Nineteen Forty-Six. The Faradizer

22 Dec

It took Dr. Alva Vinay less than two months to establish his unorthodox medical practice in Denver, Colorado. By March of 1946, he had reached the point of needing a nurse for what he called his Electronic Clinic. His decision was to search for one among recent graduates of the Nursing School of the State University. This would have to be a special assistant with an unusual preparation and perspective, whom he hoped to train in his seemingly odd area of therapy.

Neither the medical school nor the nursing institution provided training in his innovative field. Alva had left the U.S. for Mexico in 1941, determined to master the electrotherapy flourishing there. As a result, he had spent World War II out of the country and had never registered for the draft nor served in the armed forces. Now he was back in Denver, his medical license renewed, the only specialist in the electrical area of treatment accepted in the past but now looked at askance by most American physicians.

Alva knew he had to be careful, working on the edge of the unacceptable. One false step, and he might be accused of quackery. There were potential enemies on all sides, watching and waiting. His kind of healing was unconventional and exotic, on the boundary of respectability.

Winnowing down the resumes sent him, he chose three candidates for interviews. Neither of the first two seemed appropriate or suitable. They lacked the inner spirit and enthusiasm he thought necessary. The third one, Miss Ruth Merritt, came to his combination of home and office on California St. one late afternoon near the end of March. As soon as he returned to Denver, he had bought this quaint-looking Victorian house to work and live in.

The short, slim young woman had sapphire eyes and hempen ringlets of hair that hung over her wide brow. Vinay greeted her at the front door and led her into his private consultory room. Some intangible quality about her told him that he now had the right person to work for him.

In Dr. Alva Vinay she saw a lean, loose-jointed man approaching forty. Solidly black obsidian eyes gazed steadily, unblinkingly at her. His dark bister brown hair was starting to turn gray around the long, large ears, giving him an aura of experience and wisdom.

“Please sit down, Miss Merritt,” he softly told her. Then, when he was seated behind his small desk, he began with a bluntly direct question.

“Why do you want to work for a strange bird like me, an electrical physician?”

His lips formed a placid, self-assured smile.

“On my own, I have read a few books on the subject. My work at the University Hospital has shown me the terrible toll that pain can place on the sick and suffering. Why can’t we do more to alleviate what they go through? I’d like to learn what electric current can do for the ill. Surely, there is much that a sympathetic nurse can do in your clinic. The type of therapy that you plan to give your patients fascinates me, Dr. Vinay.”

Alva stared at her attractive face. He realized that he had discovered exactly the helper that he needed for his work in the days ahead.

“I hope to get the word out about what can be done electrically for people with rheumatism, asthma, neuralgia, sciatica and other painful illnesses and conditions. There are ways to provide relief for hypertension, insomnia, cousalgia, and even irregular heart beat. I am able to induce both local and general anesthesia before a surgeon performs an operation.” He frowned darkly. “But the medical establishment is deaf and blind to what electropaths have already achieved and will do in the future. They will oppose me unmercifully.”

The pair looked fixedly at each other for several moments.

“Will the salary be sufficient, Miss Merritt? That is all I can afford, but can be raised as my practice grows and expands.”

She smiled brightly. “Yes, Dr. Vinay. I am accepted, then?”

Alva rose to his feet, stepped around the desk, and extended his right hand to her.

“Yes,” he informed her. “You are well-fitted to my kind of therapy, I believe.”

Judith witnessed a variety of her employer’s treatments in the following weeks.

The most frequent use of the static machinery Alva had brought with him from Mexico was for the simple removal of warts and hemorrhoids, or ionic massage for spasms and muscle soreness. A case of facial palsy met with immediate cure. In another patient, motor-nerve lesions were quickly healed.

The word spread through Denver that Dr. Vinay dealt marvelously with sprains, tics, and sleeplessness. Individuals suffering the pains of neuritis, neuralgia, or causalgia came and found relief other physicians were unable to provide. Those with arthritis and rheumatism whom conventional medicine could not help in 1946 visited the Victorian house in desperation. Their pain usually began to decline at once.

A mother brought a daughter with incipient infantile paralysis. Electropathic treatment by Vinay arrested the further progress of the disease, so that the girl survived the year.

As the Colorado spring turned into summer, asthmatics flocked to relieving sessions where high frequency current opened up their bronchial tubes so that they could breathe normally.

At one point, the doctor reversed a serious case of double pneumonia with electricity.

But the claims of therapeutic victories began to draw the attention of the medical authorities in Denver. Watchful, hostile eyes waited for a mishap, an error that might sink this competitor using strange electrical equipment in his practice.

After a busy day treating patients, Alva invited his nurse to eat with him that evening.

“I’ve learned to love Mexican food,” he said to her. “Do you know any good place that serves it?”

She told him of one near the University of Colorado campus.

“Good,” said the doctor. “I’ll get my Nash and we’ll drive there.”

Across the street from the restaurant were trailers, quonset huts, and army barracks. They were now housing for the flood of veterans on the G.I. Bill. Serious students with definite ambitions lived here.

Over large tamales, the two grew better acquainted with each other. A jukebox played “The Gypsy”, a song both doctor and nurse liked. The mood between the two of them grew easy and friendly. “Perhaps meat rationing is going to end soon,” laughed Judith. “Then, there will be more choices on all the menus.” The two went on eating and talking. Each of them revealed more and more of their personal history and existence.

“I wish I had a partner practicing with me,” sighed Alva. “But it is hard to find anyone willing to take such a risk. Interns quickly learn to fear any use of electrical current. What should I do, Judith? How is my practice going to grow and develop if I work all by myself?”

His dark, searching eyes fixed themselves on her face, focusing on its outlines.

A sudden, wild thought entered her mind. “Why do you need someone with medical training and background? An electrical expert, I think, could be of more use in your work. Look how difficult all the needed repairs are. We are continually calling in electricians who have no knowledge of the complicated machines we use. I can see how much that upsets and delays the treatment process so many times.”

The doctor put down his fork and gave her a beaming look of sudden inspiration.

“There are future electrical engineers at the University, preparing for careers in industry,” mused his nurse. “Perhaps one of those students can be hired to take on some of the technical load, leaving you more time for the purely medical. You would have more time to talk with patients that way.”

“Yes, I see what you are getting at,” smiled the electropath. “But what do I do, advertize in the newspaper for a technician?”

Judith thought a moment. “A small notice in the student weekly could bring someone forth,” she suggested. “There is nothing lost if the search is unsuccessful.”

She agreed to place the ad herself, exactly as he wished it worded.

Three weeks passed before Seth Hall appeared at the Victorian house on California St.

His slate-blue eyes peered out of a square face topped with a sandy-haired crew cut. The young man, muscular and brawny, had a sinewy confidence to him that seemed to cast a positive aura.

The electrical engineering student had a winning air about him.

He sat waiting several minutes in the entrance room till the nurse appeared in the hallway from the rear.

“I am here about the position,” indicated Hall, his voice a melodious baritone.

“There are no more patients scheduled for today,” she told him. “I’ll inform the doctor there is an applicant here for the position that was advertised.”

She returned in a few moments. “Go right in,” Judith said. “He will see you in his office on the left.”

Hall moved down the corridor with confidence, stopping at an open doorway.

“Come in, please,” called out the voice of the physician.

The two shook hands over a cluttered desk surrounded by stacks of books. When both men were seated, the candidate gave his name and went into a short biography of himself.

He had finished two years of university work before being drafted in 1942. His war service had been in the European Theater. His return to Denver and renewed schooling had come after New Year of 1946.

“I want to know about your practical experience with electricity and electronics,” said the physician. “Can you be specific in describing what you have done?”

Seth drew a deep breath. “The Signal Corps assigned me to work with the British at their central radar station down in Kent, south of London. Later, I was sent to the Netherlands after liberation there. Our task was to scout electronically for the buzz bombs and rockets aimed at England.”

“The German robot rockets?” asked Alva with curiosity.

“Yes. They caused a lot of casualties and damage to Great Britain, but radar was able to track and tail them, providing their trajectories for the Air Defense units over the English Channel.”

Dr. Vinay appeared to perk up. “That is interesting, most interesting. But tell me how much you know about static electric machines and how they operate.”

Seth did that at considerable length, surprising Alva with the extent of his knowledge.

“Let me give you some general information about what I do in my practice,” said the electropath. He began a detailed description of his use of electrical devices in his treatment of illnesses. All the time, Dr. Vinay studied the square face and slate-colored eyes of the younger man.

“Do you think you would like to work at my clinic?” expectantly finished Alva. He had already decided that this was the right man for the job he had in mind.

“I am at present taking all my classes at night,” said Seth. “But my mornings and early afternoons are completely free. I am available across those hours.”

“That is quite suitable,” nodded the other, rising from behind his desk. “Let me show you the equipment I use. I plan, of course, to purchase more as soon as possible. I will be asking you for advice on the matter of additional instruments and devices. Your recommendations should be of great value to me.”

Seth Hall mastered the machines that produced high and low frequencies, constant and interrupted currents. He was soon able to handle high voltage therapeutic charges. His employer was ecstatically pleased with his performance. They held long conversations about future purchases of equipment.

“In the early years, we were called Faradizers and Galvanics,” explained Alva. “Before the First World War, there were a great many such doctors in Germany, France, and Switzerland. But then our craft fell out of favor. Today, conventional medicine shuns us, almost as if we were lunatics. The medical associations frown on our practice. They would gladly put people like me out of business, if they could. We are completely out of favor, and there are fewer of us all the time.”

Seth frowned. “But electrical therapy works. I see the results here every day.”

Judith appeared in the open doorway with an announcement.

“Mrs. Edson just came in with a pain she says is killing her.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” said the doctor. “Send her into the examination room, Judith.”

The nurse went to the front to get the unscheduled patient, leaving the two men alone for the moment. Vinay rose, but then stopped and turned to his electrician-assistant.

“I’ve been thinking about something for a considerable time, since I was on duty in England. Is it possible, Seth, to find medical application for the microwave frequencies used in scanning with radar? No one, as far as I know, has tried or studied it. Could such waves be an effective exploratory tool? Or even a pain alleviator? What do you think can be done using radar microwave?”

“I don’t know…” hesitated the younger man.

“Think about it and tell me tomorrow, Seth. Right now I have to take care of Mrs. Edson.”

He left his assistant with something to ponder on his own.

Seth had been driving Judith home to her apartment for a week before asking her for a weekend date with him.

“How about a first-run movie?” he asked her. “I believe that “The Farmer’s Daughter” is playing downtown. Loretta Young is starring in it. ”

“I happen to have seen it last Friday with a girlfriend of mine, Seth. But these are other dramas out this year. How about “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with Gregory Peck?”

“Saturday night, then?” said the nurse. “Is that okay?”

“Fine,” he grinned. “I’ll come and get you, and we can have a bite to eat after the show.”

“I’ll be ready at seven,” she told him with a pleasant smile.

Alva Vinay spent every spare moment reading whatever he could find and obtain about radar and microwave transmission. A wild dream had captured his mind. Was it possible for electrotherapy to use radio and microwave radiation? He was determined to learn the possibilities in that area. The engineering student working as his assistant became the key to realizing the plan forming in his mind. The dream of harnessing radar for medical purposes became an obsession. It took possession of his thinking and being.

By the beginning of June, the new radar equipment he ordered from suppliers started to arrive. Both men grew excited over the expanding mass of electronic gear and components. Alva gave his assistant the requirements he had in mind to carry out his plans. Much money was going to be spent on testing the power of microwave upon human health.

“What I am aiming at goes beyond previous electrotherapy to a form of radiotherapy,” explained Alva to Seth. “Microwaves will be focused on particular body tissues and organs. I hope to alleviate pain and stress by the production of sufficient interior energy in patients. Success will depend on localizing the focal point of the transmitted microwave radiation. Do you think we can accomplish that?”

Seth believed he had a solution to the problem of focusing the waves. “A transducer, applied to the outer skin, could do that,” he declared with conviction.

Alva looked puzzled. “What is a transducer?” he inquired.

The veteran described the devices he had worked with in the Signal Corps.

“We need germanium crystals in amplifiers and mixers. I have taken them apart and studied their components many times. I believe that I can construct a transducer on my own that will do what you want done. It is definitely possible to accomplish.”

Alva became excited. “How soon could you make one for me?”

“A few nights, and you’ll have one. And it will be better than any the Army has. I think I can make a custom device suited to your therapeutic needs.”

“Let’s try it, then,” grinned the electropath, enthused and inspired.

Infantile paralysis reached epidemic proportions in the summer of 1946.

Denver, Colorado had one of the highest incidence rates in the country.

Alva Vinay felt deeply the suffering of patients and their families. Many young victims were brought to him for treatment of the painful symptoms. They received varied degrees of relief from high frequency currents. By July, adults coming down with polio were starting to appear at the clinic. A decision was made at once by the electropath to attempt the use of microwave radiation for the pain of the sufferers, both children and adults.

At night, Alva dreamed of the future as he wished it to be. A nationwide, then a worldwide reputation would be his. The electropathic clinic he had started would expand, becoming increasingly radiopathic. His name would go down in medical history as the pioneer who had introduced advanced microwave and radio treatment to the profession. He was going to revolutionize medical treatment.

As he awoke from slumber, another idea seized hold of his mind. It was one of marriage, love, and happiness. The logical and natural spouse had to be his nurse. No one else but Judith could fill that romantic role in his future. It had to be this beautiful, compatible woman. She was already part of his life and its main work. We have grown to be inseparable, he told himself. Alva and Judith, Judith and Alva. Once he had reached his professional goals, he planned to ask her to marry him.

The two of them would form a perfect couple, he came to believe firmly and completely.

Two weeks of using microwave equipment, including germanium transducers that Seth had constructed, passed when a special delivery letter arrived for him. It was from the Denver Medical Association and accused him of a serious professional offense. The therapy he was providing to victims of infantile paralysis was alleged to be untried, untested, and potentially dangerous. He was being charged with unethical practices. A hearing would investigate these serious accusations against him. He faced the potential loss of his license to practice medicine in the city and the state.

Alva decided to keep this news from both his nurse and his technical assistant, at least for the time being. It seemed best to take care of the problem without alarming the two. He felt able to defend himself with the clinical records of what he had achieved with his patients. His results were positive and valid ones. He knew how to relieve horrible pains and stop the development of polio. His best spokesman was himself. Alva was confident of victory at the scheduled hearing. In fact, the publicity involved would bring him instant fame. He faced the approaching challenge with courage and confidence.

Judith had become accustomed to spending Saturday nights with Seth Hall.

Each weekend they went to a different restaurant and a different movie theater. He drove further and further away from central Denver. Judith was surprised at the complete candor of her new companion, of what he revealed to her about himself.

“I have secret ambitions, Judy,” he told her one hot evening as they ate in a hamburger diner. “The electronic industry has an unlimited future. Already, I’ve developed a miniature silicon transducer with many medical applications. It is better than any that uses germanium. I intend to work on standard frequency radio transmission and reception, but without the use of vacuum tubes. I believe we will soon be going back to crystals, but scientifically constructed ones. My silicon transducer can be used to amplify and rectify signals. It is the key to the future of all of radio, especially for medical healing. Things will be completely changed and improved by my innovations.”

Seth smiled at her. “Kiss me and then I’ll tell you more, my dear.”

Alva Vinay entered the hearing room with confidence that quickly began to decline. He was shown a chair that faced a panel of half a dozen physicians ready to interrogate him about his odd electrical and electronic therapies.

The questioning began at once, without any amount of introduction or fanfare.

Each sharp inquiry provoked an inappropriate, angry reply on his part. The degree of mutual hostility rose ever higher as the hearing went on.

“How do you describe and characterize what you do, Doctor Vinay?”

“I alleviate pain and bring about relaxation and normal rest in suffering patients.”

“Do you produce any cures?”

“I do not make unjustified claims, but my belief is that my work is restorative of the foundations of good health. Not every case can be explained, but the outstanding results convince me that my treatments are highly beneficial. The patients tell me that they feel much better.”

“You have advanced beyond traditional electropathy?”

“Yes. This summer I have introduced certain microwave applications into my work.”

“Microwaves! What are microwaves?”

“The electromagnetic radiation that ranges between 1,000 and 30,000 megacycles. The frequencies I use are extremely high ones. The wave lengths vary from 50 centimeters down to one millimeter. This is an area opened up during the war.”

“Do not confuse us with technical terms that belong in physics, Dr. Vinay. Your microwaves resemble electricity and radio waves, do they not?”

“Yes, and they provide a new frontier for research of all kinds, including medical therapy. It was the microwave that made radar possible in the recent war.”

“Radar! You are applying radar waves to our polio patients?”

“That is right. And the microwaves result in visible improvement in every person I’ve treated.”

“Are there any published articles, any laboratory reports concerning this subject?”

“It’s too soon for that. My work only began this year. I plan to submit articles on the therapy with time, when I have a lot of collected data, but not till then.”

“How do you know that it is your treatment that produces the results and not some other, unidentified factor? Can you prove that the microwaves are the primary cause involved?”

“Simple logic and common sense make me certain I am correct in my conclusions. I can see with my own eyes the effects of the new waves I apply.”

” You take enormous risks, though?”

“The greatest risk is to do nothing for the patients who come to me.”

“But are your methods scientific, Dr. Vinay?”

“I depend on plain experience to guide my operations. The results confirm the value of what I do.”

The interrogation continued in a circular pattern, repeating the same questions and similar replies to them. At last, the exhausted investigators dismissed Alva and adjourned the hearing.

Alva drove back to California St., convinced he had lost his license to practice medicine.

He was surprised to find Judith sitting alone in his private office.

She rose and came toward him. “I found out about the medical board hearing, Alva. You did not have to be so secretive about it. I have read all the letters that were sent to you. How did it go? Did they tell you when you would learn what their decision was?” Her voice seemed to tremble near the end.

“I was told they would send me a letter about the decision made. I am not confident my arguments sank in with them. They were conventional, conservative types and did not appear to be sympathetic at all. We shall see how this awful business of investigation ends.”

Standing close to him, the nurse gave him a tender smile.

“Seth was here a short while ago. He knows about the hearing because I told him what I found out.”

The electropath sensed the power of her physical presence. Alva thought of what he planned to say to her at the appropriate time, what he intended to ask her.

Was this the right moment to move toward his dream of love? he wondered.

Before he could decide what to say, Judith began to withdraw toward the chair she had occupied when he entered. But his body seemed to have a will of its own beyond his conscious thought. He was astounded to see himself as if a third person within the room. It was as if he had gone out of himself and was viewing two other individuals from a short distance away.

That is not me, he said to himself. That is someone else, not my real, inner self at all.

His two hands went upward. The left one curved behind Judith, halting her retreat. The right touched the front of her cotton dress, feeling the softness of her young breast.

An electric charge struck Dr. Vinay, thrilling and flowing through his hands, into the frame of his body, up to his brain. All of this was unanticipated, unforeseen by him.

Every cell in Alva felt electrified, as if by microwave radiation from his therapeutic devices.

Judith, paralyzed by shock, uttered a single word of distress.

“Please…” she desperately muttered.

An intruder stood in the open doorway.

It was Seth, there to drive her home.

Silently, she moved around Alva and hurriedly left with the electrical engineer. No one said a word. Action had replaced speech.

Alva Vinay considered how he could kill himself with the greatest efficiency.

That might provide some revenge against the Medical Association that had revoked his license.

A telegram had been delivered, ordering him to cease his practice at once. The medical profession was expelling him from its ranks. There was no future for him in Denver or Colorado. It would be illegal for him to continue his practice.

He went back into the treatment room and stood gazing at the huge, expensive equipment that Seth had set up for him. Could it be used by one with a deadly purpose of putting an end to his futile existence? Of course, a few adjustments and recalibrations was all that might be needed to create a fatal shock of voltage. It would be easy to do. A clean and final end to a multitude of woes.

But an alternative scenario occurred in the mind of Alva.

He was looking at the tools of a therapy still on the frontier of future medicine. Was he going to abandon the unfinished adventure? Deny his prior beliefs and convictions?

The next morning, Seth Hall arrived early, mainly to find out what the verdict might have been.

Vinay informed him that the clinic had to close at once. He had no legal right to continue the practice he had begun.

“What will you do now, Doctor?” asked the engineer.

“Return to Mexico, I guess,” said Alva with a sad grin. “How about you, Seth? Will you remain in Denver and finish your courses?”

“I don’t know,” replied the younger man. “There are job openings in the East in electronics. Companies are hunting for radar technicians like me.”

“There is a promising future in the microwave field. I know that you will go far, Seth.” He suddenly thought of his nurse. “Why don’t you call Judith and tell her that the clinic is closing? She need not come in any more.”

Seth went to the front office to telephone Judith.

Alva returned to gathering together records and papers. He would have to start all over again, across the border in another country. He would not face the obstacles and opposition that had stymied him here.


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