Could a Change of Scenery Help Chronic Fatigue Sufferers?

It’s true that not everyone can afford to up sticks and move halfway around the world to New Zealand, in an attempt to battle against a debilitating ailment. But this is what the star of TV and stage Michael Crawford has done and evidently it has worked wonders for his health and well-being. The 70-year-old star of the BBC programme Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em had been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome for the past eight years or so and had done many things in order to try to beat the disease. It is believed that his problems began in 2004 when he first starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘The Woman in White, where he took on the role of the obese Count Fosco. Here he had to wear a fat-suit made of rubber which, during performances, caused him to sweat so much that he would lose essentials fluids and salts, leading him to become dangerously dehydrated and susceptable to any viruses going around. Eventually his immune system completely collapsed and he contracted chronic fatigue syndrome.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterised by prolonged fatigue associated with a wide range of accompanying symptoms and can affect people of any age. It is most common between the ages of 25 and 45 and it is estimated that about 150,000 people in the UK have CFS, with women affected more often than men. To be diagnosed with CFS an adult must have severe chronic fatigue for at least four months with no other medical condition identified as the cause. They must also have one or more of the following symptoms: Substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, multi-joint pain without swelling or redness, headaches of a new type, pattern or severity, unrefreshing sleep, post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours. As doctors or specialists do not know what causes CFS, it’s difficult to prevent it. However, there’s no evidence to support the notion that CFS is a contagious disease and there’s no precise identified cause. It is believed that a person’s genes may make them more susceptible, and that viral infection, stress, depression, or a major life event (for example bereavement, job loss) could possibly act as triggers for CFS to develop in susceptible individuals.

Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment for CFS either. Medication can be given to relieve the varying individual symptoms: for example, painkillers may be given for muscle pains and headaches, and antidepressants for depression. Other treatments can be useful, such as behaviour therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, counselling, relaxation therapy, and graded exercise may help. Reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, rest periods, pacing and support groups also help many people with CFS.

As for Michael Crawford, his secluded life in New Zealand appears to have cured him of the disease he feared would once end his illustrious career. He now says his time is spent chatting with his friend who is a dairy farmer and sailing and fishing by the beach where he lives and enjoying gardening. He also makes time to visit one of his two daughters who lives in Australia with her husband and three children. Crawford says. “I decided to relocate from Britain to get healthy and smell the roses. If you want solitude you can find it here and people are very respectful of that. You make mates who are in completely different areas of life to yourself. My best mate here is a dairy farmer and we talk every night for about 20 minutes about God knows what, sorting the world out, and we go sailing.” And his new mates are not in the least bit in awe of the TV and stage star. “They know me as Mike. It’s always Michael in England – it’s more formal.” Perhaps a relocation to New Zealand should be available on the NHS for all chronic fatigue sufferers! It certainly seems to have worked wonders for Michael.

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