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Clinical Cases

A Case of Bornholm’s Disease

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Homeopath Jude Cockburn presents a case of Bornholm’s Disease.

I had known Freyja for over 20 years and originally approached her to be a patient in my second year studying with CCHM – as one of my internal case studies. At the time Freyja was living between Spain and Wales and I am in Toronto.  She was tempted but life got in the way and I patiently waited until another occasion arose. It did.

When taking and analysing this case, I also had to draw on what I knew of this friend to get a deeper sense of who she is and not just rely on the physical symptoms that I was hearing about.  The beauty of case taking brought out so much more than I ever knew about her personality and history. It was all a deeply rewarding experience as we all know when we are ‘allowed in’ to a patient’s depths.

Freyja is a deeply spiritual and empathic person who cares for her extended family despite distance and who exudes a mountain of love, compassion and kindness to those who have become close friends. She has 2 ‘adopted’ daughters who live in the States, a step daughter and granddaughter, an aging Aunt, and siblings – so nieces and nephews who all visit on a whim because Freyja lives in a sought after holiday area. She often feels put upon with relations outstaying their welcome but finds it hard to impossible to say ‘No’ to them.

For many years she did the night shift for The Samaritans and now volunteers for the Red Cross. She would very much like to work in Africa for a humanitarian organisation.Freyja seems to have a bottomless sense of compassion for others. Her deepest regret is the abortion she had during her first marriage, after which she was unable to have children. She never forgave herself for this.

Recently Freyja’s first husband passed away. They had kept an amicable relationship over the decades and his passing hit her hard. There was a huge sense of loss and anger for what might have been, and for what never was. I sent her Ignatia and she reported back “I am sure they (the pellets) are helping as I feel a little more upbeat today”.

However, there was more going on so I offered my help further, and gradually I came to understand that this reticent friend did not like to ask for help and felt that she had to “shoulder it alone”. She wasn’t suicidal but she had reached a point in her life when she was questioning “everything about my life and has it been of any use?”Of course as friends and practitioners we must respect this, and I did. Then I received an email which told me that she had ended up in hospital with pleurisy.

The patient narrates:

I have had asthma since I was a child. This chest infection has left gunk in my lungs so that the feeling is different because of that.  I ended up in hospital with chest pains after dealing with my awful, grumpy and moody Aunt, and working hard in my garden getting it back into shape. They couldn’t find anything significant with my heart but recommend more invasive tests if the pains continue. What a shock, I thought I was just getting the chest infection back and needed more antibiotics. On family history there is a possibility of a genetic fault, Thanks Dad.

I exercise and I have always felt that it is to do with my breathing and chest; however, they checked my chest which is clear and no infection as my white corpuscles were normal. No one knows what is causing the chest pains and can only recommend rest and to take inhalers regularly. (Clenin and Salbutamol).  I have to take it easy as I feel dreadful, have a little turn then sleep, everything seems an effort. I sleep a lot.

It feels like a band around my chest with stabbing pains around the sides and top of both breasts. Tightness. The stabbing pains are worse on the left side, acute. I have done nothing since getting out of hospital other than sleep and sleep and sit and read. I haven’t been out or even wanted to. I have become like a wounded animal and retreated into my cave to lick my wounds.

My bronchial issues started as a child, in fact my brother and I were born with asthma, and it runs in my father’s side of the family. However after an extremely difficult childhood I forced myself to conquer it by about 10/11yrs, in effect growing out of it as I was determined to play sport like other children! My brother never did and has had difficulties all his life. I would get the occasional attack if my lungs were irritated by something but on the whole I was pretty well through my teens to my forties until I was diagnosed with the cancer and ended up contracting the superbug in hospital which hit my bronchial tubes. Although my GP has told me that childhood asthma does tend to come back as you get older and as my lungs have been damaged I am more susceptible.

However it really does feel as if my tubes have closed up and I cannot get enough air in which is probably why I am so tired all the time. I was not taking or needing my inhalers for some time but have now been told to take the preventer regularly for at least a month to stabilise my condition and the reliever whenever my lungs get too tight. Sport is very important to me and I love it. I love the freedom it gives me, being outside in the fresh air, running and jumping and being part of a group. I love Zumba as the movement is to music so I can just drift into the music and forget everything else. I love music it seems to get into my soul and take me to another place.

Although it is hard to get myself going in the mornings I always feel so much better after the exercise. I think that is what pushes me to do it as I know how much better I feel after exercise. It is as though making my body work hard wakes it up and it is happier for it. I know that I have a slow metabolism and I can easily become lethargic so exercise gets me going.

I am not sure about why I pushed myself so hard to overcome the asthma as a child, I think probably to be like the others, but then I found I liked it and was good at it. I also think that because I was a big child and was always teased for being fat I thought that sport would help to get rid of some of the weight. I started to restrict my food intake quite early realising that I was bigger than most so sport also helped in that respect. However I grew to love my netball and therefore exercise just became part of my life.

I did put up a wall to protect myself but I think that was more against the teasing and not being understood at home.  I drink water because I know it is good for me not because I am thirsty per say. Usually I drink it at room temperature, out of the tap or a bottle.  Put me in front of a buffet and I will definitely go for the egg mayo sandwiches, love them. Dave always laughs and says there can be caviar and all sorts of luxury food and I will eat eggs! I avoid salt.

As far as consolation goes I don’t even like to be touched if I am really upset, I go into my cave.  Anger, I suppress it. I learnt as a child to keep my head down and not upset my father. Dad worked very hard and was very strict and when he came home Mum would always tell us to be quiet and not to upset or antagonise him, and I was the most likely to as I was very like him! As the eldest of the three of us I was always expected to do the chores and look after my brother and sister as well as helping Mum and working in Dad’s butchers shop. My brother and sister always seemed to get away with not doing their share and it used to fall on me, so I was always angry, but learnt to swallow it down and just get on with it. I grew up quickly!  Yes I can breathe in okay but just come to a wall when I try to breathe in deeply. But also when I breathe out completely, yoga breathing, it hurts.

How would you describe yourself?

Wow what an interesting question, really got to think for that one. What first comes to mind is that I learnt to keep my mouth shut, stifle my emotions and do as I was expected to do, not what I wanted to do. My Mum and Dad used to argue a lot after we had gone to bed and hearing them I used to sit on the stairs most nights crying and praying for them to stop and trying to pluck up the courage to go down to tell them to stop, I never did work up the courage. So I learnt early on to be the peace maker of the family. I was about 7/8/9 years old.  So that is how I would describe myself a peace maker.

Any headaches?

No am not really troubled with headaches although can get them if weather turns thundery and if they seem to be for no reason, I just drink more water. Tight feeling across forehead.

And the Cough? What brings it on?

Cough can be at any time and it seems to be triggered by changing environment, going into a different room or outside, something like that. No spasms just an irritable dry cough. It stops when I have been in the same environment for a while and got used to it and when I sit and relax. It’s an irritating and dry cough. I thought I had fluid but in hospital they said the chest x ray showed my lungs were clear.  My breathing is worse in damp weather especially when the humidity is high; it’s like breathing through a bucket of water. But then sometimes here in Spain humidity can be about 80% and my breathing is ok but I do have to take my reliever inhaler more to compensate.

Love thunder storms but can get headachy with the heaviness. Love full moons, feel a connection and it often wakes me up. I go outside and talk to the moon as it seems to be calling me! Love being outside by the sea on a full moon it is so spiritual and stimulating.  Don’t like the full sun very much and feel very wary in hot sun without protection. Tend to be in the shade most of the time out here, even on the beach I am under the umbrella. Like the warmth but hate the heat. I have to wear sunglasses as my contact lenses reflect the light and when it’s bright I struggle. That has always been my instinct feeling that I have fluid, had it before and it feels the same, but I asked that question specifically and was told nothing showed on the X-ray! How can it not be seen?

My impression is that you are still carrying the family and feel responsible for both siblings and that saying no is very difficult for you.

You are probably right about the family and especially now with my Aunt, who else is going to do it? It has been a re-occurring theme. Reoccurring dreams, not sure. Used to have one when younger, I was being chased by something/one horrible and couldn’t get off the ground, because fly I could, because I was weighted down by so many people on my back expecting me to save them! Ya go figure! I don’t remember my dreams now but if I do get a fragment it is usually sad or troublesome.

Fears and Phobias?

Fears and phobias, well nothing on the physical side. However I recognise I have lost a lot of confidence and get anxious with new things and places. I am more of a control freak if people are coming round and over react as things have to be perfect and in trying to do that I wear myself out and don’t enjoy the evening and am so relieved when it is over.

I certainly have become more antisocial and prefer my own company and that of Dave’s. I don’t really want to go out in the evenings but I think that has a lot to do with having low energy levels in the evenings. I have trouble with loud noises, my hearing is still acute and loud noise really is a problem for me, which can be difficult with Dave’s low hearing! Also I have become less tolerant of people, especially if they are shouting, yelling or talking loudly, it really irritates me. I do tend to hide away in our apartment and let Dave do most of the interaction, so unlike me.


Most characteristic aspects of the case.

  • The way the chest pain was described – a band around the chest with stabbing pain going inwards.
  • The sensation that there was fluid on the lungs but the chest x-ray didn’t show anything
  • The huge sense of responsibility as a child to look after everyone else
  • Her deep sense of compassion which extends beyond family members
  • The depth of anger that has been suppressed dating back to childhood days, anger that was a result of being misunderstood and not heard, and of having to look after everyone.
  • She became the peace keeper; that her own needs came last in the family hierarchy.
  • Her fear of never being well
  • The sheer determination to use sports to overcome her asthma and her perceived ‘heaviness’

Rubrics used:

CHEST – CONSTRICTION – accompanied by – respiration – complaints

CHEST – CONSTRICTION – band; as from a

CHEST – INFLAMMATION – bronchial tubes – chronic


MIND – AILMENTS FROM – anger – suppressed


MIND – DUTY – too much sense of duty

HEARING – ACUTE – noise; to


GENERALS – WEAKNESS – exertion – agg. – Slight exertion


Remedies to consider:  Phos


  • Both are affected by Thunderstorms
  • Both are adverse to bright sunlight
  • Hearing too acute – for both. Freyja is irritated by shouting, yelling or talking loudly.
  • Tightness of the chest with a cough that is worse from going into a cold room, every inspiration very short.
  • Breathing, very much oppressed, short; impeded by rapid walking: difficult, superficial. Asthma.
  • Dry cough with tightness across chest. However, Phos is worse from going from warm to cold and from a change in weather, Freyja will start coughing from a change of temperature so that includes cold to warm.
  • Lungs feel clogged, troublesome dyspnoea


  • Phos does not like to be alone. Freyja enjoys being with people, she currently volunteers in a charity shop, but of late she prefers to stay at home with her husband and to take herself ‘off the radar’. Normally she loves to be part of a group. Prior to this health crisis Freyja enjoys being with and interacting with people.
  • Abundant mucus
  • Heaviness in chest, as if a weight was lying on it. Freyja said her chest feels like a band is around it
  • Thirst – Freyja drinks room temperature water but is not thirsty per se.
  • Freyja is better in open air whereas Phos takes cold easily in open air
  • For Freyja there is no mention of loss of vital fluids/bleeding issues which would be expected in a phos case



  • Both have great anxiety. Freyja’s anxiety is fear based, that the issues that she is having will go on for a long time, that she doesn’t know what the problem is and so what to do about it, that she isn’t getting better, nothing seems to help for long and Dr’s don’t know what is the causation. Ars has great anxiety with constriction of chest and dyspnoea.
  • Both are better in open air and in warmth and are sensitive to sunlight
  • Both feel they are alone, Ars has a fear of being alone, Freyja feels she is dealing with her issues on her own although she seeks solitude to process her emotions etc by shouting, yelling and crying, Ars will also vent loudly.
  • Both are worse from dairy
  • Breathing – both have oppression and short breathing, want of breath. Constriction of chest worse when moving. Freyja has had to stop her exercise because she feels tired all the time with not being able to breathe deeply. Even yoga is too much. Air passages seem constricted, feels too narrow. Dyspnoea worse from motion
  • Tightness in chest as if bound with a hoop. Great tightness in the chest
  • Both have internal pain in the right side of the chest, upper part of the chest, shooting, tearing pain.
  • Both have excessive prostration; Freyja wanted to sleep a lot.


  • Ars has hard of hearing with Ars not able to head the human voice
  • Cough comes on after walking in open, chilled air. Freyja’s cough will come on from a change in temperature. However, Ars can be affected by changes of warmth and cold.
  • Ars isthirstier than Freyja who will drink tepid water and not icy cold like Ars. In certain circumstances Ars can have absence of thirst.

Nat Mur


  • Both Nat Mur and Freyja have a wall around themselves, Freyja said to protect herself, but more so against the teasing and not being understood at home, it was not about protection from being hurt (again) as in the case many times with Nat mur
  • Both are worse from consolation, like to be alone and avoid company
  • Both have issues with being in the bright daylight – photophobia
  • Oppression of chest, as if constricted.a sensation as if the chest was constricted. Inflammation of lungs
  • Sensation of violent constriction in heart
  • Weakness as if worn out. Freyja said that she was worse from the slightest exertion. Both have great weakness and prostration
  • Both have issues with salt – Freyja avoids it.


  • Unlike Nat Mur, headaches are not a major concern for Freyja. She does get them but in circumstances such as prior to a storm and then it is more of a pressure headache and not hammering nor vice like
  • Nat Mur has hardness of hearing, Freyja was saying she is sensitive to noise and feels everyone talks too loud.
  • Pain in Nat Mur is like a cutting cramp through the left chest to scapula. Freyja describes her pain as going inwards but not to the back.
  • Nat mur has much sleeplessness, Freyja is able and needs to, sleep a lot
  • Respiration, both have asthma with attacks of suffocation, but with Nat Mur there is profuse, frothy, or watery mucus. Freyja doesn’t, she has the sensation of water on the lungs but no discharge.

Remedy selection and Potency

I decided to open the case with Ars 200c. (2 pellets, to be taken one week apart), primarily based on the asthma/chest/breathing symptoms.Although there were still a lot of questions to be asked and a better understanding to be gained of any sense of burning from the inflammation.

First Follow up

“Well as I thought your remedy is working because I am starting to feel a lot better. The chest pains have eased tremendously and I don’t feel quite so washed out all the time. Urrr well, but have noticed that my mind hasn’t been as clear as normal with this virus, or is it just getting older!  Not many odd symptoms to tell you about since taking your remedy: I woke up the first few mornings with a sore lump in my throat on the left side, the left side being where I have had the most severe chest pains. Also very thirsty and so sleepy, more so than I have been. Bruising very badly and don’t remember hitting myself, have always bruised easily but these have lasted weeks and seem to appear even if I have just scratched an irritation. Feel a bit nauseous a lot of the time and last Thursday night/ Friday morning I was violently sick after eating very little. However it is very hot here so could be a result of that. Also I am having severe dizzy spells if I get up or move my head too quickly, but there again I have been subject to this over the last few years and just thought it was vertigo or a result of my low blood pressure. The only other thing I can think of that might be important is that sometimes my blood pressure and heart thump so fast, erratically and loudly that I feel dreadful and have to leave wherever I happen to be and lay down quietly.

Well that is actually more than I first thought, you are making me think about myself when normally I just put up with feeling ‘not so good’ stay quiet and get on with it. Oh not good I am sure you will say! Just conditioning over many years”

Here we have a mix of symptoms that have been going on for a while but which are now being noted, along with a couple that are new, such as vomiting after eating and the change in thirst. I am waiting further clarification of the symptoms that have been going on for years and have asked for more details about them; however when I checked out the symptoms it all seemed to confirm that Ars was a good choice and I am overjoyed that the initial feedback is so positive.

STOMACH – VOMITING – eating – after – agg.


GENERALS – PULSE – frequent


Follow up One

“Well as I thought your remedy is working because I am starting to feel a lot better. The chest pains have eased tremendously and I don’t feel quite so washed out all the time.

Remedy repeated: one pellet once a week of Ars 200 for 4 weeks.

Follow up two

Patient relapsed somewhat so Phos Acid 200 was given due to general lack of energy and grief. This continues to push the case along in a positive manner.

Bornholm’s Disease

  • It is called many names but the one that sticks is ‘Devils Grip’ as that is just what it feels like.  It is also called: Bornholm’s Disease, Epidemic Pleurodynia and Epidemic benign dry pleurisy, and is an acute infectious disease caused by the Coxsackie B virus. It causes inflammation of the lining of the lungs and/or inflamed rib cartilage. The pain comes from the muscles in the chest that join the ribs together. The virus lives in the intestines and attacks the muscles between the ribs killing the cells and causing inflammation


Hering, C. Guiding Symptoms of the Materia Medica

Hahnmemann, S. Materia Medica Pura

About the author

Jude Cockburn

Jude Cockburn (HOM, DCHM, FSHM) has been passionate about Homeopathy since she first encountered it in England over 16 years ago, when she attended a course to learn more about this alternative form of medicine. Jude moved to Canada in 2003 and studied homoeopathy with the Canadian College of Homoeopathic Medicine and is a classically trained, Hahnemannian homoeopath.

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