis, a 47-year-old resident of West Deptford, New Jersey, was looking forward to 2006. She was six months into a new job in advertising sales for a local newspaper, active in her church, and enjoyed the company of a circle of friends.
After the movie McGinnis was suddenly too tired to go out to dinner and opted for Chinese takeout at her pal's house. During the meal McGinnis could barely stay awake and wondered if she'd caught some kind of respiratory infection. Over the next six weeks she developed flulike symptoms in addition to the exhaustion. She felt headachy and stuffed up. Her chest felt as though a weight were resting on it, and she had trouble breathing even when she was inactive, including sitting or lying down. One day in late February her supervisor at the newspaper took one look at her pale skin and glassy eyes and sent her home. She didn't know it then, but she would not return to work for five months.
Before leaving the office McGinnis called her primary-care physician and described her symptoms. Suspecting an infection of some kind, he told her he'd order her a prescription for antibiotics at the local pharmacy. That night McGinnis climbed into bed, assuming the medicine would soon kick in. "Two days later I could still barely breathe," she recalls. She again called her doctor, who advised her to head to the emergency room.