Joni Mitchell, who was placed in an intensive care unit earlier this week is “doing fine” according to the latest health update, even though she suffers from a rare disease that scientists claim is all in her mind.
Whether that controversial illness caused the 71-year-old Mitchell — a legendary singer-songwriter who blazed a trail for women in music in the late 1960s and 1970s — to pass out in her Los Angeles home Tuesday when she was rushed to UCLA Medical Center and placed in an intensive care unit is not yet known.
The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is named for perhaps the best-known resident of Bel-Air, the affluent neighborhood where Joni Mitchell has her home, which is situated on the north side of Sunset Boulevard, across from UCLA.
Doctors at the hospital have not made public the “Big Yellow Taxi” singer’s exact diagnosis or said what caused her to lose consciousness.
However, Joni Mitchell has for more than a decade claimed that she suffers from a rare and bizarre disease known as “Morgellons,” a little-known and poorly understood condition that, according to Mitchell and other victims, causes weird, multicolored fibers to protrude through the skin.
Only about 1,400 people in the United States are known to report suffering from Morgellons.
Morgellons sufferers also usually claim to suffer from an infestation or parasite of some sort, often — though not always — described as “bugs.” But medical professionals classify the disease as “delusional parasitosis.” In other words, they believe that the condition exists only in the patient’s mind and is not a real disease.
Not surprisingly, Morgellons suffers — Joni Mitchell most prominent among them — strongly dispute that diagnosis.
“I’m a polio survivor, so I know how conservative the medical body can be,” Mitchell said in a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In America, the Morgellons is always diagnosed as ‘delusion of parasites,’ and they send you to a psychiatrist. I’m actually trying to get out of the music business to battle for Morgellons sufferers to receive the credibility that’s owed to them.”
According to the medical site WebMD, other Morgellons symptoms include “[f]eeling like bugs are crawling all over the skin; Burning or stinging sensations under the skin; Intense itching; Skin sores that appear suddenly and heal slowly; Sores that leave very red scars.”
Joni Mitchell, by her own account, started smoking at age 9 and never quit — a habit which she says has taken away her once-angelic singing voice. Whether her fainting episode Tuesday was the result of a smoking-related condition is also not known. Doctors have not said when the next health update on Mitchell will follow, nor have they said when she might be released from intensive care.
[Image: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]