On the 25th of May, 1855, a young lady, who subsequently became my patient, while passing down stairs, was suddenly seized with a loss of consciousness, and fell the length of the flight. She remembers a sensation of vertigo, but has no recollection of any thing afterwards, until the lapse of half an hour when her consciousness was restored by the means usually employed. The sound of her fall had attracted those of her family within hearing, who found her lying at the foot of the staircase wholly unconscious, and breathing heavily. At the end of a week after the accident, its immediate effects seemed to pass away, leaving only a slight stiffness in the muscles of the nape of the neck.
At the period of this mishap the age of the young lady was 17. She had an appearance of excellent health; was well formed, and generally in high spirits. Up to this time however, she had menstruated but once, and that twenty-two months before. This fact however had caused no uneasiness, as her cheeks were rosy, her strength, appetite, and sleep, all normal and she seemed quite as well as any of the family. Exactly one month after the fall, i.e. on the 25th of June, the menses appeared, and continued profusely for the usual length of time. The morning after the cessation of the flow, patient rose from bed with the stiffness in the nape of the neck much increased and very painful; with a racking headache; and with what she called a sore throat, which rendered deglutition difficult. The stiffness of the neck became gradually worse, and at the end of a few days it had involved the sterno cleido-mastoid muscle of the right side in a permanent contraction, the effect of which was to draw the head downward and sideways toward the left. The headache which continued for months afterwards, as did also the contraction of the muscles of the neck, was highly congestive in character; the cheeks were deeply flushed; the eyes bright and sparkling; and there was much heat about the brow, vertex, and temples. Notwithstanding the various means resorted to for her relief, the patient remained in much the same condition during the rest of the summer and all the fall of the year 1855. If there was any change in her state, it was a gradual increase in the violence of the headache and in the straining pain in the muscles of the neck which were still contracted. Patient had suffered more during the latter part of December preceding New Year's night, 1856; and on that night while in bed, having felt chilly for the whole day previous, she had a severe chill which lasted nearly till morning. This chill was preceded by a singular feeling of numbness over her whole person; Patient was for five minutes unable to move even so much as hand or foot. Toward morning the chill seemed to abate, through the influence of hot drinks, leaving behind it however a decided numbness in two fingers of the left hand, and a weakness in the lower extremities, which showed itself by a fall on the street two days after, when on her way to the house of her physician.
Her case was diagnosticated by the very eminent surgeon, with whom the family physician consulted, to be one of softening of the Spinal Marrow, resulting from chronic inflammation of the meninges of the cord. He prescribed counter irritation by means of intermittent blisters along the course of the spine; which were continued two months. Electricity was also recommended, and applied by the family physician, and drugs administered which left a metallic taste in the mouth. This was the treatment till the tenth of March when the condition of the patient had grown so desperate as to cause the abandonment of all hope on the part of the friends, and the most discouraging prognosis was given by the medical attendant. Her condition at this time was somewhat as follows: The numbness in the fingers had steadily increased, and the left arm had so thoroughly lost its power that nothing could be held in the hand. The hand itself was sometimes very cold, and then suddenly would become burning with heat and congestion of blood, remaining however numb, or with very slight tactile sensibility. The weakness in the lower extremities was manifestly on the increase. The headache, while remaining the same in character, had increased in intensity, and this was a most distressing symptom. The stiffness of the cervical muscles remained, and symptoms of paralysis of the right arm and leg were slowly making their appearance.
The attending physician being now discharged, various measures were resorted to, in the hope of alleviating the intensity of her suffering, and among the rest, a Homoeopathic physician was called in; but as his treatment was followed by no immediate relief, he also was discharged, and the disease continued to increase in severity. Three months after this I was called in, when her symptoms were as follows:- The headache, as it had been from the beginning of her trouble, was continuous, pressive, full, and accompanied with a sensation of heat. There was ringing in the ears, and a little dullness in the hearing. There seemed to be some trouble about the throat which patient described as a “soreness” which interfered at times with deglutition. There was however no evident congestion of the fauces. Her face was constantly flushed, nostrils dry, and eyes bright with unhealthy moisture. The spasmodic contraction of the cervical muscles remained, as above described, and the paralysis of both the right and left hand and arm was nearly complete. She could raise neither to her head, and when making the attempt the hands would fall drooping downward as in “lead palsy.” There was hardly any sensibility in them, and but little in the arms even as high up as the shoulders. The left hand was at this time the best of the two, though it had been the first one to become affected. The lower limbs were also involved in the paralysis; when seated, patient had great difficulty in rising; and when up, walked with great effort, without raising the feet from the floor, scuffing along, stumbling and often falling. Patient had grown fat and gross from want of air and exercise; was extremely costive; had piles with occasional prolapsus ani; appetite was variable, with now and then nausea and vomiting. There was also a symptom about the chest which should be brought into prominence as assisting the diagnosis, viz; the sensation of a contracting cord around the thorax accompanied with shooting pains. No one can for a moment find any fault with the diagnosis or prognosis of the distinguished surgeon who called this a case of inflammation and softening of the spinal cord.
Patient was taking Iron and Quinine, with hebdominal purges. She had not menstruated since the previous June. The case was not a hopeful one, but as the family had determined to employ a Homoeopathist and were not anticipating any thing in the way of a cure, I was very glad to undertake its management.
The treatment was commenced about the middle of June, 1856. The headache was at that time so distressing as to demand immediate relief, and Belladonna, in the 3rd, 12th, and 30th potencies, was prescribed in solution. Each potency was taken three times a day for a week in the order named. For three succeeding weeks afterward, patient took one dose of Sulphur 30, and at the end of the six weeks thus employed, the headache though still occasionally present was less severe and she was some times entirely free from it for two or three days together. The pupils of the eyes were largely dilated, and there was a neuralgic pain through the left orbit, with flashes and sparks before the organ. These, which were new symptoms, were assigned to the medicinal action of the Bell., and thus a recurrence to the drug was not had, though at first intended. The left hand and arm had much improved. The right hand and both legs seemed unchanged. The most encouraging feature was in the fact of the gradually decreasing numbness of the hands and arms; and though both were very heavy, and although there was much pain between the shoulder blades, and the sensation of a contracting cord around the chest was still present-there seemed to be ground for hope. Pains in the bowels somewhat similar to that in the chest, prolapsus ani, piles and constipation seemed to indicate Nux, which was administered with but slow effect. At the end of a few weeks however these symptoms abated and returned no more. A frequent desire to urinate which should have been mentioned above, disappeared about the same time.
At the end of about three months, almost all the worst concomitant symptoms of the palsy had become greatly improved, and several had disappeared entirely. The difficulty in walking, however, seemed about as great as ever, and the strength in the left arm and hand was very limited while that in the right was still less. Neither hand could be raised more than half way to the head. Patient still rose from her chair with great difficulty and was in constant danger of falling as she tottered about the room. Nine doses of the 30th of Rhus Tox. were administered: one every twelve hours. At the end of a week the most remarkable improvement had taken place. The limbs were all evidently stronger-one hand, the left, could be raised to the head, and the other was much improved. The walking was better, and the step higher and stronger. While sitting in her chair patient was able to raise the foot several inches from the floor. All the sensation of numbness had left the extremities, and patient was able to turn over the leaves of a book and to feed herself which she had not before been able to do for months. The action of the Rhus was allowed to continue without interference for a month with an improvement which showed itself more or less at every visit. About this time the stiffness in the nape of the neck was attended with a great increase in the painful tension which had before caused so much trouble. This became so great at night as to cause sleeplessness; and so distressing in bad weather as to be almost unbearable. Considering this an effect of the Rhus 30, I administered Rhus 100, one dose. Under the influence of this one dose of the 100th Rhus, my Patient entirely recovered. At the end of two months she was able to busy herself about the house, to sew, and to walk out for short distances when accompanied. Four months after this last dose, the young lady walked nearly the whole length of Broadway to the Battery. She was able to accomplish all her ordinary household duties, and was to all appearance entirely well. Headache, stiff neck, paralysis, all disappeared; her menses came on with regularity, and she complained of no disease. The patient left the city a few months after her recovery. I was in correspondence with the family for some six months afterward and was assured of the continued good health of my former patient. I have every reason to suppose had a relapse occurred I should have been informed of the fact, and consulted as to the treatment
REMARKS.-The question now naturally suggests itself, what was the true nature of this girl's disease? Are we to consider the diagnosis of the distinguished surgeon and physician who saw and treated the case for months, correct or not? Are the symptoms such as indicate an organic disease of the spinal cord and its membranes? Frankly speaking we, think they are. Our reasons for so thinking are derived, first from the character of the symptoms, second from the order of their sequence, and third from the general history of the case. On reference to any authority on this form of disease, we think this diagnosis will be borne out.
Nothing seems more unreasonable than considering any disease incurable, simply because it has not yet been cured. A cure of organic changes in some of the organs by promoting the removal of the diseased portion and the formation of a substitute for the destroyed tissue, is a thing of daily occurrence in the practice of all physicians. The organs of special sense, the eye and ear for instance, are frequently cured of organic affections, which have lasted for years. Who shall say there is no remedy acting on the spinal cord, when the totality of the symptoms indicate its employment, as Pulsatilla and Sulphur act upon the ear in the like case? Let the reader, if sufficiently interested in the case above narrated, consult the pathogenesis of Rhus Tox. The homoeopathicity of the drug will be very apparent as, if our recollection serves, nearly and perhaps quite every symptom occurring in the above case will be found under that remedy.
|The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 04, 1859, pages 162-168
|Belladonna, Sulphur, Nux vomica, Rhus toxicodendron
|errors only; interlinks; formatting