Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Lobotomy

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully is an amazing memoir. It is the story that begins with a little boy whose mother dies and his father marries Lou, a wicked stepmother beyond words. She does not want to bother with this young step-son, and begins seeking doctors who will buy her story about what a disturbed child Howard is. She finds Dr. Walter Freeman, who is beginning to do lobotomy's on patients, and he eventually buys her story and agrees to give Howard a lobotomy for $200. The kicker is 1) he is not a surgeon, and 2) he performs the lobotomies with ice picks inserted through the eyes. Really gruesome.

From Barnes & Noble website:

In 1960, Howard Dully became a part of medical history. At the tender age of 12, he was lobotomized, making him the youngest of Dr. Walter Freeman's 10,000 patients on the receiving end of the transorbital operation. Freeman's procedure was not only barbaric (he inserted an ice pick three inches into each eye socket), it was perilous: Fifteen percent of his patients died. Forty years after Freeman effectively derailed his life, Dully set out to discover how he became a guinea pig for one of American medicine's worst crimes. An astonishing memoir of self-recovery.

Howard spends years in institutions,including jail, and becomes alcoholic. Finally settling into his 40's, he decides to try to learn more about what happened to him. However, by then, his step-mother, Lou, is dead, as is Dr. Freeman. The only other person alive who was involved in the decision was his father, and he is reluctant to talk about those times and his part in it, since he allowed the operation to take place. As he continues to research, Howard is put in touch with others who are also seeking answers about the procedure and how it affected either themselves or members of their family. He learns that Dr. Freeman's records are archived and is allowed access to them, and there he learns the whole story.

Howard's life and recovery is amazing and really reinforced for me how resilient the human spirit can be. He is an amazing man and I applaud his efforts in bringing this horrible period on mental health history to light.

The book was very interesting and well-written. I hesitate to say that I "enjoyed" it, because the story is so disturbing, but it was a good book, and I do recommend others to read it.

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