I haven't been there so I don't know how I would act, or how far I would go. To be that ill, that desperate for a cure, a release from pain. Would I have taken a chance for my children? I cannot say. But when a friend of my mother told her that Dr. N. could help her she begged me, us, to take her to see him.
At first I refused, I had no faith in unorthodox medical practices. I was afraid he could make things worse.
Mother had MS, walked unsteadily with a Zimmer frame, still had the use of her upper body and, with steely determination, still controlled all bodily functions, but she suffered excruciating pain when her limbs went into spasm. It was as if life was leaving her body from her toes upwards. Her speech never slurred, her eyes remained blue and as unclouded as her mind; razor sharp, determined to find a way out of her prison before the door slammed shut on her.
Her friend, Betty, came round to see us in the little cottage we lived in at that time, a summer rental that sheltered our small family all year round. She said we owed it to Mother, that Dr. N. had cured her arthritis, relieved her pain. If I were any kind of loving daughter I could not refuse my mother the chance that he might help.
We wavered. We had little money,and I was not convinced, but I could not deny her.
Dr. N. lived in a picture perfect cottage, in a picturesque village about an hours drive away. The journey there was broken by a number of stops [when mum had to go, she had to go] and we were late for our appointment. The long path to the rose covered front door sloped downwards between beds of summer flowers and with the birds singing and bees humming our spirits were lifted.
An elderly woman answered the door and showed us into a beamed living room with an obligatory Inglenook fireplace and ancient ceiling beams. Dr. N. came forward to greet us, taking mum's arm and leading her gently towards a chair set behind a table that was lined with various metal boxes, cotton wool and a Bunsen burner.
He was an elderly man [later we found out he was eighty eight] with thick white hair and moustache, tanned clear skin and a compact body. He asked mum a lot of questions but wrote nothing down, examined her feet and legs, her neck and shoulders and, holding her hands and looking intensely into her eyes, asked where the pain was centered. Somewhere on her lower back, to the right, she replied.
He asked me to stand in front of her and hold up her clothes whilst he prodded and probed, finally happy that he had located the spot.
I looked at mum's face and she was smiling, no fear, no doubt in her eyes.
I asked him what he was going to do but he didn't answer straight away. He lit the burner and held a small three sided knife to the flame.
'I will cut the nerve to relieve the pain' he said, quietly and calmly, as if that was an ordinary occurrence and nothing to fear. I know my face expressed my horror at that point, JP's face showed the same emotion.
'It is fine.' mum said. 'I trust the doctor.'
Dr. N. pressed the knife into mother's back to a depth of two inches and drew it up and down and to both sides to make a cross. There was very little blood. He withdrew the knife and moved it higher and made to plunge it in again.
'No!' I shouted it out. 'No more, mum, this is not going to help.' I rearranged her clothes and helped her up. JP put some money on the table and we left. As we exited he said, 'Blame your daughter if you have no relief'.
She was cross with me for a while and there was no relief, nor, I believe would there have been had I let the barbarism continue. She continued the creeping loss of all her faculties, for another twenty five years, but with brain, spirit, sight and speech intact.
Turns out that Dr. N. had some renown as a scientist, having discovered some chemical or other. But to me, saving my guilt, he was always, Dr. Quack quack.