Anyone now 23 years or older who had major surgery as a baby is at risk for chronic posttraumatic illness . . .
When I saw Dr. Louis Tinnin’s new blog, I literally wept. He and a team of psychologists who run Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc. (ITT), a program in Morgantown, West Virginia, are acknowledging that infant surgery without anesthesia results in chronic PTSD. Reading Dr. Tinnin’s list of 10 questions which will help determine if one was affected adversely by an early medical intervention had me screaming “YES” to each one. Below, I have excerpted a few paragraphs from the blog’s first post. I hope you click on the link to read the rest and perhaps subscribe to his blog and join in the dialogue (http://ltinnin.Wordpress.com.) Also, please pass on this information to anyone whom you think might be suffering and need help. I cannot speak for the efficacy of ITT since I did not experience it, but I do want people to see it as a possible resource. Their website is www.traumatherapy.us/location.htm. Check it out!
Infant Surgery Without Anesthesia Posted on December 30, 2010 by ltinnin
Anyone now 23 years or older who had major surgery as a baby is at risk for chronic posttraumatic illness because the surgery was probably done without anesthesia, which was the custom in most hospitals prior to 1987. Abdominal surgery for pyloric stenosis and chest surgery for congenital heart problems were the most common forms of infant surgery. Together these surgeries were required for about 8 cases per 1000 births. A rough estimate of the number of survivors during the single year of 1987 (3,829,000 live births) is 30,600. We do not know what proportion of these survivors is now suffering with posttraumatic symptoms but considering the severity of the pain and the helplessness of the infant we would expect that the majority of these infants were traumatized.
Paralyzed, Wide Awake, No Pain Control
Those major surgeries required that the infant have artificial respiration during the surgery. The baby was given a curare drug for total paralysis while the respirator tube was inserted into the windpipe and the paralysis was maintained throughout the surgery. The paralyzed baby was wide awake with no pain control. Imagine what it must have been like for the infant: unable to lift a finger; unable to move away from the searing pain of the scalpel; the sensation of being turned inside-out as the heart or intestines are grasped; and the overwhelming pain. People that have survived these early traumatic experiences usually cannot recall them verbally while they cannot forget them nonverbally.
The symptom picture of the survivors is broader than the usual picture for posttraumatic stress disorder. Adult survivors report life-long symptoms of anxiety (constant nervousness and spells of terror or panic), hostility (temper outbursts and urges to smash or break things), depression, self-consciousness, distrust of others, and a high vulnerability to stress. The life-long aspect of these symptoms leads to the faulty clinical perception that they are personality disorders instead of recognizing them as persisting reactions first elicited by the brutal surgery. That recognition opens the way to curative treatment of the adult survivor. . . .
I am so thankful and heart-warmed that a community of people is forming who want to know more about the effects of infant surgery and early traumatic medical procedures on patients who probably received no anesthesia. Folks are finding each other, not only on my blogsite but in other places on the web, and supporting one another in this journey to understand what a dear friend, another survivor of infant surgery, describes as “battles with mystery ogres.” The real picture of what we endured is becoming clear. This subject is challenging to discuss because, on the one hand, we are grateful to have survived and, of course, indebted to those who saved us–nurses, surgeons, technicians, hospital staff, our parents, our extended families, and friends. An amazing group of individuals came forth to rescue us. We are here because of them.
On the other hand, the survivors of infant surgery without anesthetic have suffered beyond measure, for as we grow up, the patient, the family, and the society are unaware of the extreme trauma caused by the lack of pain control; the shock and terror of that experience are buried within the patient but are not forgotten, and the “mystery ogres” haunt us our entire lives. One day we may wake up and realize, No wonder my life has been a battlefield–I have Post Traumatic Stress! All my life, I’ve had anxiety, panic attacks, fear, inordinate stress, depression, suicidal feelings, and other symptoms of PTSD. But infant surgery without anesthesia is not generally thought of as a cause of PTSD, nor is it on the radar of psychologists and psychiatrists who may mistakenly attribute symptoms to other causes. That’s why we have to get the word out–to end the needless suffering.