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Dr. Oz Ventures Bravely into ECT

Find out about the Dr. Oz show on ECT

In December of 2010, the Dr. Oz show contacted me in search of someone who would be willing to be filmed having ECT, and then subsequently interviewed. Wow. I didn't think even Dr. Oz could pull this off. Hard to imagine someone who is depressed enough to have ECT agreeing to something of this magnitude. An ECT session one week and be interviewed for 3 million viewers the next? Still, I wanted to help. If Dr. Oz could help demystify ECT, who knows how many lives could be improved.

I sent the Dr. Oz show my ECT primer kit: a copy of the video SHOCK, the book SHOCK by Kitty Dukakis and Larry Tye, and of course a copy of my book, Struck by Living. With these and other resources, the Dr. Oz team came up to speed quickly. SHOCK shows the history of ECT, and my book provides insight into a personal experience. I also provided my contacts in the psychiatric community who might help find this brave person to tell her story.

Dr. Oz found his candidate (through another source), and they asked me to participate as well. We taped my story on a Monday December afternoon in New York, while Christmas shoppers eyed the magnificent store windows on 5th Avenue.

Berdorf Goodman store window on 5th Avenue

Three hours of taping my story resulted in about a 1-2 minute clip. As many times as I've told my story in the last two years, the Dr. Oz version brought tears to my eyes. Once I watched the clip for the first time (in the company of 100 strangers who formed the TV audience), Dr. Oz crouched next to me and asked questions.

I can verify that Dr. Oz is as handsome in person as on the show. Dr. Oz explains ECT in a clear, succinct manner. Three respected psychiatrists appear during the show to help unravel the mystery of ECT: Dr. Keith Ablow, Dr. Sarah Lisanby (expert on ECT who I met at the FDA hearings last February) and Dr. Roberto Estrada.

A woman named Susan, Dr. Estrada's patient, agreed to have one of her ECT treatments filmed and to be interviewed a week later. Petrified before she reached the TV audience, Susan asked to see me in the green room. Older than me, but spunky as hell, Sue told me her concern. She didn't know how she would react seeing herself having ECT. She had to view the segment for the first time with a television audience. "You know what to do. You've been on TV. I checked you out on the internet. You've won AWARDS," Susan worried. "What if I say something wrong?"

My good friend Jennifer Fisher looked suprised,"You've won awards?" Susan advised Jenny to check out my website. Not bad for a woman just out of ECT a week before. Even so, Sue thought she'd crumble when she saw herself having ECT.

Pal Jennifer Fisher with me in the green room

Can you imagine how terrifying this would be? There is a leap of faith that occurs with ECT, just as with any major medical procedure. Even though ECT has changed and improved dramatically in the past 30 years, the negative residue of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains lodged in the brain of most people over forty. Despite the evidence of effectiveness, Susan and I still had the same questions when we had an ECT session. Will it work? I am handing my brain to these people! Susan imagined her fear, projected on a large screen, in front of an audience of strangers.

I tried to calm my new ECT buddy by reminding her how much she has benefitted from ECT. Susan, think of the way your life has changed for the better. Don't focus on the fear. That seemed to help.

Susan swallowed her apprehension so that others might take a new view of ECT. Not only does ECT have the potential to save lives today when medication and other treatments fail, ECT has lead to the development of entire new fields of medicine such as: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST). All these advancements have been found to be useful not only in the treatment of psychiatric conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and OCD, but also in other brain disorders like Parkinson's disease, migraines, tinnitus, stroke recovery and even smoking cessation. In addition, studies are being conducted by the FDA to see if they may also prove helpful in treating other conditions like Alzheimer's disease, PTSD, fibromyalgia and brain trauma, to name a few.

Susan did well, her daughter and her psychiatrist Dr. Estrada helping her along the way. After the show, I heard Sue say if what I do can save one life. . . With 3 million Dr. Oz viewers, Susan, one life is an easy bet.

This episode is now available on the Dr. Oz website in three parts:

Part one describes the history of ECT and my experience

Part two describes the process of ECT with Dr. Keith Ablow

Part Three shows shows a deeper investigation with Dr. Sarah Lisanby and Dr. Keith Ablow

Unfortunately I don't see Susan's story on the website yet. I will keep watching and post if I see it

Struck by Living fans will like this:

For more information about Julie K. Hersh, go to the Struck by Living website.