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IS CONSUMPTION CURABLE!
In its first stages, that is, previous to the commencement of any actual decay or destruction of the lungs, it is certainly, and often, and permanently cured.
In its last stages, that is, when the lungs have begun M decay away, never!
The reader may consider this answer sufficiently definite, and to the point, but without an explanation, it will convey an erroneous idea, as to the second statement. No one will deny the full truth of the first. When a man's arm is cut off, and it heals up, he goes about his business, as if nothing had ever happened, and he is said to be a well man. In one sense of the word he is well; but he can never be a whole man again, can never be fully well, for the lost portion of the body cannot be restored; therefore, he cannot be said to be a perfectly well man. So when a man is in the last stages of consumption, he has lost a portion of his lungs, the disease may be arrested, no more lungs may decay, all cough and expectoration may disappear with night sweats, and pain in the breast, or sides, and years afterwards, he may die of a disease wholly different, as in the case of Mr. Justice, and of Mr. Babbington in subsequent pages, cases occurring in the Author's practice. And as in the case of the celebrated medical writer and philosopher, Andrew Combe, of Edinburgh, and Dr. Joseph Parish, of Philadelphia, mentioned hereafter. But these men could never be said to be well, they had lost a portion of their lungs, and there can be no re-growth, no new creation of lung substance, hence they were delicate persons ever afterward, but enjoyed for many years, after the lungs had begun to decay and healed up, a reasonable and comfortable degree of health. But the scientific gentlemen making an examination of the lungs after death, saw with their eyes, in the broad light of day, first, that there was no disease in the lungs, and second, that death was wholly the result of ailments in other portions of the body, in the nature of ship fever in Dr. Combe's case. They were weakly or frail ever after, because a part of their lungs were gone, and they had to live on a smaller amount of air from day to day, than was natural, and but from the accidental attacks of other diseases, they might have been alive and in comfortable health to this day.
Attention is requested again to the case of Mr. B—. At the outset I gave it as my opinion that so much of the lungs had decayed away, that he never would be wholly-well again. But at the end of eighteen months, twelve months after he had ceased to be under my care, when he came to see me as a friend, I had the curiosity to weigh him, and to measure his lungs, when he weighed as much as at any previous period of his life, and his lungs reached the full healthful standard.
I feel fully authorized to boast of this case, and give it as an encouragement to others to persevere in the observance of the directions given them, as long as they appear to do them the slightest good; and to fight resolutely and courageously against every rising symptom, until there is not an ache or ail, or pain in the whole body.
But how is it, that after he had lost a part of his lungs by decay, he should recover his full healthful measurement?
A kind Providence never gives, but that he gives abundantly. All men in health have more lungs than are actually necessary for the ordinary wants of the system, as something to fall back upon, in case extra efforts are needed, as often occurs in the emergencies of life.
Again: in the by-gone days of wagon driving over mud roads in winter, just as the six horse team is almost in sight of its night's resting place, one of the horses is taken sick and dies; it has often happened in the necessities of the case, that each of the five remaining, is made to perform an extra amount of labor, and by so doing, all reach their destination; five horses doing the work of six. When one kidney is destroyed the other enlarges and will perform for life the work of two; thus in the lungs, although a portion of them may have been destroyed, the remainder, by proper exercise and education, may be so strengthened and enlarged in their capacities and capabilities, as to be enabled to perform an amount of service equal to that which the entire lungs did before. Such was the case with Mr. B. But while I speak of this as a matter of encouragement to all who read this jook, I deem it due to truth and justice to say, that such a result is never to be attained, except by energetic attentions, long continued; and even with these, there are destined to occur, but too many failures, simply, because of too long a delay in the beginning.
The opinions of great men on any point, are entitled to our respectful consideration; but when men of distinction give their opinion on a subject which they have made their daily study for ten, twenty, thirty years or more, that opinion becomes in a certain sense, a fixed fact, and the denial of that fact, simply from a prejudice, or an impression to the contrary, without ever having made a single examination, or knowing anything as to the nature of the points to be investigated, a denial I say, under such circumstances, is not worth a thought, as it is worse than lost time to argue with ignorance. I propose therefore to give some of the opinions of medical authors on the curability of consumption, men of eminence in their profession the world over, men who have made consumptive disease their constant and almost only study for the greater part of their lives, studying the cases while alive, and examining them after death, men, whose opinions on other medical subjects are considered as standard authority on both sides of the Atlantic, and having done so, I will leave the reader to form his own opinion, with this remark, viz., that I have always found those persons exhibit the most uncompromising hostility to the idea that consumption is to be cured under any circumstances, who feel themselves to be in perfect health, and are pretty sure, that they have nothing like the disease in their own person; they will really-become even angry at the very expression of an opposite opinion, exhibiting an impatient intolerance, wholly inconsistent with a high degree of intelligence. This circumstance has given an eminent English writer, Dr. Williams, Physician *to the University College Hospital of London, occasion to observe in the "Medical Times," No. 230. "Many persons are set down as quacks, if they utter the words, 'cure of consumption,' and if a case does occur, it is said that it was not consumption." There is full reason in the United States, for the utterance of this sentiment, although designed for British ears.
In the discussion of this question, there is a most unfair and illogical commingling of ideas, by not acknowledging a case to be Consumption, until the person is dead or in a dying condition; and then, because there are few, if any recoveries from this stage, the sweeping announcement is made, that Consumption cannot be cured, that it is inevitably a fatal disease. This is allowing Phthisis only a single stage, and that is the last stage; leaving the first half of the disease without a name or appropriation. On the same principle, any other disease is incurable. It would be just as insequent to say that a man has not cholera, unless he is in the last stage, that is, collapse, and then to-argue that because few, if any, recover from the collapsed stage, cholera is incurable, leaving all the premonitory symptoms nowhere, wholly unclassified. The truth is, all that is said about Consumption being curable or incurable, except by scientific men, is the merest jargon imaginable; and the truly intelligent unprofessional reader will express his opinion on the subject hesitatingly and with modest moderation. But when an intelligent man has examined a subject, especially if it be in close connection with the main business of his life, he has a light to speak confidently and without equivocation. Such are the opinions which follow, and no wonder, because it is with them, not a thing to be reasoned about, whether, when the lungs have once begun to decay, they can heal up, and be sound again; it is a matter of ocular demonstration; it is a thing to be seen, for the lungs, like any other part of the body, when wounded, divided by a knife or an ulceration, leave a scar in the healing, just as certainly as a gash in the arm or an ulcer in the flesh, will, when healed, leave a scar. If when a surgeon examines the bones of a dead man, he sees a certain mark, he knows that that bone has been broken, because the appearance could not present itself without a previous fracture, which fracture cannot occur, and unite, without such a