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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33

Case VII.—Obstinate Skin Disease of Eight Years' duration

Case VII.—Obstinate Skin Disease of Eight Years' duration.

This case is that of a clergyman, one of my own most valued friends, and probably the most rigidly conscientious servant of his Master that I have the privilege of knowing. He has had two considerable scars on his face for the last eight years, one above the right eyebrow, the other extending down the face between the cheek and nose. To the cure of this affection I set myself in right earnest several years ago; page 28 and after exhausting in vain all my resources, sent him for additional advice to some of the most eminent men in the profession, with a like result. For some years the clergyman had given up all hopes of ever finding any cure, and all thoughts of trying doctors more. Nor would he have thought of it yet, had I not rather abruptly asked him, about four or five weeks ago, 'Please, sir, will you oblige me by allowing mo to try and cure your face?' The astonishment which this abrupt question excited in my friend may perhaps be participated by the reader, when I inform him, that at that time I had never tried the sulphur cure. At the moment I was looking out for some of the most inveterate cases I could find, to put on its trial another plan of cure, scarcely, if at all, inferior to that of sulphur itself. From the importance of the subject, and to introduce to your notice the power of diet over diseases generally, please allow me to diverge a little from the sulphur, and tell you a short story about another medical practitioner, more insignificant than the Kirkcaldy doctor still.

This country surgeon had lately a bad attack of functional heart affection, to such an extent as caused both himself and friends to think he was dying. Being very weak, he was taking all sorts of nourishing matters to recruit his strength, as well as drugs suggested by kind and skilful medical friends in Edinburgh, to cure his palpitation. Away from business at the time, and having little else to do but think, a thought occurred to him, 'Strength is imparted not by what the stomach receives, but by what the stomach can thoroughly digest.' Having pondered on this very plain axiomatic truth, he thought it contained a curative principle very applicable to his own disease, which, when applied, operated like a charm. 'If this disease,' thought he, 'one branch of the great trunk dyspepsia, be so amenable to the "right eating cure," why not fifty other branches, or nearly all the ills that flesh is heir to?' The more he thought of it, the more he became convinced that right eating, or perfect digestion and nutrition, was a curative weapon of tremendous power—that the obvious maxim which the whole world admitted in theory almost the whole world ignored in practice. That men's systems often get too little nourishment by their stomachs getting too much—were literally starved to death by a superabundance of nutritious food! And as he cured himself first by logic in his mind before he did it in his own person, so there and then he cured numbers of his former patients by logic too; and found, on coming home, that its practical application to these cases was equally satisfactory. He jotted down his principles of eating, What to eat? How much? How? and, How often? Illustrated their power by some striking cases (which had previously resisted not only his own former treatment, but the treatment of some of the most eminent of our physicians) and sent the paper in (meant as a contribution to a popular journal, and therefore filled with fun and jocularity) to some of the greatest wiseheads of the profession in Edinburgh,—their general answer being, 'valuable and interesting,' 'ought to be published,' etc. In short that, with all their jocularity, the papers contain serious and important medical truth. Induced by this consideration, I (beg pardon, the country surgeon I mean) will probably offer them to some popular journal. And I mention this story for page 29 two reasons:—1st. That should they be accepted by any journal, this story may account for, and partly excuse, such a jumbling together of trashy nonsense with a substratum of important medical truth; and 2d, Because the clergyman whose case I am now relating had been exactly one month on the 'eating cure' before the sulphur treatment began; and the healing process seemed to have set in, in some small degree, so as to afford hope of its ultimately being completed. But after finding, by experience, the healing powers of the sulphurous acid lotion, I thought it my duty to give him the benefit of it; although it was one of the conditions of the diet process when we commenced, that except a blue pill or so to begin with, no medicine, external or internal, was to interfere with the experiment. Indeed it is not always safe to attempt healing such sores (perhaps safety valves to the system) unless the blood be properly purified, and the whole system improved, which can be done effectually and permanently by perfect digestion and assimilation alone. The sulphurous lotion, then, was first applied on 7th October, so that this day (13th) it has now had six days' trial. Both scars are a little better, only being hard, dry, elevated above the skin, and of eight years' duration, the cure (if ultimately successful) must be tedious. I almost venture to anticipate a perfect cure by-and-by by means of diet and the lotion combined, and that if once healed, a healthy state of stomach and blood (induced and maintained by the 'eating cure') will prevent a relapse. (Space left for the result).

21st October 1867.—Extract of a letter received to-day from the clergyman: 'My face, in my opinion, still continues to mend; very slowly, indeed, but I trust satisfactorily. The lotion has certainly done it good. But, in justice to the dietetic principles you inculcated on me, I must add that the healing process had apparently begun before the lotion was applied. Further, though I thought myself in good health before, my appetite and general tone of system are greatly improved. The improvement in my eyesight especially is very marked,' etc.

October 30th.—The lotion has not fulfilled expectations. Perhaps no external applications can cure this case. Diet treatment is the only chance. But whether the promise of amendment shall continue I dare not say.

Nov. 4th.—Looking better to-day; apparently healing well.

Feb. 26, 1868.—Since the weather became colder, the sulphurous acid seems to have lost its power. But though this case has proved intractable both to spray and a sulphur healing salve combined, a similar treatment I have found successful in several obstinate skin diseases of three, four, and even twenty-five years' standing.