What is a parent’s greatest tragedy? It‘s the loss of a child. Recently parents in Alberta were charged with failing to provide their 19-month old boy with the necessities of life after he died due to meningitis. So how can parents avoid such a horrendous loss? And what can doctors learn from history about this lethal disease?
A loving couple believed their child had croup or the flu and treated him for two weeks with natural remedies such as garlic, onions, horseradish and smoothies with hot peppers. But he finally stopped breathing and died after being rushed to the hospital.
Fifty percent of cases of meningitis occur in those under five years of age. Meningitis, an inflammation of the covering of the brain, can be caused by a bacterial germ, virus or fungus. In some instances, particularly viral meningitis, the infection is mild, requires no treatment and lasts a short time. But bacterial meningitis can be a lethal disease that can kill in hours.
The worst mistake for parents to make is the fatal misdiagnosis of flu. The early stages of meningitis can be very similar. But they should suspect meningitis when a child experiences fever, severe headache, vomiting, complains of a painful stiff neck, cold hands and feet, is confused, has a convulsion or develops a blotchy rash that fails to go away with pressure.
Unfortunately, this couple played doctor too long. At one point they were feeding their child with an eye-dropper. This and the fact their son’s body was so rigid it could not fit into a chair should have rung an alarm bell. What this child needed was medical attention, a lumbar puncture to confirm the diagnosis and high doses of intravenous antibiotics to decrease the risk or prevent permanent brain damage and death.
What can history tell doctors about meningitis? In 1949 Dr. Richard Klenner was a family doctor in North Carolina when the great poliomyelitis epidemic struck North America. Klenner had no training in treating polio and no laboratory facilities. But he was placed in charge of 60 patients suffering from early polio. At that time there was no specific treatment to prevent paralysis.
In 1948 Klenner had previously cured several patients of viral pneumonia using intravenous vitamin C. So he decided to give his polio patients up to 30,000 milligrams of vitamin C intravenously for 14 days. None of these patients developed paralysis. (Ironically, in 1949 I developed polio in my final year at The Harvard Medical School and I did develop paralysis. But none of my eminent professors were aware of the benefit of massive doses of intravenous vitamin C).
Dr. Klenner presented this monumental research to the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 10th 1949. Klenner should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. But his discovery failed to make headlines around the world and is still collecting dust.
Spurred on by this scientific finding, Klenner later reported that he had cured meningitis, encephalitis, measles and other diseases by large doses of IV vitamin C. Since his death other researchers have verified his findings.
Klenner stressed that dangerously ill patients should receive large doses of vitamin C when doctors need more time to make a diagnosis. And that, unless our white blood cells, needed to fight infection, are saturated with vitamin C they are like soldiers without bullets. I believe his sage advice could save lives today and might have saved the life of this child.
Readers know that I believe natural remedies could be used more often and are safer than prescription drugs, for some medical problems. But I hope that those who rely on self-treatment now realize that you do not treat a suspected case of meningitis with garlic and onions. It’s a recipe for disaster.
I hope that this couple is not sent to prison leaving three children without parents. They appear to be loving parents who made a tragic medical error. But they did not rob a bank or commit other nefarious crimes. Surely the loss of their child is punishment enough.