My Life and Work.
Decades ago many parents gave their children Samuel Smiless Self-Help and other volumes by that industrious writer, which describe the lives of numerous individuals who, notwithstanding the greatest difficulties, had risen from the utmost poverty to eminence. Smiles also wrote the lives of the great English engineers and inventors in full detail, but his books are not much read nowadays.
However, the interest in self-made men remains. Every schoolboy is familiar with the life story of Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and other kings of industry who rose from poverty.
The lives of business men, however successful, are less interesting to the great majority of people than the lives of eminent physicians and surgeons. Money-making is a dull occupation compared with health-giving. Very few doctors have written their lives. Those who have done so successfully have been greatly compensated. Some years ago Dr. Axel Munthe, an eminent Swedish physician, wrote his life story, quaintly entitled
The Story of San Michele. It had a fabulous success. I believe more than 1,000,000 copies have been sold. The book was translated into twenty foreign languages and it has proved a best seller, not only in England and in America, but in many other countries as well.
Dr. Adolf Lorenz has written a book which may be compared to Dr. Axel Munthes celebrated volume. However, Munthe and Lorenz are totally different men. Munthe is a poet and a mystic, and his book may be called “Warheit und Dichtung”. Lorenz is not so poetical a soul as Munthe. He describes his life in simple and charming language. His life has been a most interesting one and his career may be compared to that of the great homoeopath, Samuel Hahnemann.
Samuel Hahnemann was the son of a poor porcelain painter, and he would not have been able to study and to become a doctor if he had not displayed the most extraordinary industry and perseverance which enabled him to overcome the financial handicap which would have proved insurmountable to most. Lorenz came from the poorest peasant and artisan stock. As a child he ran about without shoes and socks, and it is amazing that he succeeded in obtaining an education and earning at the same time a living while studying by acting as a tutor to other boys. Like Hahnemann, he succeeded in finding protectors among the well-to-do.
Like Hahnemann he got scholarships, passed all his examinations with the greatest distinction, and became a medical student. He wished to take up surgery. He wrote:. “At the beginning of my clinical studies, I wanted first of all to know what is cancer, and the savants did not in the least know what cancer was.
Is it a disease? Is it a symptom of disease? And they do not know up to the present time! Studying medicine, I felt very much disappointed and did not take much interest in internal medicine when I compared the facts shown up by the pathologists with the poor ways and means of combating them. Nature has its own methods and you cannot do much, if anything at all, to lead them towards another final goal. It seemed all so discouraging to me”.
Like so many young medical men, Lorenz discovered that modern medicine is very strong in diagnosis, in classifying and labelling diseases, but it has little to offer in the way of treatment. Therefore, the modern doctor hands over his patients very willingly to dentists, X-ray specialists, laboratory workers and surgeons. So Lorenz wanted to become a surgeon. Owing to his industry and ability, he became a favourite assistant to the great Vienna surgeon, Professor Albert.
Lorenzs book is full of delightful anecdotes. In one of them he tells his readers how terribly he upset Professor Albert by demonstrating to an audience a case of congenital displacement of the hip joints which had been considered absolutely incurable ever since the time of Hippocrates. Curiously enough, Lorenz was destined to discover ways and means by which this hitherto absolutely incurable condition could be cured. We read:.
“It was my task as assistant to introduce to the audience some interesting cases who had come for consultation. I had found a charming little girl about five years old whom I considered a most interesting case, though as I had to learn to my sorrow she proved not at all suitable for the occasion. In a state of nature, the girl was made to stand upon a table, exposed to the eyes of the whole class, and also, of course, to the scrutinizing eyes of the teacher, whose grim face (he looked like a Hussite leader in his slavic goat) was growing purple with rage.
If his eyes had been daggers, his unfortunate assistant could not have lived one minute longer. But why, for Gods sake? The child was so lovely, laughing at the unfamiliar aspect of the crowd. It was true that in spite of her feminine charm, she showed a peculiar deformity in her whole attitude; her buttocks protruded and her abdomen as well, while her lower back was hollow and her knees bent, with her arms reaching down far below her knees, like an apes.
When she took a few steps her body wobbled from side to side, like a ducks. Professor Albert had, of course, made the diagnosis from afar. Interesting as the case might have been on another occasion, it was just as ill-suited to the present moment.
“The whole staff was aghast at the fury of the boss. What had happened to him? At last Professor Albert quieted down and in a timid voice, a voice quite strange for him, said: Pride goeth before a fall. Boastfulness deserves to be kicked in the neck. I have just finished extolling to you the progress of modern surgery, and now it comes to pass that the first case I present to you shows the helplessness, the inefficiency, the utter inability of modern surgery to cure that lovely child. Old Hippocrates knew and even described this condition.
For twenty- three hundred years medical science has tried to help these children; it is still trying. All efforts have been in vain. Not long ago the famous French surgeon Dupuytren tried it again, only to fail again. He declared once more that this congenital condition is absolutely incurable; that it cannot even be improved..
“The condition we were looking at was that of congenital displacement of the hip-joints. I had witnessed this unforget- table scene abashed, and unaware of the future which destined me, exactly me, the abdominal surgeon of that time, to take up the difficult task of curing a condition which had baffled all efforts through twenty-three centuries and to succeed at last. The incident was soon forgotten, but it emerged ten years later out of the unconscious mind to stick forever in my memory”.
Vienna was the capital of Austria and the whole life of the capital centred around the Imperial family and the Palace. The great professors of the Vienna University frequently came in contact with the Imperial family.
We read on page 68:.
“Many funny stories were told of Professor Skoda. He was consulted not only by people from all over the world, but also, of course, by the members of the Austrian imperial family. The Spanish etiquette of the Austrian Court prescribed that every visitor should come in full evening dress, even in daylight. The tail-coat was indispensable, but Skoda had never possessed such a thing. He always donned a walking-coat and went to court in his usual costume. When he entered the ante-room of Her Imperial Majesty, the valets would tell him that they dared not admit him to the room of Her Majesty because only a person attired in a swallow-tailed garment could be admitted to the room. Oh! Is that so? I did not know it excuse me, please. Its all right Ill go home and send you a tail-coat from the next tailor shop, and he would leave the room”.
Lorenz intended to become a surgeon, as previously stated. He had undoubtedly great gifts for surgery but his intention was frustrated by the rise of Listerism and the use, or rather the abuse, of powerful disinfectants. Germicides which kill germs also kill healthy cells and are therefore dangerous. Homoeopaths are aware of this and they prefer to use Calendula, a non- poisonous plant juice which has the most wonderful healing power. Lorenz was one of the numerous victims of antisepsis. He tells us:.
“It was all because I had chanced to be born in the so-called Lister era during which carbolic acid reigned supreme. The surgeons at that time all but drank carbolic acid. They literally bathed in it, inhaled it, washed their hands in it, and lived in the sickening, suffocating fog of the carbolic spray. This last was really the worst of all tortures. Let alone the fact that you could not see anything while a good spray was on, hissing like an irritated viper, it made the skin pale as a corpse and macerated it until there was danger of gangrene. The time had not yet come when the German surgeons unanimously cried Fort mit dem Spray! Away with the spray!.
“I became its victim. I had stood slow poisoning through four years: then my whole system revolted. But that was not the worst of it. My hands, from one day to the next, were covered with big, repulsive blisters which left the skin raw and bleeding. No possibility of washing such a skin, no possibility even of touching a surgical instrument. As a surgeon, I was like a man with no hands at all.