Shock Therapy? You Gotta Be Kidding Me!
ECT, electro-convulsive therapy, whatever nice name they try to call it now, it is still SHOCK THERAPY! I had been severely depressed for 4 months and nothing was helping. I was desperate and when my pschiatrist offered ECT, I said yes! What did I just do? Was I even crazier than I thought. I went home and received a call from the psychiatrist that afternoon asking me to check myself into a swanky psychiatric department to begin ECT. The department even had a name and a fancy brochure. "The Retreat".
Photo thanks to Kevin Dooley under the Creative Commons License.
First I was admitted to the psych hospital. It was very nice and even fancy. I had to get cleared for ECT by the staff psychiatrist, the staff medical doctor and the psychiatrist that administered the actual ECT. I went in to the hospital on Wednesday, saw both psychiatrists on Thursday, had a blood test, chest x-ray and an EKG. Then I saw the medical doctor on Friday. I got cleared for ECT. They do ECT first thing in the morning and only do it on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, so I had to wait to start until Monday for my first ECT.
You have to fast from food and drinks, including water, from midnight before your ECT. They woke me up at 5:30am to get ready to go for ECT. I was taken by wheelchair to the Daysurgery department, straight into the recovery room. I got into a hospital bed and the anesthesiologist inserted an IV. Then I waited about a half hour for the doctor to come. There were several other people also getting ECT in the other bays of the recovery room.
The doctor came and wheeled the ECT machine next to my bed. The nurse placed a bite guard in my mouth, it was small like what football players wear. Then the nurse put an oxygen mast over my mouth and nose. The Anesthisiologist then administered the general anesthesia.
The next thing that I knew I was waking up. I had a slight headache. I was told I might be tired and could sleep all day if I wanted to. I felt fine physically, but no better mentally. I cried a lot that day.
- Place pulse oxymeter on finger and begin monitoring oxygen level
- Insert Iv
- Start IV fluids
- Apply heart monitor leads and begin monitoring heart and respirations
- Insert bite guard
- Admister Oxygen with a facemask
- Administer a numbing medicine through IV (because the next medicine stings)
- Administer Propofol
- Patient goes to sleep
- Administer a muscle relaxant (So the seizure does not cause self harm)
- Put conductive gel on the ECT machines handles
- Apply the handles to the temple on both sides
- Apply the electric shock
- Patient has small seizure
- Dr. goes on to next patient, nurse and anesthesiologist remain with patient until awake
- Nurse observes patient for about 30 minutes to an hour, stopping the oxygen when alert
- If inpatient, heart monitor leads are removed and returned by wheelchair to floor, IV stays in for 2 days.
- If outpatient, go to the preparation room and wait 30 more minutes and have IV and heart monitor leads removed.
- If outpatient, go home until the next day's treatment
I did not experience any side effects other than crying the first 4 days of treatment and slight headaches after some treatments. Memory loss is a big worry. I did not suffer memory loss. I was told memory loss is not such a problem anymore because they administer oxygen during the procedure and until you wake up.
After 7 days in the hospital and the first two ECT treatments, I was discharged to start ECT on an outpatient basis.
I live an hour from the hospital and I was not allowed to drive for 24 hours after anesthesia so I needed someone to drive me for each treatment. I had to be there by 5am so we left every moring at 4am.
I went to the nurses station and was given a room that I would stay in until about 6am when they brought me to the recovery room for treatment. They returned me to the same room after treatment, around 7:30am.
I was given a pregnancy test and my temperature, pulse ox and blood pressure were taken. Then I waited to be transported. They wheeled me in the bed to the recovery room, did the procedure, then returned me to the original room.
The nurse continued to monitor my vital signs for about half an hour and then she removed the IV and I was allowed to leave around 8am.
Whoever was driving me had to sign a release each time stating that they were responsible for me and would not allow me to drive. My husband drove me most days, but a couple of friends actually got up at 3am to bring me for treatments. Those are great friends.
We were usually home by 9am depending on the traffic.
Then my husband went to work and I slept until about noon. We made sure we went to bed by 9pm every night because 3am came mighty early.
After my fourth treatment I suddenly felt like a weight was lifted off me. It was dramatic and gave me hope for the first time in four months.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!
Don't worry, it is nothing like the scene in the movie. They now put you under general anesthesia and the worst thing is getting an IV inserted every time.
I was told I would need from six to twenty-five treatments and only I would know when I was ready to stop. I was scared that I would stop too soon and relapse. I ended up having 14 treatments. After the 13th treatment I felt completely normal, like I did before I got depressed. The next morning I told the psychiatrist I was ready to stop after that day's treatment.
As I write this it has been one and a half months since I stopped ECT. I feel like a human being. I started back at Saint Leo University and I am actively writing on the internet. I am taking care of my kids again, cooking and homeschooling them. I hope I continue to be healthy. I will keep this page updated if anything changes.
I just wanted to mention that I was never strapped down. They put the siderails up on the hospital bed to keep me safe, but never strapped me down.