I read this eloquent article and wanted to weep. It is 2010 and I am still suffering from the aftermath of a 2006 hospitalization and ECT treatment. Once an extremely creative individual in the arts with a deep reservoir of memory, rich life experience, multi-lingual skills and a voracious love of reading which included retaining what I read, I have lost the skills and memories that were the foundation of my identity; the very skills that carried me through incapacitating and incomprehensibly depressed moods, that led me to the edge of suicide twice.
My memory has been grievously hurt. I suffer from Aphasia, loss of event memory from both immediate past and from approximately the age of 27. (I am now 48) I have lost the ability to recognize faces, (at the very least it takes the fun out of watching those complex films I used to enjoy ) extreme difficulty learning new tasks and remembering them a week later unless they are done repeatedly everyday, difficulty remembering the pre-ECT tasks I had learned that were not so cemented. I have conflicts with my partner when I swear that I never did or said things that I am told I did (and then shown proof amidst my tears and frustration) or deny the possibility that my partner did things he says he did or did not.
In fact I have few memories of meeting my partner of 4 years and have lost the rich memory of the events that led to this current love. "We did that? That's really nice! You did that? No wonder I let you stick around." Once a vibrant witty conversationalist, I can no longer engage in the dialogue with friends that I used to enjoy as I stumble to complete a joke or wordplay and fade out when I cannot grasp what I know my mind is trying to say. It feels my partner is now experiencing caring burnout and has become a little edgy and impatient as I try to explain in rational language day to day events and cannot; which of course creates a snowball effect.
I am in rehab now for this injury. I am told there is no going back. Doctors would consider my case a success as I have not had any deep, debilitating events since. I have also lost my ability to feel the true warmth of pleasure and love which I can "remember" as a vague flame of the past, but from which I seem now to irretrievably separated.
Could it be, as you said that incorrect performance of this procedure caused this injury? Could it be that as a Medicaid patient I was treated with a little less focus and regard than you, Dr. Rosenberg? No one thought to test my memory along the way, at least not that I remember. Who can identify what they have forgotten until it pops up in questions....What trip? He died? They stayed at my house for 2 weeks?
Vulnerable patients must be protected. I am glad that ECT worked for you, but I think it is important to emphasize that injuries really, really do occur. I think it is important to provide pre-ECT patients with all other manner of treatment before they are put through this, including, a safer, more quiet and nurturing hospital experience. While at the hospital (which is considered a first-rate NYC facility) I am told fires were set in beds on my floor. I do recall having been stripped searched as everyone on the floor was while all being kept in lockdown in the sweaty smelly cafeteria on our floor, all day. The noise was deafening as patients on the floor shrieked and jack hammers tore through the building during construction.
I have extreme sensitivity to sound, which has been the case since childhood and continues to this day. My doctors knew about this. How could I have even made ANY type of recovery in a unit where I am told I refused to move as the flames leapt across the hall, ready as I was to remove myself from another form of hell-this "Healing" facility. In retrospect I should have asked to be released (think Stanford Prison Experiment) or moved to a different facility. Do I need to pose the rhetorical, "Why wasn't I thinking rationally at the time??" My partner says they threatened a court order to keep me in and that I would have to be in for a long time, if not for ECT.
I am med resistant and have toxic responses. I guess that makes me atypical and extremely sensitive! Did anyone stop and think that I may store information in a more complex manner than others given my profile? What about visits to an endocrinologist to see if there was some imbalance causing this whole thing? What about short term treatments with E derivatives that provide quick relief in a controlled setting or acupuncture or Chinese herbs covered by insurance so the less financially endowed can give them a try? A try? Before taking my brain? If you were me, you would have lost your job a long time ago and worried about how to get WholeFoods to see past your fumbling. Is this trade off of the sorrow for the joy necessary? Please urge doctors to find other options to this invasive and life changing procedure.
No one understands how the brain works yet, so each individual brain should be approached with awe and care. It seems that some brains continue to be worth quite a bit more than others. But my complex and exquisite brain has meant the world to me and I would have told you this before the ECT in the deepest hell of depression.