Based on a viral article, the gripping medical mystery story of Ron Davis, a world-class Stanford geneticist who has put his career on the line to find the cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, the disease killing his son. For the past six years, Whitney Dafoe has been confined to a bedroom in the back of his parents' home, unable to walk, to eat, to speak. The sound of music causes him pain. At one point, the formerly healthy, young, freelance photographer, faced starvation as his 6'3" frame withered to 115 pounds. In desperation, Whitney and his parents went from one specialist to another, and still no answers. Then, finally, a diagnosis: the mysterious disease myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Whitney's story is heartbreaking, but it's also one of redemption. It reaches far beyond just one family's harrowing tale.
Today, ME/CFS affects between 1 and 2.5 million Americans--and 20 million people around the world. Those afflicted largely suffer in silence because the disease is little known and much misunderstood. The question lingers still whether it even exists outside the patient's mind. Often disbelieved, they're abandoned by family and friends. They lose their jobs, and battle with insurance companies over rising medical costs as the chronic disease continues on year after year. In one way, Whitney has been lucky. He could reach out to his father, a world renowned, scientist, for answers. This book is the story of one father's desperate hunt for the insidious illness that stole his son away. The Puzzle Solver follows Ron as he unravels the molecular trail within his own son's donated blood and genome, to began to find answers. He confirms this is a biological disease and uncovers new possibilities for treatments and potentially a cure. At its heart, The Puzzle Solver: A Scientist's Desperate Hunt to Cure the Illness That Stole His Son by Tracie White and Ronald W. Davis (Hachette Books, 2021) is about more than just cutting edge research or a race to find the cure for ME/CFS--it's about the unbreakable bond between a father and his son, and the lengths to which a parent will go to save their child's life.
Victoria Reedman is a resident doctor in Toronto studying neurology with some health systems work on the side.