At Sheppard-pratt In Baltimore

I had ECT in the fall of 2009 at the Towson campus of Sheppard-Pratt hospital. At the time I was in a deep depression and my doctors hoped the therapy would break me out of it. I was an inpatient at the time the doctors (my own personal psychiatrist included) decided to try ECT. I was very optimistic. I had been told of the option to try it in the past, and I was eager to see what it would be like and to see if it would help. The plan was for a regimen of twelve treatments at two per week.

The first time, I was brought downstairs to the ECT suite on the ground floor. The nurses at the desk welcomed me and asked me to go to the bathroom and make sure my bladder was totally empty to prevent accidents. Then I was escorted to the treatment room, where I climbed onto an exam table and got an IV catheter placed in my hand by an anesthesiologist (who was actually quite rude). I chatted with the physician, a very competent man named Dr. Azcarate. I asked him about the particulars of the device he used, and he had enough of a good sense of humor to lean in close and say “Thees machine has enoff elektreecity to light opp a light bolb!” He then explained that most of the current goes around the skull and never touches the brain. The funniest thing about the experience, apart from his hilarious accent, was that his head was shaved and he looked exactly like Uncle Fester! Along with the light bulb comment, the scene was beyond comedic.

The anesthesiologist administered a dose of sodium thiopental, which I identified by the immediate garlic smell that materialized in my nose. I counted back from ten, and got to about five before blacking out. I woke up later, comfortable on the gurney, was shuffled into a wheelchair, and was brought back to the ward. I didn't really need a wheelchair, but it was explained that this was standard procedure for anyone who had received a general anesthetic. I also requested a printout of my EEG tracing from the procedure, and got to peruse it on my way back up to ward 2F.

After a few more treatments, I asked to switch to a different anesthetic because the lingering rotten onion garlic smell lasted for a few hours and it was sickening. Subsequently I was given a drug which I believe was propofol based on the burning sensation it produced in my veins. The anesthesiologist continued to be a jerk, and I considered complaining, but I figured that it would only be a matter of time before someone else did, and I was not really feeling well enough to go around writing formal complaints.

In the months after my treatment regime, I was still very heavily medicated, and I was not in great shape. There was no immediate relief from the depression. My short term memory was affected, and whole sections of my long-term memory were erased completely. I am now unable to remember the year 2009, or most of high school. Some stronger memories remain, but most is gone. This may sound awful, BUT IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. The period of my life which I can no longer remember was my darkest most twisted time.

ECT did not give me relief from depression. It gave me something better, a clean slate from which to build an entirely new philosophy of life, one based on the importance of human relationships and positive feelings and actions. This is what enabled me to beat my way out of that depression. Empowered by my new outlook, I started fresh, and began a new life. Without this second chance, I probably would not be alive today.

Thank you, Dr. Drobnick and Dr. Azcarate, for helping to save my life.

22-25, M
3 Responses Dec 12, 2011

Me too. The meds and therapy are working just fine for now. It's hard dealing with the memory loss and cognitive deficits. Sometimes, though, I try to have fun with relearning things that I have forgotten.

Glad it worked.<br />
I'm sticking with the pills and therapy for now...I already can't remember enough of my childhood that I'd prefer not to have any more blank spots and unknown mysteries.

Love your Uncle Fester comparison....thanks for the chuckle! Glad to hear someone else had a positive experience with ECT.