Blog Archive

Friday, August 31, 2007

ECT


I broke my own (new) rule after only two weeks. The rule was that I had to blog at least once a week, not later than the Wednesday. But The One has been going for ECT these two weeks. And work would have been a madhouse even if I hadn't taken all the time off to drive The One to and fro.

Day 1 (Friday)

We had an appointment to see the doctor at Weskoppies at 12:30. When we got there, however, we were told that she had already gone home. Luckily, I had her mobile number. Why I hadn't called to confirm the appointment before driving all the way there is an open question. Somewhere there had been a miscommunication, but we re-scheduled the appointment for the following Monday.

Day 2 (Monday)

The One hadn't eaten the night before, in case they wanted to do the ECT that very day. We had arranged to meet the doctor at the Central Admissions Department. I thought we could simply go in to see her, but it was not going to be that simple. First we had to be processed. Which was performed by the most unhurried civil servant in the employment of the Government of South Africa. Since The One had been receiving treatment through the Academic Hospital, his details already existed on the system. However, it took an hour to get his residential address updated.

If I had thought that the waiting would be over, I was bady mistaken. We were ushered into another waiting area, a bit closer to the doctor's consulting rooms, where we had to wait for two hours more. Finally, the doctor fetched us. She seemed annoyed that we had been kept waiting so long. The actual consultation took about five minutes, after which The One was examined by two very dull, giggly medical students. And then the first ECT appointment (of six) was made.

Day 3 (Wednesday)

We had been told to phone at 8:00 on the morning of the treatment ECT to confirm the appointment. Which I did. On our arrival, the sisters thought we were medical students who wanted to attend an ECT session. When we had cleared that little misunderstanding, we were shown to a large waiting room to wait. A large, toothless woman asked us who we had come to see, but we replied that we were there for treatment. Six doors were visible from where we sat, all of them different shapes and sizes. Taped to the wall were photocopied inspirational mottoes such as... no, they did not leave any impression on me, I can't recall a single one.

After thirty minutes, we were told that we had not confirmed the appointment and could therefore not be helped. Apparently we had to speak to Sister Anna and nobody else. We were on our way to leave when another sister said that she would help us; the only reason we could not be assisted was because the patient file was still at OPD. If we would drive her there, she could get the file and The One could still have the treatment. So we drove to OPD, got the file, was told that we would need to pay R20 every time for the treatment, and went back to Ward 26. The One was given a physical examination and a pre-anaesthetic injection. We were moved to Ward 21. The One was taken to the treatment room and I had to wait in a dingy little waiting room. A few medical students who were attending the session went into the treatment room.

How long that first wait seemed! I had been reading a lot of mostly positive things about ECT, but the day before I'd discovered a anti-ECT website where many people wrote about their brain damage of various degrees after having had ECT. I was terrified and could not concentrate on the New Scientist I had taken along to read. The One had looked so scared, his eyes big, wringing his hands. What would I do if something happened?

After thirty minutes (which felt more like three hours), The One was brought out by the sister who had helped us. He looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot, he had a very dull expression on his face and he had difficulty walking. I felt like bursting into tears, but I realised that I had to be strong and supportive. I could show no fear because that would make The One terrified and anxious. I swallowed my emotions and acted as though nothing was amiss. We drove home in silence, The One asking me feebly a few times what I had done all the time while waiting for him. He said that his head was hurting terribly. He drank the Milo I had brought along slowly.

I must say the he recovered quite quickly; by the time we got home, his eyes were no longer bloodshot and he could walk normally. I gave him aspirin, put him to bed and rushed back to the madhouse at work. Luckily he wasn't working that afternoon, so he was able to rest.

Day 4 (Friday)

This time I spoke to Sister Anna and confirmed the appointment. We drove to Weskoppies, parked at OPD, paid the R20 and drove to Ward 26 for our 30 minute wait. We moved to Ward 21 once more after The One had received his injection, me in the waiting room and him in the treatment room.

We were getting used to it all by now. I still didn't like the bloodshot eyes, though. The One didn't even have a headache this time. I was back at work by 13:00.

Day 5 (Monday)

When I called Sister Anna, she recognised my voice. Everything was confirmed for 12:00, we had to be there at 10:30.

Around 9:00, The One sent me a message saying the sister had called him, but he had missed her call. She had left a message for him to call her urgently. Which I did. She said the treatment had been moved to 11:00 and that we had to be there at 9:45. With a bit of luck, we were on time. A different sister gave The One his examination and injection. Still, we felt as though we were old hands at it now.

But something else was different too. Many more nursing students and medical students went into the treatment room than I had seen going in before. After 40 minutes, they all came out again and left. The doctor left. The anaesthetist left. The two other ECT patients left.

When I had been waiting for an hour and ten minutes, it dawned on me that something must have gone wrong. My theory was that the sister was waiting for the arrival of the hospital director so that he could tell me that The One had died. What did I have to do? Should I ask to see the body? Who should I phone? How was my life ever going to continue?

As I was about to burst into tears, The One was brought out. The different sister had had a different approach, waiting for him to recover completely before bringing him out. I have no words to explain my joy at seeing The One I love alive and well. I cannot remember ever being that scared in my life.

He was working that afternoon, but even though he could not remember what time he usually left home for work, he had no trouble remembering other details regarding work.

Day 6 (Wednesday)

I was late calling the hospital and Sisiter Anna was very relieved to hear my voice. The appointment was confirmed.

On our way to Ward 26 we were waved at by a little grey lady. I did not slow down. I know insane people. Act as though they do not exist. Show no fear. When we got out of the car, she had followed us. She asked The One if he was a patient and he replied that he was not. Then she targeted me. When she saw my face she said: "Oh, this is an angry one". Which infuriated me and I was angry. She demanded money or cigarettes. I had nothing to give her so I just said no. As we were walking away, she said: "Nobody wants to help me." So I replied that she had to help herself.

While waiting for The One to be examined and injected, I was joined by a fat, slobbish guy. He asked my sympathetically how many treatments I had had. I replied curtly that I was not being treated, that I was just there to support someone and to take them home. It seemed that it was going to be my day for dealing with insane people. He said that he was terrified as it was his first treatment. I couldn't care less, but I did try to reassure him.

The sister told us that the anaesthetist was going to be half an hour late and that we would have to wait before she could administer the pre-anaesthetic drugs. So we waited. Mr Slob sat next to me with his arm on the back of my chair. I turned my back to him and tried to ignore him. He made me feel terribly uncomfortable. Finally, the sister came back, administered the injections and we went on our little trip to Ward 21.

I don't wait as long this time as our old sister was back in charge. The One was a bit more disoriented than before, but was much better by the time we got home.

Day 7 (Friday)

I was late once more when calling the hospital because some people think our daily production meetings are social events and talk about all kinds of nonsense. Only to come back later during the day with all manner of idiotic questions that were discussed in the meeting in the first place. Nevertheless, Sister Anna confirmed the appointment.

Our slobby friend was waiting for us this time. He asked The One about stiff muscles or something. I didn't know he had muscles, he was so flabby.

Everything went smoothly this time. Because the waiting room was locked with no key to be found, I waited in the car. Our fat friend was brought out before The One (apparently his mother had requested that he be done first). The One was disoriented and had his usual bloodshot eyes, but he was better by the time we got home.

Day 8 (Monday)

Four our final appointment I was on time calling the hospital. Appointment confirmed.

Our fat friend was waiting once more but was quiet this time. Examinations done, the sister the informed us once again that the anaesthetist was going to be late. Twenty minutes passed quickly this time. The fat one was joined by his mother who asked all kinds of stupid questions and looked at us as though the cat had dragged us in.

The waiting room at Ward 21 was unlocked, but I had decided that if Fatso's mother was going to join me in there, I would retreat to the car again. Luckily she chose the car and I had the place to myself.

The One was brought out after about twenty minutes. As we walked to the car, Fatso's mother could not stop staring. So I stared back at her with my world-famous death glare. When she saw me glaring at her, she looked away and seemed embarrassed. She gave me a momentary look of sympathy. Silly cow.

The One was fine once more by the time we got home.

L'Envoi

We have been watching Twin Peaks on DVD for the last few weeks, starting at season one we bought last year and continuing with season two we bought recently. It is very frustrating having to remind The One of many of the details, trying to fill the gaps in his memory. What makes it even more difficult is that he seems to be unable to form new memories. Fortunately, Twin Peaks is such a weird program in any case that it doesn't really matter whether you remember correctly...

Yes, there are memory gaps. Strangely, they have only become apparent now - a few days after the final ECT. But the depression, which was the main problem, is better. Whether it is the ECT, the new medication or the combination of the two is uncertain.

I'm simply grateful that The One I love is better.

Written by I

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