New York Islanders goalie Mark Fitzpatrick met with specialists in Vancouver this week, his health and future possibly imperiled by an illness that has no known cure; an illness for which there have been no new cases reported in New York State since February.
Fitzpatrick's illness, which caused severe swelling in his hands, forearms and feet at the end of training camp, still is officially being termed eosinophilic fasciitis, Fitzpatrick's mother said from the family home in Kitimac, British Columbia. But doctors believe his condition is a component of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). The cause and prognosis appear the same.``The doctors can't give him any positive feedback,' Vi Fitzpatrick said of her 21-year-old son, who could not be reached. ``He's down in the dumps. He wanted the doctors to tell him he'd be okay in two months or six weeks, but there's no timetable for this.'
The State Department of Health apparently is studying Fitzpatrick's case and its possible link to the toxic L-tryptophan, a dietary supplement that was banned in the United States last November.
Manufactured L-tryptophan is considered the cause of almost all cases of EMS, which last year killed 27 Americans and seriously injured more than 1,500. Its symptoms include fever, rash, breathing problems, coughing, muscle pain and swelling of the extremities.
State health department spokeswoman Vicki Zeldin said that confidentiality rules prevent officials from discussing specific cases and mentioning patients by name. But she did confirm that, ``We are looking into a recent case and we are trying to track down exposure' to L-tryptophan. (Fitzpatrick's mother added that state health officials are looking into her son's case).
L-tryptophan, an amino acid, has been used to treat insomnia, depression and other disorders. It is made in bulk by six companies, but the possible link to EMS was traced to the Showa Denko K.K. firm of Japan.
In Fitzpatrick's case, speculation has focused on the substance's inclusion in vitamin supplements. ``Mark is not known to take anything else,' his mother said. ``I've never even seen him take a Tylenol.'