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Ailments from Grief

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 23 - November 1997

One of the great strengths of homeopathy as a therapeutic tool is that it is ideally suited to the treatment of problems which cannot be given a medical diagnosis. It is one of the great frustrations of medical practice that patients can sometimes be clearly unwell and yet, despite strenuous efforts at examination and investigation, no diagnosis can be made. The phrase "I am afraid there is no more we can do" is one that I have used as a doctor, with a terrible sense of failure, and it is this very situation that has encouraged many medical practitioners to develop an interest in complementary therapies.

Pat's story began eighteen months before she came to see me when she developed a sore left eye. This was closely followed by an unpleasant sensation of pressure on her chest and wind pipe, which progressed to a severe sore throat with chest tightness but no cough. She felt very unwell and consulted her GP who arranged chest X-Ray and examination of a sample of phlegm. Both were normal but Pat felt worse and worse, developing over the next few years a black coating on her tongue and then a red, puffy, burning swelling of both knees. Her GP was alarmed by these events and arranged a specialist appointment but all that the physician could find was a low blood pressure. A battery of investigations were performed, all coming back as normal.

Several months into the illness, Pat started to notice that her face had become very red and her left cheekbone became swollen and tender. She described the feeling as if she had been hit. Smiling and talking was painful and the only ease she could obtain was from applying a bag of frozen peas. Despite having had all her teeth removed twenty-four years earlier, she was sent to the Dental Hospital for an examination. Unfortunately, they could not find a cause for this problem and despite two courses of antibiotics, there was no improvement.

Pat was becoming increasingly tired and despondent. She was worn out after only a few hours of activity and her appetite was poor. Depression caused by the combination of pain, exhaustion and disappointment had set in and she despaired of finding a solution to her situation.

As Pat related her symptoms and her story, I was struggling to spot which remedy was going to help her. Her physical complaints seemed disconnected and difficult to interpret and her doctors had failed to find a diagnosis to explain her illness. Yet, here was a woman racked by joint pains, exhausted by flu-like symptoms and with an evident inflammation in her face.

Then, suddenly, a picture began to emerge. Pat could tell me very little about her family history because her parents had separated when she was a child. She had lost touch completely with her mother and was brought up by her paternal grandmother who treated her well. However, she still had a strong sense of grief regarding her parents' marital breakdown. Her grandmother died of bowel cancer when Pat was in her late teens, another body blow.

After marrying quite young, although fortunately happily, Pat's first child died in infancy from a congenital defect, leaving Pat extremely distressed. At that time, she developed severe inflammation in the gums and mouth which culminated in her requiring a full dental clearance, a terribly traumatic event in itself.

A picture was forming of a person who had experienced many losses and who had even felt intense grief at the deaths of all her many pets over the years. I wondered if it could be that she had become "stuck" in this state of grief and if that had been the cause of the breakdown in her health. The only symptom which could guide me in this situation was the sensation of pressure on the windpipe which is typical of the remedy, Ignatia.

Ignatia is derived from a bean which contains many alkaloids and strychnine-like chemicals. These are noted for causing muscle spasm. Pat's windpipe sensation would be typical if the laryngeal muscles were in spasm and I also noticed that Pat's eyelid twitched intermittently, another typical Ignatia manifestation. I could not explain all Pat's symptoms by the Ignatia picture but felt that it would at least be a good opening prescription. However, I fully expected to have to give other medicines as the case progressed.

I did not see Pat again for several months and assumed that she had decided to seek help elsewhere. However, she came back again five months later looking totally different. The flushed facial appearance and nervous tic had completely settled, as had the facial pain and swelling. She was relaxed and happy and her energy and vitality had returned almost fully. The improvement had begun within three days of taking the three tablet course and the only residual symptom was a feeling of slight pressure over the windpipe which settled after one further course of Ignatia. Since then, Pat has remained well.

I still do not know what caused Pat's illness. My medical training leaves me with a sense of unease at our inability as a profession to diagnose her complaints. However, I am grateful that she was fully investigated by so many conscientious doctors because their negative findings left me free to use homoeopathy in her case. Had she not been fully investigated when she first came to me, I would have felt duty bound to have her checked in . order to rule out serious infection, inflammation or tumours. As it was, I was able to use that marvellous therapeutic tool which is homoeopathy in order to give Pat effective help, despite the absence of a definitive diagnosis.


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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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