Leaps of Faith: The Journey from Conventional Medical Care to Homeopathy
It is the end of a first consultation. My patient has drooled copiously on the floor and explored all my toys by mouth. She is a delightful nine month old called Annie, who has suffered from recurring otitis media and tonsilitis since she was two months old. Her mother, Barbara, has consulted me in desperation as she wishes to seek an alternative to the repeated courses of antibiotics, eight so far, that are undermining her baby’s health. She is a skinny little thing, pale with dark rings under her eyes and low in energy…as well as good health.
I have come to that point in the consultation where my questioning is done, I have decided on a treatment plan and it is time for me to do the talking. I see some tension around the edges of Barbara’s eyes and mouth and ask her whether she would like to ask me anything, about homeopathy or the way I work.
I look forward to that moment when the tables are turned!…when I am asked to explain what I do and what is going to happen. I find that parents who bring sick children, especially if this is their first experience of homeopathy, may be the most concerned…and the most vulnerable.
Barbara was most anxious about what would happen as and when her little munchkin next fell ill. She said her faith wasn’t strong enough to trust in the little white pills and she didn’t have enough confidence in what I could do to risk her daughter’s health. I knew that this was her first visit to an alternative practitioner and that she had grown up steeped in orthodox medicine (her dad was a doctor) and I put myself in her shoes to imagine the leap of faith involved in making an appointment to see me. I knew that she had come because all else has failed, not necessarily because she believed homeopathy would help…although she certainly hoped that it might! Sometimes people suspend their disbelief in order to get help for their children or themselves if they are desperate enough.
I tell Barbara that she doesn’t have to believe in what I am doing for it to work…and that she does have to see it working in order to believe it! We both smile.
I explained it might take a little while for her to get to know what homeopathy can do, that it might take her child’s vitality a little while to pick up…and meanwhile, yes, she may get sick.
I explain her options: to call me or her doctor…and the consequences. I tell her that my aim is to get Annie off her medical treadmill but that I would not make her choose between orthodox medicine and homeopathy, especially if Annie became very ill. I tell her that she must follow her instincts and do what she feels is best for her child. At each stage, and that I would support her decisions. Barbara is hugely relieved I don’t insist she turn her back on her doctor.
At this point I explain what a constitutional remedy is: that it will stimulate her daughter’s innate healing ability, that it is rather like throwing a pebble into a pond, sending healing ripples out to every part of her…as long as I have thrown it into the centre of her pond! I talk about the possibility of there being an aggravation. And then we spend some more time discussing what would happen if Annie gets sick after she has seen me!
This is a time of transition for patients new to homeopathy…and transitions are always uncomfortable to a degree, for in order to reach out to something new we have to let go of something. Some patients want to straddle both systems of medicine for a while, keeping one foot firmly in the allopathic camp, whilst gingerly testing the homeopathic waters! I believe it is a mistake to make these patients leap. To insist on their letting go of what they know. I try to acknowledge and honour where they are coming from, and allow them to move at their own pace.
Three days later Barbara called. Annie had a fever and the beginning of an ear infection, she had already seen her doctor who had said her ears were clear and prescribed Tylenol. Was this the aggravation I had promised? I hoped so…it sure looked like it.
I counseled Barbara on how to manage the fever, explaining that it was the body’s way to fight infection, encouraging her to resist the fever-reducing drugs, unless Annie had pain. Then I said that I would like to wait for about twenty four hours to see what her daughter’s body could do without any medical intervention, homeopathic or otherwise. I trusted that the remedy was correct since this fever had come so soon after her visit and prescribed lots of TLC and sponging down if Annie felt uncomfortably hot.
Barbara took a deep breath and agreed to wait 24 hours. Another leap of faith, for someone who had never let any fever go untreated, whose own fevers had always been routinely suppressed. Annie’s fever went up fairly high that night and although her ear hurt a little she didn’t need any Tylenol.
In the morning her temperature was back to normal and within a couple of days she was fine. Better than she had been for months. This was Annie’s first illness without medication. Barbara was over the moon … because the experiences were so different, and because her child’s health and vitality were returning. Within the month Annie was a different child, was eating well and had put on weight.
Our awareness of our patient’s vulnerability can help us to tread carefully and gently as and when necessary: to step back at times, or to step forward at others…with reassurance, information or advice. If our communication skills or our bedside manners are lacking then even if we get the ..right remedy.. our patients may think twice about returning. Our awareness of the bigger picture (the one that lies outside of the ..symptom picture..) will help us to do a better job.
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