The patient had fears and preconceived notions about what goes on in the ‘Shock Room.’
There isn’t a single day that I do not address a patient or family member’s fear of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). I am constantly reminding them that I show up to work to help patients…not hurt them.
I do not fault their fear. In fact, I worry more about a patient that doesn’t ask questions or disclose reservations.
The general population is concerned with any bad effects ECT might have on their brain…their personality, cognitive abilities or memory. They might even ask, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to me?” I hold back the urge to tell them, “Pee your pants. That is the worst thing that could happen to you.” How could I not think about my worst fear…peeing myself in front of my coworkers.
I run through statistics first and then try and paint a picture of a typical ECT patient and their experience…and a typical patient does not pee themselves.
A typical patient, does in fact, notice a difference within the first few treatments. The difference might not be significant, but it’s something…and they probably haven’t felt “something positive” in a long long time. They will probably plateau a bit before they reach the desired full treatment response. A full treatment response is different for everybody, but 90 percent of our patients get at least 50 percent better. You can’t buy results like that anywhere…and they definitely don’t come in pill form produced by Eli Lilly.
Patients are picking up their phone again, taking walks outside, getting back to work, going out with friends, and…smiling again.
Despite the successes of ECT, the fears remain. My job is to help lessen them.
I will offer to walk them around the facility, show them our equipment, and if they’re lucky, I’ll even turn on “The Machine” for them. It’s mostly the men that are intrigued with “The Machine.” They can be so predictable.
The typical response after seeing “The Machine” is, “That’s it?”
What were they expecting? Even if I try and get really creative I can’t come up with anything grotesque enough to match their perceptions.
I usually steer away from the icky details of the gel, the strap, and the two round cold metal plates that press against their head. This kind of paraphernalia puts odd images in one’s mind…and not the sexy kind of images…well, maybe a little.
People sign up for colonoscopy’s every day and no one gets shown the large scope and lubricant that goes up their rear. Sometimes the details are better left unseen.
The patient is asleep, comfortable, cared for, and always in good hands. The procedure lasts a few short minutes and most patients wake up asking, “It’s over? That’s it?”
That’s it. We do no harm and you still have your dignity, and better than that…you are going to feel so much better in just a few short weeks.