This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
"But when the specific symptoms, peculiar to the severe form of Cholera, had set in, medicine had very little influence upon it; and, accordingly, as might have been expected, a hundred different cures of the disease were announced, most of them all but infallible. Some persons held that timely bleeding will save the patient: others relied confidently upon mustard emetics. Hot air baths were manufactured and sold to a great extent, to meet the apprehended attack in that manner without delay. Certain practitioners maintained that the disease was to be remedied by introducing into the system a large quantity of neutral salts, which were to liquefy and redden the blood, and to restore the functions of the circulation. But of this practice it was said, in a sorry but true jest, that, however it might be with pigs and herrings, salting a patient in Cholera was not always the same thing as curing him. In a great number of the sick the blood was mechanically diluted by pouring warm water or salt and water into their veins. Some physicians put their trust in Brandy, some in Opium, some in Cajeput Oil, which rose to I know not what price in the market; some again in Calomel alone.
"I had not more than six severe cases under my own charge; and I congratulated myself that the mortality among them was not greater than the average mortality. Three died, and three (I will not say were cured, but) recovered. The three that died I was called in to see when the disorder was at his height: in each case it went on with frightful rapidity, in spite of all the means adopted, and proved fatal a few hours afterwards. The three that recovered I saw somewhat earlier, but still not till the specific symptoms were present; one was a girl in the hospital. They all recovered under large and repeated doses of Calomel. Yet I do not venture to affirm that the Calomel cured them. In the first case which was treated in that way, I merely followed up the plan that had been begun by Dr. Latham, who had visited the patient for me when I was accidentally absent. I found that he had felt better, less sick and less faint, after taking half a dram of Calomel at a dose; and I repeated the same dose many times, for after every dose his pulse rose somewhat, and he appeared to rally. This was the same man whom I mentioned before, as having made no urine from the Sunday to the Wednesday: all that time he kept discharging rice-water stools. At last, on the fourth day, he passed a little water, and his evacuations became rather more consistent, and began to look green: and from that time he gradually got well. Afterwards I treated my hospital patient in the-same way, and with the same event.
"Some of the expedients recommended had certainly a very marked and immediate effect upon the condition of the patients, especially the injection of warm water into their veins. Many instances of this were related at the time. One I myself saw. The patient was a young man, who was nearly dying apparently. His pulse had almost, if not quite, disappeared from the wrist; his voice was faint and husky; he was very blue; and his visage was ghastly and cadaverous: in one word, he was in an extreme state of collapse. Out of this he was brought in a few minutes by injecting warm water into one of the veins of his arm. The pulse again became distinct and full; and he sat up, and looked once more like one alive, and spoke in a strong voice. But he soon relapsed; and a repetition of the injection again rallied him, but not so thoroughly; and in the end he sank irretrievably. Dr. Wm. Babington told me of;a patient whom he saw, speechless, and all but dead, and whose veins were injected. He then-recovered so as to sit up, and talk, and even to joke with the by-standers; but this amendment did not last either. Yet even this temporary recovery might be sometimes of great importance: might allow a dying man to execute a will, for example. And some of the persons thus revived got ultimately well. We had for some time a woman in the Middlesex Hospital acting as a nurse, who had been rescued, when at the verge of death from Cholera, by the injection of warm water into her veins.
"It was remarked of those who recovered, that some got well rapidly, and at once; while others passed into a state of febrile reaction, which frequently proved fatal some time after the violent and peculiar symptoms had ceased. Some, after the vomiting, and purging, and cramps had departed, died insensible; over-drugged sometimes, it is to be feared, with Opium. The rude discipline to which they were subjected might account for some of the cause of fevers. And the process of artificially replenishing the veins was certainly attended with much danger. The injection of air with the water, inflammation of the vein from the violence done to it, an over-repletion and distension of the vessels by the liquid, might, any one of them, and sometimes I suppose did, occasion the death of a patient.
"In their general course and character, the three epidemics of 1831-32, of 1848-49, and of 1853-54, manifested a strong mutual resemblance. Each had a period of invasion-then a pause-and then again a subsequent fiercer outbreak, determined apparently by atmospheric conditions. All three fell with unequal severity upon different parts of the kingdom, and the parts which suffered the most, and the parts which suffered the least were, with few exceptions, the same in them all. In each the absolute mortality from Cholera was the highest in the months of August and September. More persons died of it in 1849 than in 1832, fewer in 1854 than in 1849. To give you some notion of the desolating power of the disease, I may tell you that during its second visita-tation there died in England of Cholera and Diarrhoea upwards of seventy thousand persons. I couple the two advisedly. Each of the three Cholera epidemics was preceded and accompanied by Diarrhoea, which was unusually fatal as well as unusually frequent. There can now be no doubt that the excess of Diarrhoea above the average of common years was partly due to the exciting cause of Cholera; or rather that many of the cases registered under the head of Diarrhoea, were really cases of Cholera, running a comparatively slow course, and shorn of its more striking symptoms. This fatal choleraic Diarrhoea occurred most often at the two extremes of life, while the deaths from fully developed Cholera were most numerous in its middle period. It appears from the statistical tables published under the authority of the Registrar-General, that the average duration of fatal Diarrhoea was about sixteen days, of summer Cholera about five days, of epidemic Cholera about two days. A fourth great visitation of the Cholera took place in 1865-66.