Billy Robertson

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Renita Herrmann describes one of the interesting cases that came through the free clinic of Homeopathy Institute of the Pacific.
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The first time I saw Billy, he was sitting outside the shelter in a wheelchair. He smiled and said Hi.  He had a nasty scar splitting his nose into left and right, and on further glances over the weeks, I noticed the tip was missing. Rather round and sturdy, he often hung out by the front doors of the shelter, and greeted me outside in the sun. He was always cheerful, and engaging. At one point, I stopped to chat with him, as his bright, sunny attitude was charming. After a few short exchanges, he admitted to me that he’d been told to ‘visit the homeopaths,’ by our loyal clientele. Not once, but a few times, he promised he would come up that day, but he’d be a no-show. I didn’t mention it, as often people have to get used to the idea, and when they warm up enough, or get enough nudges, they come to us.

The shelter itself is really quite successful, in that many programs are offered to the people looking for ways to get off the street. It offers classes in nutrition, occasionally meditation, yoga, a nurse on staff, and a job program with the possibility of moving into transitional housing. Some have been homeless chronically, others through recent developments. Drugs and alcohol may have played a role, but drug tests are given to reinforce the no-use rule. A few of our clients were made to take drug tests after seeing us, because they were ‘just too happy.’

Diana Rutherford, CCH, and I have been working at the shelter for 3 ½ years now, and we’d seen the occasional wheelchair, but they rarely come into our offices. It’s a short ride, and didn’t take much to get Billy to take the elevator up to our floor on September 16, 2013. Once there, we got acquainted quickly. It was hard not to get swept up in the story. He’d done many things, having lived in New Orleans for a long time. It was one of the most colorful stories I’d heard in a long time.

Our intake forms include an ACES questionnaire (Adverse Childhood Experience Study), with questions that indicate, with each affirmative answer, a detrimental result more likely in the adult sitting before us. Billie only had one of the 10 marked; his parents had divorced while he was young. On his screening questionnaire, he indicated he took anti-inflammatory drugs for his hip and joint pain, and he had high blood pressure. His PTSD checklist looked equally clean, with ‘A little bit’ and ‘Not at all’ frequently checked off. This was an unusual case!

When asked what his problem was (as if it weren’t obvious), he motioned with his left hand, from head to toe, that his whole right side had problems. His shoulder was painful, either a burning pain or a freezing pain. His hip was painful, so he went to the hospital; they told him he’d had a heart attack. I was a bit confused. His right side was painful…but his heart was on the left…I let him talk without interruption.

‘My leg can be straight, and it starts lifting. My hamstring starts vibrating. I told them the drugs they gave me weren’t working. I told them no narcotics. I was in the hospital for 2 months. They didn’t know what was wrong, but I would walk, and my legs would buckle underneath me.’

Although Billy was overweight, it certainly didn’t seem like he was flabby or lacked muscle tone. He looked rather fit, and as evidence, mentioned he’d been a bouncer in a bar for many years (hence the nose scar).

‘Last winter, I started limping, and couldn’t walk. My knee also felt like it was going to buckle. I started falling down, I was dizzy. I’d be walking along, and my legs would go out from under me.  But the worst part is the diarrhea. I have it all the time, it comes on suddenly. I’ll be walking somewhere, and I have to go NOW. I can’t leave here [the shelter] because I will soil my pants. It’s embarrassing. It’s been happening for a few years. It started about the same time as my knee. I have no warning, no control, at any time the diarrhea comes, even in sleep.’

This is why the guy didn’t rush up to see us right away. He had an embarrassing problem but at some point, he realized it wasn’t getting better; he needed to ask for help. He related his story, how he’d come here about 3 or 4 months ago, from the East Coast.

‘I was 62 when I got here, and I worked on a dive ship and in bars in Miami. I was very healthy. I love music, I play percussion instruments. I was clean for 8 years. I had taken Valium, barbituates, but not alcohol. If I got angry when I was high, I’d pull a gun. I smoke.’

When I asked him about how the nose scar happened, he revealed he’d gotten gangrene on the nose tip after a deviated septum, the result of a fight during his tenure as a bouncer. He hadn’t seen his parents in decades. ‘I should have stayed and dealt with it.’ It was hard not to be charmed by the man, he was very attentive; ‘I love your linen top,’ or ‘I like your new haircut!’ He often noticed things for which others had no time or energy, which told me his basic needs were met, he wasn’t feeling threatened or anxious, he was comfortable in his skin. When asked about his sleep, he said it was poor due to the on-and-off bowel problems. He would occasionally break out in sweats at night. He revealed he liked sweets, rather sheepishly.

During my questions about his leg ‘lifting,’ he told me that he’d be sitting down or standing, and all of the sudden his right leg would start to rise, with no effort. ‘It just floats up. I have no control.’ This very intelligent, cheerful, engaging man had to put his life on hold due to his lack of bowel control, and had the added problem of having unsteady and faltering limbs. I’d do the best I could.

It seemed to me the theme of the case was paralysis. When walking, it happened spontaneously, at any point while walking. His rectum, a sphincter, was also becoming paralyzed. Since I figured this was a recent thing, I asked him what he thought caused it. After looking thoughtful for a moment, he said he’d had a flu shot, and when he asked the doctor if he thought that was the cause, the doctor became angry and belligerent. He was afraid to mention it. The symptoms started appearing within a month of the vaccination. Not so difficult after all, it appeared to be a case of vaccinosis.

After 3 ½ years at this particular clinic, Diana and I had worked out some useful tools. We often brought in brown glass bottles or small bottles with droppers for our clients to take doses daily. We rely heavily on Carol Nelson, another homeopath, that is our multi-purpose aide. Carol will administer homeopathic medicines and take follow-ups, fill out our client remedy list for the day, prepare bottles and refill our filtered water container when needed. She also fields the questions from new clients and does some wonderful hand-holding when needed. He charmed her as well.

Although Carol drew up the list of visits, I was surprised I saw him only 5 times. I remembered he reacted well to the remedies, and with the current hullabaloo over vaccination, I wanted to revisit this case in particular. Although I have many ASD children in my practice, they almost always improve in the first month, starting with detoxing. But here was an adult. I immediately thought of Thuja, without even going to the repertory. After thinking over his vitality, which seemed robust, I gave him Thuja 1M, a dry dose. But the diarrhea needed some help immediately. This poor man had to mill around the shelter all day, even though the residents were required to clear out early in the morning, unless they had chores. They were not to return till late afternoon. So this was the reason Billy had been outside the doors to the shelter every day.

Looking at my analysis, I realized there wasn’t much that addressed the diarrhea, but the description of the explosive and watery diarrhea led me to Aloe. Carol prepared a large bottle for him, with instructions to use it when he felt the diarrhea might begin.

One week later, on September 23rd, his second visit, he reported hardly any diarrhea. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 was the frequency of diarrhea experienced before the first visit, he chose 1 as his improvement. I had advised him to discontinue bread (a hard thing to do in a shelter where you don’t have many choices, most of which include wheat). He told me he’d had only 2 pieces of bread in the previous week. When questioned about his sleep, he revealed it used to take him 3 or 4 hours to fall asleep, but now only one hour. His sleep was sound, with no waking. He had been sleeping until 9am. His hypertension was improving incrementally. He received a dry dose of Carcinosin 1M, which we often give almost routinely, for difficulty falling asleep, but also because it is included in the rubric, Generalities, Vaccination, ailments after, never well since.

He said he still had spasms in his R thigh, though, with no change. His back had spasms, something he hadn’t mentioned before, and his right hand still was bothersome. I wanted to wait before proceeding,

Although I didn’t see Billy for another 3 weeks, he came in on October 14th. I had been hoping to catch him out front, but he wasn’t there! This was a good sign; he was no longer tethered to the shelter bathroom. Sometimes the story is very painful, and the client doesn’t return for fear of poking the pain once more. But Billy didn’t have that problem. When he did return for his third visit, he was very excited. The first thing I noticed was that he was not in a wheelchair, now he had a walker! He revealed the last two weeks were a tremendous improvement. He had no urgent stool in the last 2 weeks. ‘It’s SOLID. Only once was it not solid. It’s a good sign, I guess.’

‘Walking?’ I asked. ‘If it’s cold, it’s bad, walking more flat, though, not on my toes.’ Interestingly, walking on the toes is often a bad reaction from the polio vaccine. It’s often seen in autism cases when it’s the source of the problem.

‘How’s your diet?’

‘I’m eating more vegetables, especially lettuce and tomato, no dressing. I eat less pork, but I’m cheating on sweets. Every other day I have a Reese’s or a chocolate bar. My blood pressure is lower again. My sleep is good, I look at my watch at bedtime, and then before I know it, it’s 6:30am.’

The shoulder was still a bit of an issue; it was a 6-7/10, where 10 was the original pain. The hip pain remained. He’d cut his smoking down to 4 or 5 cigarettes from a pack a day. He also reported being stiff for about an hour in the morning, but was improving. His balance was still a little off as well. Energy levels averaged a 5/10 (my comparison is‘0’ means you can’t get out of bed, and ‘10’ means you can conquer the world). His knee was pain free, just a slight bit of stiffness. The night sweats were gone. The knee did still lift up but only 4 times in the last few weeks, about 30 minutes in a row during one night. His back spasmed only when sitting too long. His sleep was much better now. I had him continue the Aloe. I’d seen amazing results from remedies that cleared issues not in the repertories, and I was anxious to see how far Thuja and Carcinosin would take him.

The fourth visit notes had me scratching my head. On October 23rd, I wrote only one sentence: Bone pain, right to my crotch. Under that I’d scrawled Dulc 200C in water. On reflection, we probably were extremely busy that day, and the weather had most likely turned cold. The joint issues were not resolving as quickly as I would have liked, but Rhus-tox came out lower down the analysis than Dulcamara. He was too friendly for Rhus-t and craved company, and the weather change seemed to be the deciding factor that day.

Billy’s last visit was October 28th. With his stomach ‘stabilized’ and having solid stools, he had no urgency or rumbling. His hip was 50% improved, and he was being moved to housing for handicapped. He was now walking with a cane (which I somehow didn’t notice until he pointed it out to me by waving it in the air). The Dulcamara had helped relieve his joint stiffness, but he elucidated the pain in his hip was like hitting the joint with a hammer, the pain was like ‘bone being torn from my hip.’ I questioned him again about bread. His first comment was no bread, but I asked pointedly, ‘What, no hamburgers? No burritos?’ His eyes got big. He’d forgotten buns are wheat bread, tortillas are wheat flour (often an oversight). In my estimation, about 50% of our clients are sensitive to bread, and do better when discontinuing it, or greatly reducing it. Commonly it’s joint pain, and the most common joint affected is the right hip. Often the fingers or wrists are also affected. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind that if he eliminated wheat, he could improve another 25%, or full recovery.

His last visit upon us, I reviewed what few remaining issues we needed to address. His blood pressure was under control, but still a bit high. He had a little vertigo recently, and it occurred while rising. Added to the still uncomfortable joints, I gave him a dry dose of Bar-c 30C.

Realizing he still had his bottle of Aloe, a few weeks back, I’d asked him not to take it unless he had diarrhea. Now it was time to hand over the bottle. He froze. ‘Can’t I keep it, just in case?’ Without a case of the runs for over a month, he was still anxious about giving it up. I let him keep it, warning him that it would become moldy soon. He was unfazed. It was his security blanket. It was a cheap price for security! It was a pleasure to see him walk out of the office standing tall.

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About the author

Renita Herrmann

Renita Herrmann

Renita Hermann did four years of study at the Institute of Classical Homeopathy in San Francisco. After applying to a city-run clinic in San Francisco, she worked there once a week for eight years. The clientele were mainly homeless persons that she saw each week and she became adept at rapid assessment. She attributes much of her success to her instructor Laurel Harris at the Institute. She founded Homeopathy Institute of The Pacific where she served as Executive Director for a number of years. She now works at IM4US (Integrative Medicine for the Underserved) a multidisciplinary group of people committed to affordable, accessible integrative health care for all.

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