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Todd was two, nearly. His mother brought him in to discuss options, if any, to scheduled surgery for his anal fistula.  Todd had had a boil right next to the anus, and had it lanced by a doctor. As is often the case, the drainage of pus left a pocket, which opened into a crevice. Nice talk, isn't it.

 Well, it's true. A surgical resident told me so, as he was just about to lance the ugliest boil I could ever imagine. It was an inch long at least, half an inch wide, and immediately above the anus of a man, lying face down on an examining table, whose legs and butt were the only things protruding from under a white gown. At the time, I was a student observing at the emergency and outpatient surgical section of a local hospital.  I rotated among several house staff, who showed me the ropes, among other things. 

 The resident put a beige plastic cup between the guy's legs as he lay there, spread-eagled. A few jabs of lidocaine, and then a single stab with the knife. A fountain of white pus gushed from the incision.  It was several teaspoons, easily.  Gross.

 The resident matter-of-factly said that the man would probably develop a fistula there, which would need to be dealt with when it happened.

 My mind came back to the present, where Todd was wandering around my office, hauling a few toys out of the box full I kept handy for bored kids. He looked over at his mother, smiling.

 Had Todd known what was in store for him, he wouldn't have smiled at all. He was to travel to Boston for surgery in a specially selected hospital that also allowed parents to stay overnight with their children. This was very important to the mother, she told me, but also asked if there were any alternatives to the surgical repair itself.

 "I doubt it," I said. "It is asking a lot of a vitamin to close up a fistula without suturing it."

 "What about the trickle of pus that keeps oozing out?" the mother asked. "This has been going on almost daily ever since the boil was drained."

 "Perhaps there is something that might help that," I said. "You could try a homeopathic remedy called silicea. It is a harmless, over-the-counter preparation that has been used for pus-producing conditions for over one hundred years. 

 "Where do I get the medicine?" asked Todd's mom.  She was holding Todd, who was trying to lie down all over her lap.

 "It's not really a medicine; it is actually a microdilution of the main mineral in common sand, silica."

 "A mineral? That sounds safe enough. Where would I buy it?" she said. Todd wiggled a bit to sit up.

 "Any health food store. I have usually used the 6x potency with my kids. The "X" is like the Roman numeral; it stands for ten. The "6" means it has been diluted six successive times. That's less than one part per million."

 "Your kids had fistulas, too?" asked the mom.

 "No, but they've had a boil once or twice elsewhere, and so have I," I added. "The silicea cleared it up in a day or two. Never had any medicine or needed lancing."

 "Do you think is will help Todd?" she asked.

 "Maybe," I answered.  "As long as you're waiting for the surgery anyway, it's worth trying it in the meantime."

 Because of the number of time I'd seen silicea work, I was actually pretty confident that it would stop the pus problem. And, because of what I'd seen of fistulas, that's all I expected.

 An excited, joyful woman was on the phone a week later.

 "The fistula is gone!" said Todd's mother. "Not only did it stop the pus, the fistula closed up!  Could the silicea have done all that?"

 "Can't argue with success," I said. "Take Todd into his pediatrician and have her have a look."

 "Already did that!" said the mom. "We canceled the surgery!"

 Calls like that make my day. Calls like that make surgeons mad.

 I'm reminded of Alonzo J. Shadman, MD. Dr. Shadman was a surgeon, and ran his own 150 bed hospital in Boston, oddly enough.  The man had performed tens of thousands of operations in his day. Two things forever guarantee his place in quacksville: First, he was a homeopathic physician. Second, he never administered any blood to any patient during surgery.

 Being a homeopath, Dr. Shadman used remedies like silicea. That alone is often enough to get you kicked out of the AMA. But Shadman went a big step further.  In his 1958 book Who is Your Doctor and Why, he narrates how he'd make the rounds and give homeopathic remedies to patients on the eve of their scheduled surgeries.  So many of them got better, so fast and so completely, that operations were being canceled left and right. Shadman made a lot of enemies among the surgeons.

 When he did do surgery, Shadman used no blood.  He said, "I never gave a blood transfusion and I never had a patient die from lack of it."  Dr. Shadman gave IVs of essential fluids, such as Ringer's saline or other electrolyte solutions, but never blood. He said that foreign substances like whole blood tax the recovering patient, making complications and death all the more likely. Since the body makes new red blood cells so quickly, restoring a person's counts to normal in just days, Shadman believed and demonstrated, literally thousands of times, that transfusions are inadvisable.

 Next time Jehovah's Witnesses come to your door, don't slam it. Ask the Witness for a booklet on their position on blood transfusions.  You will be surprised at the scholarship and research that backs their views. And no, I'm not one of their number. I just think that any underdog is worth a fair listen. There is honor among quacks. There is also much to be learned by not closing our minds as quickly as our doors.

Copyright C 2005 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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