Who Wanted to Die Hardening of the arteries often leads to loss of vision. Nick N. was only forty years old when he lost his sight. His illness began with sharp pains in his head and in his extremities, which persisted without relief for several months.
While under the care of his doctors, Nick began to notice that his vision was gradually growing dimmer, becoming increasingly worse with time. At the suggestion of the doctors, he agreed to go to a hospital where, a few days later, he lost his sight completely.
Repeated checkups disclosed that he was suffering from a condition known as acute toxic neuroretinitis, which was brought on by hardening of the arteries and, possibly, kidney damage.
Members of the family were told by the doctors that though Nick was still relatively young, the damage to his eyes resulted from deteriorations in his body equaling those found in a seventy-year-old man, and that no hope for the recovery of his vision could be held out.
In search for help, the family brought Nick to New York. He was taken to a private hospital where a well-known New York physician only confirmed the previous findings. An eye specialist called in to examine his eyes reported the loss of almost the entire vision of his left eye, and loss of the greater part, especially the central part, of his right eye.
Since neither the general practitioner nor the eye specialist was able to offer any concrete help, these doctors had no objection to the use of the nonorthodox methods, even though they were clearly skeptical of results.
As a first step, all food and all drugs were eliminated. Nick was put to bed and was fed nothing but a few mouth-fuls of orange juice or grapefruit juice several times a day.
In addition, warm cleansing enemas and hot baths were ordered twice daily, after which he was wrapped in wet sheets to induce sweating. His eyes were kept covered to exclude all light while the room was darkened for further protection.
This program was carried through for about a week. Then some solid food was introduced: first, sliced oranges and grapefruit; later, small meals of fresh fruit and raw vegetables. The enemas and hot baths were reduced to once a day.
Hospitals as a rule are not suitable places to put such a regimen into operation since it is usually impossible to obtain the food we order and since the nurses and other members of the staff are not trained to follow this kind of routine. One may wonder, therefore, how we were able to put this regimen into operation for Nick N.
As a matter of fact, none of the workers in the hospital were aware of what was actually going on. The enemas and the baths were administered upon doctors orders. Nothing was mentioned in the chart about his diet. The nurse would bring in his tray, and when she left the room one of his relatives, who was always with him during the day, ate the food. The fruit juices and the other foods that he was to eat were brought in by the family from the outside.
It is only proper to mention that we had no way of telling how badly damaged his eyes were and therefore could not tell how much we could accomplish. In cases of this kind, recovery is always limited by the degree of damage, and only the tissues not fully destroyed haVe a chance of being restored to health. Where reabsorption of the hemorrhage or the exudates is delayed or where the inflammatory condition persists over an extended period of time, degenerative changes may progress to the point where irreversible damage sets in, precluding all chances of recovery.
At the start, Nick was terribly despondent. He had never been seriously ill before, and the thought that he might never see again was almost unbearable to him. If he couldnt see again, life wasnt worth living and he would rather die!
Over and over again, the patient would ask whether he would ever see again. We could not be sure, but telling him this would have been like pronouncing his death sentence. So while the members of his family were apprised of our doubts, the patient was constantly assured that everything would come out all right.
So far as his general condition was concerned, improvement began to show almost immediately. His blood pressure began to drop almost from the start of the treatment and continued to drop until it reached a normal level. As far as his sight was concerned, however, no discernible improvement was apparent during the first ten days or two weeks.
Nick reached the depth of despair. We kept telling him that he must have patience, but so far as he was concerned, life was not worth living. Life without his sight was worthless. Unless he regained his eyesight, he would kill himself!
Then, early one morning as he awakened from sleep and opened his eyes, he seemed to notice the shadow of two horses reflected from the street on the wall opposite his bed. Unbelievingly he turned to look at other things. No, it was not a trick of the imaginationhe was actually able to see again.
Exultantly, he began to shout, I can see! I can see!
At first his vision was dim and blurred. He was able to distinguish only outlines, but this change was enough to imbue him with new hope. Now he knew that his sight was coming back!
Improvement continued with each day. About a week later, Nick left the hospital and was taken to his sisters home where he stayed until he had fully recovered.
We need not mention how surprised the eye specialist was when upon re-examination a few weeks later, he found that the condition had completely clekred up. The following is a copy of his final report on the case.
Mr. Nick N. shows almost complete regression of the neuroretinitis. His vision is R. 20/25; L. 20/30 and he accepts no correction. The tension is normal, lenses and media are clear. The fundi show minute whitish soft retinal exudates, mostly in the posterior poles. There are also some radiating yellowish lines in the macular region which are probably the remains of the retinal edema, surrounding the macula. No hemorrhages are present; the disc margins are sharp and the color of the disc is normal except for a slight yellowish pallor temporarily. The retinal spots are more numerous in the left than in the right eye. On examining his left fundus with a binocular Gullstrand ophthalmoscope, the whitish exudates appeared to be in the nerve fibre layers of the retina.
The peripheral fields were normal. The blind spots showed slight enlargement which, however, is of no consequence. There were no other scotomata present.
When we compare this report with the one of only a few weeks earlier, which stated that the examination revealed the loss of almost the entire vision of his left eye and the greater part, especially the central part, of his right eye, we can see how remarkable his recovery was.
Nick continued his treatment for another three months, and then returned to his home town and resumed his former work.
An interesting highlight in connection with Nicks recovery was the fact that while before his illness he was nearsighted and had to wear glasses, the examination by the eye specialist revealed that his vision had been restored practically to normal, and that he was able to discard his glasses completely.
Unfortunately, not all cases respond alike. As already stated the results depend upon the extent of the damage, and in cases where the exudates and hemorrhages are not quickly absorbed and the inflammatory condition is not quickly eliminated, the damage may be irreversible. This is the reason it is important that no suppressive treatments be used and that the measures employed in these cases help to normalise function and repair the damage as rapidly as possible. ,
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