TOWARDS the end of the year 1863 diphtheria was raging with extreme violence in St. Petersburg. In one family alone all the children, eight, died. The disease was of a very virulent form.
Among the doctors practising at that time in the capital of Russia was a Dr. Beck whom I knew personally when he had retired and was living in a little Swiss village.
The following facts were related to me by him. While this epidemic was raging, he went one day to the house of a colleague of his, a Dr. de Villers, whose only son was stricken with the disease, to enquire how he was progressing. He was at once asked upstairs to see the boy who was apparently dying. The father, and the doctor elbows on the foot of the bed and thought.
He was so long silent that Dr. de Villers at last said to him : “Can you do nothing, do you not see that my son is dying ? ” “I am thinking,” said Dr. Beck. “He has symptoms of Mercury poisoning and symptoms of Cyanide poisoning, a combination of the two should be able to help.” “Quick, doctor, write the prescription,” said the father. Three similar prescriptions were then written and the father of the dying boy rushed downstairs, called three sledges and gave each driver a prescription, promising the driver who brought the remedy back first a gold piece over and above his fare.
The three sledges started and soon the salt was brought and the doctors quickly made a potency and one drop of Mercurius cyanatus 6 was administered in a teaspoonful of water every two hours. This was during the afternoon. By the evening the severity of the symptoms had lessened. The next night he had three doses of Iodum, as Dr. Beck was not yet familiar with the action of Mercurius cyanatus. A few days passed and the child was out of danger and quickly recovered.
Dr. Beck then told me of a most interesting sequel to this wonderful cure. Very many years after at a Homoeopathic Congress at, I think, Munich, he had read a paper on this subject. When he had finished a young doctor jumped up and cried out : “I am the patient Dr. Beck cured. I am the son of Dr. de Villers.” There was then quite an ovation for old Dr. Beck.
I will now translate the second case cured by Dr. Beck with this remedy. M- aged 25, a healthy man, except for some acne on his cheeks and nose, complained of feeling ill. There was shivering and a painful dryness of the throat. I saw him the next day. Swelling, redness and intense dryness of the soft palate, the uvula and tonsils. Constant desire to swallow with sharp darting pains in the throat, greatly aggravated by swallowing.
Feeling of suffocation on throat. Pain in neck and at angles of jaws by the least movements of the tongue, which is swollen at the base. Great thirst, very weak, hard frequent pulse ; dark red burning urine. Belladonna 6 every two hours.
Evening visit, aggravation of all symptoms, Belladonna 3.
The third day. Special odour from the mouth, which was filled with a sticky saliva. The whole tongue was swollen. The swollen parts of the mouth were now violet. Very severe pain in throat. Whitish-grey deposit on the uvula, tonsils and palate. Hoarseness and hollow cough worse by speaking. Snuffling ; painful nose ; mucus dropping from nose ; the nostrils glands. Stiff neck. General symptoms persist. Extreme prostration. Mercurius vivus 6 was given.
At my seconds visit the deposit had increased. Cough worse, patient almost speechless, respiration very difficult. The acne has disappeared. Mercurius vivus 4, a drop every half hour.
Fourth day. Bad night, difficulty of breathing much worse, pulse small and frequent, 115-120. Skin burning, very little urine passed. All local symptoms aggravated. The deposit has reached the inside of cheeks, the lips the gums and under the tongue. The parts not already attacked by the diphtheritic deposit, are violent in colour. Swallowing is almost impossible ; and pain behind the breastbone and at the root of the neck makes one think that the disease has reached the oesophagus, the swallowing tube.
The nose is swollen hot and completely blocked. The eyes are bloodshot and weep. The swelling of the sub-maxillary and the parotid glands has greatly increased and extends to the sides and back of the neck. The cough, more frequent, brings on suffocation, and the face is livid.
From now on to the sixth day the disease made rapid progress. The salivary glands became enormous. False membranes were visible right up to the nostrils from which a foul, bloody, corrosive and fetid liquid escapes. The inside of the mouth as far as one could see was covered with a thick grey membrane. The tongue protruded beyond the teeth.
The unhappy patient has his mouth half open and makes continual and violent efforts to breathe and to get rid of the membranes which block his respiratory tract. Pulse 150 and miserable. No urine since the day before. He can no longer speak and points to his stomach to show he has pain there.
He has had Iodine 3, Bromium 3, Mercurius corrosivus, Apis 6.
Burning fever drowsiness and sub-delirium, and the irregularity and weakness of the pulse point to a fatal termination of his sufferings. Friends wanted tracheotomy and I had not forbidden it, but with the patient in the states he was they do not insist.
It was now that I ordered Mercurius cyanatus 6 every half hour. Four hours later I returned to see the dying man, and I noticed with extreme delight a slight change for the better. The cough was looser, not so much suffocation. The pulse was better, there was less drowsiness. Continue the remedy. That evening the improvement was incontestable, drowsiness gone. The brain is free, swallowing easier, cough loose, dyspnoea, much less, a little dark urine has passed, fever abated. A dose every hour.
The night was relatively better, three hours of sleep, great pieces of false membrane are coughed up. The respiratory symptoms improved. The inside of the mouth where the false membrane was, shows a bloody purulent surface. The membranes stink.
On the eight day the patient tells me in a low voice that he feels much better, and the throat is freer, he can begin to shut his mouth without needing to breathe through it. He pulls strips of membrane from his nostrils. The pulse is better, 90-100. Moist skin. The swelling of the salivary glands is going down. The face has a better colour, and he has a desire for food. The night was quite six hours sleep, broken, however, by thirst and cough. Same remedy every two hours.
During the day he had several liquid, brown, horribly fetid stools containing an extraordinary quantity of false membranes. The cough, which makes him vomit, brings up quantities more. Passed urine twice. Pulse 85-90 better.
From now on he makes rapid progress till the seventeenth day when nothing remained but weakness, a loose cough and extreme emaciation. Mercurius cyanatus was stopped and other remedies were given. The acne re-appeared during the convalescence.
This was the second case in which Mercurius cyanatus was tried. Dr. Beck thought he had to exhibit first the usual remedies. From this time on, however, he always began with Mercurius cyanatus when diphtheria was diagnosed.
This paper shows how homoeopathic remedies are discovered and the two cases constitute a triumphant vindication of homoeopathy.