I am sitting in a hospital bed with a plum bedspread of rough cotton beneath me, my knees slightly elevated and the back of the bed up--the perfect couch potato lounger you see advertised on late night TV. They have wifi here in the hospital and I brought my laptop to communicate some of my adventure.
Tomorrow I will have my first treatment of unilateral (right-sided only) electroconvulsive therapy. Of course I'll be knocked out with with anesthesia when they plug in the toaster, but what they aim for is evidence of a generalized seizure ignited by the single burst of current. They'll start me at “50%.” I asked the doctor how many Joules that was (a measure of amperage, as in a car battery), but all he could do was draw pictures and talk about percentages, so obviously he didn't know. (It used to be 200 Joules.) He was the kind of authority who tries to give an authoritative answer even when he doesn't know it. Maybe he should run for office. (I'm voting for Senator Eagleton, who, if you are too young to know, was dropped from the McGovern ticket when it was discovered that he had had ECT. Don't supersize me, supercharge me!)
The psychiatrist responsible for a second opinion spent more time with me than my admitting psychiatrist, who asked me nothing about my history except as it related to ECT. I thought that odd, but I had typed up a history for the doctors to make sure they got the facts right and to make their dictations easier.
Why should they work for their money when I can do it for free?
Today I also had the unique experience of a brain MRI. Before my head and upper body were slowly eased into the white cylinder, the attendant put ear plugs in my ears. He didn't say, “Turn your head and cough,” just “Turn your head,” but a cavity was poked in any case. Why a patient can't be trusted with his own ear plugs is beyond me.
I think I went through two five-minute and two three-minute scans. What was most surprising was the noise, at one time a loud buzzing of eight bursts to my left followed by eight knocks overhead--over and over. It was as if someone were shooting a ray-gun at my head, followed by a troglodyte rapping me with a stick. The tech said this was due to the fact that they had to mechanically move the magnets around to get the scan. As you may know, the magnets align the positive hydrogen ions in your brain in one direction for the sensors to map out soft tissue. A CAT scan is still better for bone, but apparently they thought there was more to my skull than an empty shell. I look forward to proof of a brain.
I did feel something in my head as it happened, but it is too subtle to describe—like a little wave of energy slightly heating my brain. Luckily I had no psychic powers to lose, so that was not a problem, but the buckshot I'd stuffed up my nose as a kid tore a hole through my forehead.
When I was asked before the procedure if I had any metal or wires in my body, I almost felt embarrassed to say I had none, as if Borg status should have already been achieved by most humans. That's just my depression, however, making me feel inferior. In depression I am never concerned with what I have but always what I have in comparison to everyone else, which is never enough. How silly is depression? I can feel inferior for a lack of internal hardware.
After my first treatment tomorrow I will attempt to blog in that groggy, disoriented state in which I found others at group today. I will try to put the feeling down on paper but it may come out as just some retarded guy typing.
I especially want to thank and praise my wife, Kathleen, whose hard work to obtain insurance for us through employment made this treatment possible. She is the best (and you can't have her!)
I should also mention my sister and brother-in-law, who have graciously agreed to let me stay at their house and will transport me back and forth when I am converted to outpatient ECT.
With a glimmer of hope,