DELICATE, BACKWARD, PUNY AND STUNTED CHILDREN By J. Compton Burnet, M.D.)
The best treatment of the backwardness of children which one usually encounters consists in gymnastic, climatic, hygienic, and dietetic advantages, together with special methods of instruction, all of which proceedings may be more or less sound and laudable, but in many cases they are not sufficient.
The treatment which I here advocate does not exclude any of the before-mentioned measures, but is something quite different, viz., the use of specific homoeopathic, organopathic, and various other constitutional remedies systematically administered, so as to rectify the wrong underlying the said backwardness, to cure the diseased organs or parts, to rouse them medicinally from torpidity, or to cure the diseases of the individual as an entirety, or to get rid of the perverted or other morbid conditions due to hereditary diseases and taints, or to shocks, falls, blows, fits, or other previously overcome accidents and diseases. The ordinary treatment of delicate and backward children may be compared to sowing the seed in unprepared ground which is not scientific, and is also inadequate; whereas I advocate the plan of preparing the ground, of first putting the actual wrong right at the very start, so that the particular state which causes us to affirm of a given child that he or she is delicate or backward, glum or excited, may disappear, and give place to the normal, so far as that may be possible in any given case.
I regard mental backwardness as of physical cause and origin, and I say that the first step to be taken is to alter this physical cause of the abnormality, and then to go on to the teaching; whereas the poor delicate or backward ones either lie hopelessly fallow, or are worried and crammed with what little they can take in, resulting often in but a poor return for all the trouble taken in their behalf.
If a child have, say, an irritable brain remaining from some child’s disease, or from a tendency to tuberculosis, or from outgrown water on the brain, or inherited constitutional taints, the common plan is to let the sufferers remain educationally fallow, so that no harm be done, and in order that they may grow out of their constitutional weaknesses. That is good, as far as it goes. Or they are sent to the seaside or other specially healthy neighbourhood. This is also good, as far as it goes. Or they are sent to special schools for delicate and backward children, where every advantage is given them. This is also good,-aye, very good; but it is not enough.
None of these suffice in themselves,-the actual wrong is very apt to remain; the little ones may, indeed, mend more or less, but the results thus obtained are not the best obtainable, and the great bulk of such grow up unfit for the work of the world, and unfit prospective parents: though such very many of them will, in their turn, certainly become, abstract preachings to the contrary notwithstanding. To inweigh against the marrying of the delicate and of the diseased is futile: we might as well preach to the storm. But if we set about really curing the delicate and the diseased while quite young, and then let them finish their growth, say at the seaside, we shall in the end get sound adults fit for the work of the world, and for all the duties of the State and of the family.
How do I know? Simply because I have done it myself many times during the past twenty years, and these pages are intended to call attention to the possibilities of curative medicine in the various constitutional delicacies of childhood, whether inherited or acquired, or both. And the point which I would specially lay stress upon is this: Cure the constitutional wrong as soon as possible, as thus growth comes AFTER the cure, and then natural growth may result in complete normality. For when in the case of arrested or retarded development the hindrance is medicinally removed before growth is over, we get results veritably marvellous, as some of my herein narrated cases will show.
The point bears reiterating. A given individual does not thrive because of a constitutional disease or taint blocking the way; now, remove the block by the right constitutional remedies, and then normal developmental power is restored, and said individual starts off growing, and the backwardness disappear.
IN RUBBINGS OF OIL IN CHILDREN OF PUNY GROWTH
MY very earliest efforts in endeavouring to better the puniness of tiny children dates back to my student years, when I knew very little about any medical subject whatever, but I somewhere heard or read that puny children were much helped in their growth by being rubbed with fine oil. I think the late Sir James Y. Simpson often recommended this proceeding. Many have lauded the benefits to be derived from rubbing in codliver oil, which I have myself at times made use of, but have long since given up as having no advantage over the use of fine salad oil, which is much less nasty,-the smell from the cod oil being very objectionable. Rubbing in even sweet oil is a rather grimy affair; but if properly carried out the griminess is very bearable, and there is no evil smell. Hence I have long since discarded the external *Internally it is not the same, for cod- liver oil is not only a nutrient, but also a homoeopathic (hepatic and pancreatic) remedy.* use of cod-liver oil, all the advantages being derivable from common salad oil. As I have mostly used homoeopathic remedies as well as the inrubbings of sweet oil, it is not easy for me to prove that any good is derivable from such inrubbings; but I affirm from experience, that children of puny growth are much helped and improved in their development thereby.
In the case of twins it is very well known that one of the twain is apt to be by much the smaller, and this wee one’s hold of life is not great. It was once my lot to be called in to advise in regard to such a tiny mite, the stronger of the two being a fine specimen, and, in the opinion of the family doctor, fit to take its chance on the bottle,-the babies’ bottle,- a bottle, by the way, that claims more victims than that other bottle we know of. Well, I had a wet nurse for my almost infinitesimal charge, and had him rubbed *At first it was really more dabbing than rubbing.* with warm salad oil, and kept for long in old oiled flannel, and now he is a fine young man,-so I am informed by his mother, though I have never since seen him,-at present serving in the Cape Mounted Police. His strong twin brother died in infancy of marasmus, as I am told on the same authority. Here I can only affirm -I cannot prove- that the wee mite’s life was saved by the inrubbings of oil, though at first he was too weak to take the breast.
But I can almost prove my present proposition in the following narration :-
There is a family of five children, now ranging from ten to two years of age, all of whom have been under my professional care all their little lives, and all five have been treated individually and otherwise in precisely the same manner, with one exception,-that is to say, four out of the five were more or less puny at birth, and these four puny ones were oiled daily during the first year of their lives, and the fourth- the third in the series of five-was so strong and robust at birth that it was thought needless to bother about the oil. He was not rubbed with oil during the first year of his life, and now? this robust one is now by far the least fine and strong of the series, and this notwithstanding his having been at birth the strongest and most robust, on which very account the oilings were omitted. In all other respects the five have been reared in precisely the same manner.
HOW TO RUB IN THE OIL. My plan is as follows :-The mother, or nurse, in charge of the babe to have a large pinafore of flannel, which is not to be too frequently washed, but allowed to remain oily. She is to be seated in front of a good fire, an ample screen to be placed at her back to keep off the draught. A large soup-plate full of fine salad oil to be slightly warmed and standing near at hand. The babe to be held naked in the lap, and the whole of the oil very gently and very slowly and playfully rubbed into its entire body, excepting its face and hands, and then the babe is to be dressed for the night. The oily articles of apparel are not to be fresh every night, but only changed as often as cleanliness demands, since it is desirable and beneficial for the little patients to sleep in their oily things.-this, indeed, is part of the idea of the treatment. The oilings may be used together with such remedial measures as may be judged proper.
In my introductory remarks I have laid great stress on the desirability of beginning the curative treatment as early as possible; this needs no further insisting upon. But it is curious to note that in the case of blighted and arrested growth the period of growth seems pushed out rather than irretrievably gone by,-a certain amount of growth being possible even at middle life. This post-natural growth is presumably pent-up developmental power liberated by the treatment. Thus a patient of mine had hardly any beard on one side of his face, but a fair quantity on the other. After a course of treatment by me, the failing beard grew, although patient was past forty years of age. Evidently the power to grow was present all the time, but was, so to speak, locked up, much as we may suppose is the case with people’s wisdom teeth, which come at such different ages that it is difficult to say when they are really due.
Where a portion only of a given person’s body is arrested in development we see this post-natural growth very plainly. The case narrated on the following page is probably unique.