Ellen and Jack

By Gael Mariani and Martin J Scott

A case study of treating a stroke victim and her carer with Bach flower remedies and homoeopathy.

The authors became involved in the following case as part of research on stroke treatment for the British Institute of Homoeopathy in 1999. Ellen, 78, had been wheelchair-bound and severely disabled since suffering a paralysing stroke nearly nine years previously. She lived with her husband Jack, 75, who was her main carer and bore the brunt of the duties involved in looking after her.

Ellen’s symptoms: left-sided paralysis extending from the face to the foot. She was unable to walk or rise from her wheelchair. The muscles of the left arm and leg were severely atrophied and the physiotherapist at the hospital had given up on her eight years previously. Her bladder control was very weak and she suffered urinary incontinence. Her complexion was grey and deathly. Ellen’s mental / emotional state was very negative, one of complete apathy and prostration. She was beyond despair and essentially waiting for death. She seldom spoke and failed to respond to jokes and stimulation. A friend had bought her a little electronic keyboard, hoping she might learn to play tunes on it and gain some mental stimulation, but she never expressed any interest in it.

Jack suffered from several minor age-related physical problems, but the main concern was his emotional state. He was very depressed and worn down by the burden of coping with a household on his own and caring for a disabled spouse. He suffered from bouts of resentment against Ellen for –making him’ do all the work; then the resentment would lead to strong feelings of guilt and then apathy. He had not come to terms with the shock of Ellen’s stroke, and was completely overwhelmed by the load he had to bear. The house was showing signs of neglect and it was clear that he was sinking under the strain. He always presented a brave and cheerful front with Ellen, as well as with visiting friends and relatives; however behind this façade was a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The case called clearly for a dual approach involving treatment of the physical level for Ellen, using homoeopathy, and of the mental/emotional level for both Ellen and Jack, using flower remedies. In this case the Bach flower remedies alone were used.

Ellen’s treatment

The main homoeopathic remedy used was Arnica, being the principal homoeopathic remedy in the treatment (and prevention) of stroke. This was given in 30c potency, three a day for five days and then once a week thereafter for six weeks. She was also put on a combination of all twelve of the Dr Schüssler Biochemic Tissue Salts to help build up her strength. Other remedies used were Causticum (addressing her weak bladder, to complement and reinforce the action of Arnica), and Sulphur (an important remedy in protracted diseases and long-term post-stroke treatment). Bach flower remedies were administered alongside the homoeopathic remedies, four times daily in the traditional manner and comprised: Star of Bethlehem for the trauma of the stroke; Wild Rose for the state of apathy and resignation that had descended on Ellen; Gorse for the hopeless despairing and near-catatonic state she was in; Sweet Chestnut for much the same reason; and Clematis to help return her to a more grounded state.

Jack’s flower remedies were: Star of Bethlehem again, for the traumatic shock of what had befallen his wife as well as the pain of coping; Gorse for the deep despair he was feeling and the sense that life was a torment to him; Willow for the tendency to brood and feel resentment; Chicory for self-pity; Pine for guilty feelings, Agrimony for tending to bottle up his negative feelings and concealing his woes from people who would have done more to help if they had known about his problems; and Oak and Gentian to help give him back the strength and courage that he had lost.

After one month, there had been a marked improvement on all fronts.

Ellen looked much perkier. Her complexion had improved greatly and there was a rosy tinge to her cheeks that had not been there before, as well as a look in her eye that we had not seen previously. She was able to talk to us, and even tell a little joke. On the physical level, her bladder control was improved and she had experienced some tingling in her paralysed limbs.

Jack was coping much better. He felt more energised and had tidied up the house. He no longer experienced the crippling waves of black despair. He was beginning to talk more about his feelings.

Two weeks later we returned again and could hear music as we knocked on the door. To our surprise, when we entered the sitting-room Ellen was picking out tunes on her keyboard. They had some good news: on a routine trip to the hospital it had been discovered that Ellen’s muscle tone was –inexplicably’ suddenly much improved, to the extent that the doctors were considering restarting physiotherapy work with her. This was undoubtedly due to the Arnica, which is known to improve muscle tone.

After a further two weeks, we called at Jack and Ellen’s home in passing, to deliver some more remedies. Jack answered the door, and his eyes were wide. –She’s walking,’ he said. Initially we thought he was joking, but when he led us inside the house we saw that Ellen was walking around the room with the help of a stick: this was the first time since the stroke that she had risen from her wheelchair and been able to move about on her own. She had felt so confident and optimistic that she had decided she would try this, and to her great joy it had succeeded. After a week or so of practising and strengthening her underused limbs, she was able to go to the bathroom on her own, which was a major breakthrough. Soon after this, she resumed physiotherapy sessions and her mobility continued to improve.

The combined effects of physical and mental/emotional therapy were a dramatic turning point in the lives of these two suffering individuals. While the homoeopathic remedies were very instrumental in helping to resolve the long-term effects of stroke damage and restore muscle tone and neurological functioning, the Bach flower remedies acted as a catalyst to boost hope, courage and a positive outlook. With Ellen, the result of this dual approach was an eighty per cent restoration of her quality of life. This striking case underlines the benefits of using Bach flower remedies to complement medical therapy as well as prescribing them on their own as a stand-alone therapy.