Posted Monday, July 11, 2011--9:35p.m.
MADISON--" I kept overdosing, medications just didn't really work for my depression and my post traumatic stress disorder," said Ava Martinez. "The last time i overdosed it was pretty significant overdose, I was unconscious for a couple days."
Martinez spent decades fighting crippling depression. But a few years ago she finally found a treatment that worked for her. "It's helped with my depression so much a year and a half ago I went off of Social Security disability," she said. "I'm working full time now."
Her new treatment is actually very old. It's called ECT.
"ECT is a treatment modality for treatment resistant depression that has been around for almost a hundred years now," said Dr. Tyler Rickers.
It's also known as shock therapy. Essentially it uses electrical stimuli to send the patient into a cerebral seizure. Dr. Rickers says ideally seizures last between 30 and 120 seconds. Ava gets the therapy every four weeks.
Dr. Rickers says today's practice includes paralyzing the patient for the procedure."If we hadn't paralyzed somebody they would have a lot of convulsions and could possibly break their arms and hurt themselves," he explained.
He says the treatment's much safer and more tolerable than in years past--but it still isn't without risks. "ECT memory concerns are very real, but are generally limited," he said.
He says the majority of his patients have tolerable memory loss. "For the most part people complain that they don't remember the day of, sometimes the day before, sometimes the day after," he said. "Sometimes people have said they've lost bigger parts of their life, some people have said they've lost major memories of major events." Though he says serious cases often include contributing factors like other illnesses or medications, so it's hard to judge how much memory loss is due to ECT treatment.
Dangers aside, for Ava, it's been a miracle treatment. "I got to a point where I thought the best thing for my family and my kids would be for their mom just not to be in their life and the only way I knew how to do that was by not being alive," she said "But I've made a pretty big turnaround."