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Called delusional, patients try to find their own way without doctors

Frank X. Mullen Jr.

Doctors say when patients complain they are infested with unseen "parasites"
or have strange skin symptoms, all physical causes must be ruled out before
the physician decides the person is delusional.

But many patients who report symptoms consistent with what activists are
calling "Morgellons disease" said that isn't happening. They said doctors
diagnose them with "delusions of parasitosis" (DOP) upon hearing the
symptoms and with only cursory examination or investigation.

Erik Johnson of Incline Village said he's had chronic fatigue syndrome since
the mid-1980s and in the last few years noticed "white dots" and fibers
coming out of his skin.

"The chronic fatigue was first and the skin symptoms crept up on me later
on," he said. "The doctors could see the skin manifestations but refused to
test them.I think that says more about the psychology of doctors than it
does the delusions of patients."

He said he is doing research on his own and believes mold is causing his

Kris Korpi, an electrical engineer from Las Vegas, also said he is
researching on his own after doctors told him his symptoms are in his mind.
He said his symptoms started as "an annoying rash" and then he saw "fibers"
on his skin.

"Doctors act as though I'm making this up," Korpi said. "They are guessing
without investigating. They refer me to a psychologist or make a psychiatric
diagnosis with no solid basis whatsoever."

Teri McKinnon of Reno said she saw Morgellons' symptoms on her mother-in-law
who was visiting from Florida.

"The doctors have told her she's delusional; it's all in her head," McKinnon
said. "But she has these tiny lesions, with splinters, fibers that come out
of them. I've seen the splinters that come out. I've pulled them out for

"I've seen the things with my own eyes and it's just common sense that they
are not supposed to be there. But yet there's something there."

Doug Buckner, a biologist who lives in Virginia, assists the Morgellons
Research Foundation. He said when he reported strange skin symptoms in 1997
his doctor gave him tick medication, which made things worse.

He said he began seeing strange fibers on his body and around his home and
"white granules and black specks" appearing on his skin. He also reported
chronic fatigue, insomnia, night sweats, itching and skin lesions that did
not heal.

"I was basically dead on the couch for four years," he said. "I was isolated
as are most patients with the symptoms. I've fled from home to home but it
was still with me. I was lucky because I kept my job. A lot of people lose
jobs, families, children, homes, everything because of this.

"There have been suicides."

Buckner, who has tested positive for the microbe associated with Lyme
disease, said he believes the "parasites" are not the disease but
manifestations of depressed skin immunity.

"I think people with normal immune systems get exposed to whatever causes
these strange skin symptoms and just kick it out," said Buckner. He is in
recovery, which he attributes to antibiotics, vitamins, a healthy diet,
exercise, and a positive attitude.

"I'm 99 percent over it," he said. "That's unusual. I'm blessed."

He said he is helping the Morgellons Foundation because he understands the
isolation and the suffering that comes with the disease. The foundation
operates a Web site where patients exchange stories and support.

Dottie G. Shows of Fernley filled out on online survey on the Morgellons'
site even though she said she hasn't experienced the "fibers" or specks on
her skin. She said since December 2002 her symptoms have included chronic
fatigue, headaches, burning and itching skin, and unexplained little bumps
and blisters.

"I often get the feeling something's biting me but there is nothing there,"
said Shows, who has gone to dermatologists for help. "I don't know what I
have. So far, no doctor has had the guts to tell me I'm delusional."

Nicolene Walden of Reno said she has accompanied her mother, Theresa
Blodgett, to the doctor. Walden has seen the black specks on her mom's skin
and the strange "fibers" on her body and around her home. Walden collected
information about Morgellons disease from the Web site and from a television
broadcast in the Bay Area but said the physician wouldn't look at her
information nor discuss it.

"The doctor wasn't interested," she said. "He looked at my mom and diagnosed
her as delusional. It's a snap diagnosis. The symptoms sound so bizarre, so
scary, every doctor who hears them tells my mom it's all in her mind."