On Thursday I met with Doctor Mujica. We talked about ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and whether or not I wanted to proceed with having it done. I said I did want to go ahead with it. He said he would schedule my first treatment on Tuesday where there was the first opening. I was not happy with having to wait that long, but at least I had a date when the waiting would stop. Dr. Mujica reassured me that I made the right decision and that he would take care of me. During our conversation I learned that he was originally from Columbia.
Carol A. Kivler [MS, CPS], whom I have quoted in a previous post, is a gifted writer and public speaker who has gone through severe depression and ECT Treatment herself. She writes about her experience and speaks to many kinds of groups [business, social, religious] about mental health and how to stay in recovery. In her book, “Will I Ever Be the Same? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy),” she describes ECT treatment this way:
“Electroconvulsive Therapy is a customary psychiatric procedure used to treat severe major depression that has not responded to other treatments. ECT uses a therapeutic dose of electricity to induce a seizure to the brain of an anesthetized patient” [p. 55].
(Wing Memorial Hospital Pre-Op and Post-Op area where the nurses got me ready for the ECT procedure and where I awoke from the ECT Treatments)
Having ECT done is like having surgery. I could not eat anything and I could only have a small sip of water with two medications I had to take. Before I was taken down to the recovery and surgery rooms, Dr. Mujica came to my room and asked me if I was ready. I said, “Yes, I’m ready.” He then pointed to my Bible at my bedside and said,
“Remember, we are not going to be alone.” It was then that I knew I was going to “find Lydia” and was on the right “road to recovery.” I was brought down to surgery on a gurney. Before going into surgery, I was hooked up to an IV that contained anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. This part of the procedure was difficult for me because my cerebral palsy made it hard for me to remain still for the nurse to get the IV into my arm. The nurses were very kind and helped hold my arm down. They never showed signs of impatience, which I was very grateful for. [When I came as an out-patient later on, Luke helped with holding my arm still for the IV needle to get into a vein. The nurses loved Luke and wanted to hire him as a nurse‘s assistant.] I also had trouble with the oxygen mask on my face. I think I’m a bit claustrophobic and get a bit panicky when anything is on my face. I don’t know if this is related to my cerebral palsy or not. I asked the anesthesiologist to hold the oxygen mask above my face until I was asleep. Three different anesthesiologists were involved in my treatments at different times and all three were glad to do what I asked.
Carol Kivler continues to describe the procedure in her book [which was exactly my experience]:
“… [the] IV contains anesthesia to promote sleep and a muscle relaxant to prevent body movement or convulsing when the electric current is administered. Blood pressure cuffs and pulse monitoring devices are put in place, as well as EKG leads to monitor the heart and EEG leads to monitor the brain. The patient begins drifting off to sleep. A bite-block is inserted in their mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue. An anesthesiologist places an oxygen mask over the patient’s nose and mouth to ensure proper respiration. Electrodes are then placed on the patient’s right temple and the parietal area on the head. The doctor adjusts the electrical current by pressing a button on the end of one ECT ‘handle.’ There is a brief pulse stimulus delivered that lasts one to two seconds. That pulse induces the seizure that will make the neurotransmitters of the brain once again connect. The patient’s body remains relatively relaxed and still because of the muscle relaxant, but you will observe a slight twitching of the foot or toe during the induced seizure. This twitching is timed by a nurse in the room to reveal the length of the seizure – approximately 30 seconds. The procedure is complete. From start to finish the entire procedure lasts about seven minutes. The patient is unhooked from all equipment [except the blood pressure cuff and monitor] and begins to awake. The treatments are delivered in ‘courses’ of 6 to 12 treatments administered two or three times a week. Some patients continue the ECT in what is called ‘maintenance treatments,’ and many will continue drug therapy as well as talk therapy” [pp. 57-58].
As you can see by Carol Kilver’s description of the ECT procedure, it is nothing like in the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She often tells mental health consumers that “ECT does to the brain what a defibrillator does to the heart” [p. 56]. From my own personal experience, I can tell you ECT doesn’t hurt, except for getting the IV in, and the only side effect I had was that I was pretty “worn out” for a few days after the ECT. Some experience short-term memory loss [what happened just before the ECT treatment], but if I did experience memory loss, I can’t remember. During the ECT treatments I did have to continue taking anti-depressant medication and medication to help me sleep. The ECT made the medications work better. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they stop taking there medications because they are feeling better but, they are feeling better because the ECT is helping the medications work better. I also went to talk therapy twice. I saw a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, Donna Wood Shalberg, who was a very kind woman who listened to my concerns and validated my feelings. After my second visit as an outpatient, we both agreed that I didn’t need to see her anymore, but she made it clear that I could call her any time. She is also following my blog and emailed me to say that she has the same “Best Friend” as I do.
“How great is the LOVE the Father has LAVISHED on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1a – N.I.V.)
While in Wing Memorial Hospital, I had about six ECT treatments. I remember feeling so much better, just after the second treatment. I felt like the “real Lydia” again because I was hungry for chocolate pudding. A banana split would have worked too. [I did not have an appetite for anything when I was clinically depression]. I had about six more treatments as an outpatient and by mid-December, 2012, I found the “real Lydia” and I am back to stay! It took nine months to get well. It has been about 900 days [but who’s counting] since my last ECT treatment. I praise the Lord for bringing the right people to help me get well and for His healing hand. How beautiful it is for Jane and Sophie and John to have their sister back! How beautiful it is for Luke to have his “road-trip partner” back and for Luke and Noel to have their “eccentric-sports-fanatic” aunt back! How beautiful it is for my church to have their smiling sister in Christ back! How beautiful it is to be happy and enjoy life again. How beautiful it is to experience God again and feel His presence, His love, His tender mercies and His faithfulness in my life! How beautiful it is to have the joy of my salvation again! I praise God for taking me out of a dark pit of despair and into His marvelous light. Praise God for His Resurrection Life. I feel born again again!
“I called on Your Name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea, ‘Do not close
Your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on You;
You said, ‘Do not fear!’
You have taken up my cause, O LORD;
You have redeemed my life.”
– Lamentations 3:55-58
If anyone is struggling with severe depression, please know that you are not alone. God cares about you, He loves you and He wants to help you. Ask someone you trust to go to the doctor with you and help you find the help you need. ECT may be an option for you.
I have read three books written by Carol A. Kivler. They are very easy to read and extremely informative and encouraging. I highly recommend them to you, whether you are the one in need of help or the “helper” [family member or friend] or in a helping profession. She also has helpful websites.
Carol A. Kivler, MS, CSP [Certified Speaking Professional]
Encourages, Educates, and Entertains
To be continued…