John Friedlich

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Changing A Light Bulb:

How many PWCs does it take and
factors contributing to light bulb extraction

OBJECTIVES: To determine what factors contribute to the number of PWCs required to change a light bulb and how to objectively determine if the light bulb even needs changing.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: 142 light bulbs diagnosed as being dysfunctional by different sources were compared to 142 age-matched functional light bulbs under varying conditions including different times of the day, locations, ceiling heights, socket configurations, and different power suppliers.

CONCLUSIONS: Adjustment of criteria for evaluating whether the bulb requires replacement must take place before meaningful results can be obtained.


That depends on whether the light was installed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or one of the CFS patient organizations. One group repeatedly deduced that the bulb didn't need changing. Another was habitually convinced that there was no light bulb. And many were determined to spend huge amounts of time discussing what kind of bulb it was before deciding on an appropriate action. Still others who were more severely impacted by cognitive impairments spent days turning the bulb the wrong direction. The question also arose of why the bulb needed to be changed in the first place whether it was dysfunctional or not. 86% of the time the process ended in a deadlocked sub-committee or was deferred for further study. Others were unable to get beyond what to call the problem that faced them. While some termed the problem "chronic filament syndrome," some were adamant about getting rid of the "F word" and insisted on calling it "sudden onset diminished luminescence syndrome."

Investigation of those involved in the initial installation of the bulb did not produce any statistically meaningful data. Data pertaining to the PWC's symptomatology presented widely varying results, causing increased disagreement among health care professionals, members of the govern-ment health care agencies, and patient organ-izations. Some went as far as to speculate that the study protocols may have been flawed, or that the criteria used to determine whether or not the bulb required changing may be too broad or too restrictive.

Final results varied from 5.2 PWCs being required out of every 100,000 left in the dark to 25.8 PWCs out of every 100,000. 32% reported feeling too in-the-dark to change the light bulb while only 15% of those who report feeling in-the-dark actually had a blown light bulb. Some may have forgotten to turn it on while others may have been photophobic. Some researchers have also speculated that a pre-existing condition may be a contributory factor due to the impact that a pre-existing credit problem with the electric company could have upon the study. If this is a contributing factor, this pre-existing condition could have caused the power to be shut off. Further study must determine if the power was shut off before or after the onset of darkness. Whether the decrease in electrical flow may prove to be a possible marker is unknown at this time. Then again, maybe there was never really anything wrong.

© Friedlich, 1994
from The Chronicles of CFIDS: One Patient's Forum

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