Golden Girls

GOLDEN GIRLS/NBC/1985-92 (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

*(Bea Arthur/costar) Dorothy Zbornak, a mature single woman living with her mother and two other senior citizens in a house in Miami Beach.


Dorothy consults with her friend Dr. Harry Weston about her condition

On the two-part episode “Sick and Tired” (aired 9-23/30-1989) Dorothy was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Apparently, for five months she had been confused, weak, fluish and so exhausted she can barely speak at times. Forced to quit her job, Dorothy sought out the advice of a specialist named Dr. Budd, a New York Neurologist.

Unfortunately, he gives her the runaround, says she’s wasting his time and tells her go change her hair color.

Finally, a physician (Dr. Chang, a virologist) tells Dorothy that he believes she has ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.’ Thankful that finally someone had identified her illness, Dorothy celebrated in a restaurant with her friends. Also eating at the restaurant that night was Dr. Budd.

Still angry at the way, he had dismissed her condition, Dorothy approached the doctor’s table, reprimands him and lets him know that he needed to practice caring, compassion and most importantly to “Listen to your patients.”

NOTE: An article by Davis Sheremata in the Alberta Report – Internet Edition (September 1, 1997) reviewed the book Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter (Columbia University Press, New York).

The article stated that Professor Showalter reported on CFS saying “Infectious epidemics of hysteria [are] spread by stories circulated through self-help books, articles in newspapers and magazines, TV talk shows and series, films, the Internet and even literary criticism.

Patients learn about diseases from the media, unconsciously develop the symptoms, and then attract media attention in an endless cycle (Chronic fatigue syndrome being a classic example). By 1990, Prof. Showalter writes, chronic fatigue was an epidemic. The CDC was getting 2,000 calls a month about it.

Self-help guides like The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Cookbook clogged bookshelves. Sufferers launched support groups in the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway and South Africa. She says the epidemic probably peaked when Dorothy, a character on the television sitcom The Golden Girls, came down with chronic fatigue.”

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