* First published in Homeopathy Today
One Wednesday morning Susan called to tell me that her nine-month-old baby, Alice, was teething and had been screaming day and night for two days … and two nights! She said “I am so frustrated. She doesn’t know what she wants and nothing soothes her. She asks to be picked up and when I do she is quiet for a moment and then starts screaming again. I know this is Chamomilla, can I give her a 200C?”
Susan had completed my first aid homeopathy classes and was knowledgeable about acute prescribing. I trusted her assessment and told her to give Alice Chamomilla 6C. I said that as this was her first tooth (a tardy teether was she!) we would start low, especially as she was having such a hard time.
Susan called back on Friday to say that the remedy hadn’t worked and could she give Chamomilla 200C as she was sure it was the right remedy. Because I was hurried and distracted I didn’t ask her any questions, I suggested she give the baby Chamomilla 30C and said that if it was the right remedy it would work.
Sunday morning at 7 a.m. the phone woke me out of a deep and dreamless sleep! It was Susan. She was desperate and I could hear Alice screaming the house down in the background. She asked if she could please give her baby Chamomilla 200C as she was sure it was the right remedy and the 30C hadn’t helped.
I was equally sure it was the wrong remedy. In fact I knew it was the wrong one. But I needed a cup of tea to be awake enough to hunt down the right one. If I could. Susan agreed to call back in 15 minutes and I asked her to make sure she had her appointment book with her. I knew that something had happened to this child. This wasn’t an intuitive leap. Babies do not start screaming out of the blue. There is always a ’cause’…something that disturbs their vital forces.
The only information I had at this point was that Alice was screaming a lot, was inconsolable and appeared to be in pain. These were general symptoms. There were no remarkable or characteristic symptoms. A homeopath’s nightmare. Susan had taken Alice to her Pediatrician the day before and after a thorough examination he could find absolutely nothing wrong with her. He had agreed with the mother’s diagnosis of ‘painful teething’, and made various suggestions including giving Alice painkillers which Susan was reluctant to do. If only I had an etiology. If only I knew where the pain was. I didn’t believe it was teething. This wasn’t just a hunch on my part … the onset was too sudden and the pain too constant.
I talked Susan through every minute of the day her baby started crying, asking her to cross reference what she could remember with the work and social arrangements she had had that day. Thank goodness the day was recent enough for her to be able to remember quite a lot of what had happened. I encouraged her to replay her day as if she were watching a video, and to recall minor details such as what they wore and what they ate at each meal and so on. After each answer I asked “And then what happened?” making Susan ‘rewind’ if she skipped over anything. As she spoke I listened out for any clue that could guide me either to a remedy or a cause. Or anything.
Eventually we reach the afternoon of that fateful day! And after 20 minutes of Susan reluctantly going along with my ‘game’ in order to humor me, she paused and almost shouted the words I had been hoping to hear. “Oh my God!” I love this moment in a difficult case. I can feel the medical detective in me bristling with excitement. Is the mystery about to be solved? What is the answer?
She went on “Oh my God, that’s when my older child fell down the stairs with the baby in her arms.” Ah-ha! I asked Susan to interview her daughter very sensitively and carefully and to find out what actually happened, just in case falling down the stairs wasn’t the whole story. She called back after half an hour with relief and concern in her voice “You were right, she dropped Alice down several stairs and she banged her head on the sharp corner of the wall at the bottom.”
OK, so we had an answer, a possible etiology. But then what happened? If she had a bad head injury what happened to the bruise? So I carried on with my questioning. With Susan fully participating now, and beginning to bristle a little as well! After her older child “fell down the stairs with baby in her arms” Susan had given Alice Arnica 30 mainly for shock without really thinking much of it. And then what happened? The baby had immediately fallen asleep. And then what? And then she had woken up screaming. And now that she really thought about it she realized that she had not stopped since.
Hallelujah! Now I knew what Alice was suffering from. The Arnica had dealt with the swelling and the bruising but the fall had been bad enough to cause … a headache. A bad headache. Her symptoms were not serious enough to warrant us worrying about a serious head injury and so I simply gave her a single dose of Natrum sulphuricum 200C. As it dissolved in her mouth she stopped screaming (and didn’t scream again … until the next fall) and smiled angelically, and that night she slept well for the first time in almost a week.
The most important lesson to learn from this case is that no matter how apparently superficial the prescription, it is really, really important to record every single remedy we give … ourselves or others, and especially our children. And especially every single little acute remedy. This rule applies to home prescribers AND professional homeopaths! We think we won’t forget but we do. Once every three years or so I scour a patient’s notes for a brilliant (usually acute) prescription that I failed to record because I was in a hurry or didn’t have their case notes to hand.
We need to make notes about why we give each remedy and what the response is (as well as what we gave!). This is how we learn, about homeopathy and how it is working for us. With each patient, with each prescription (successful and otherwise) I am building a profile of that person: which includes who they are (their constitution), what stresses them and how (to perceive what is to be cured), which homeopathic medicine to give under certain circumstances that are stressful for them.
For this little baby to have reacted so strongly to the fall there had to have been a predisposition, a weakness. I anticipated that we might need to have Natrum sulphuricum to hand for as and when she next fell or banged her head. For several years this little person did, indeed, suffer with headaches after each head injury, however minor. And Natrum sulphuricum helped each time, eventually removing that particular weakness altogether.