My Lobotomy

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Freeman diagnosed Dully as a schizophrenic. Discarded sweet wrappers, daydreaming spells and the odd glimpse of youthful defiance - it would appear to be a relatively innocuous list, but it was enough for Freeman. Eight weeks after the doctor first saw him, Dully came round from his operation in a state of numbed confusion. The hospital report stated that he had been given a 'transorbital lobotomy. A sharp instrument was thrust through the orbital roof on both sides and moved so as to sever the brain pathways in the frontal lobes'.

Dully was his youngest-ever patient; extraordinarily, he survived.

Over the years, the lobotomy has become almost a caricature of itself, a cultural shorthand that immediately conjures up images of zombies or dribbling madmen. Even the word itself sounds freakish and unwieldy, like an ill-judged verbal joke. For most people, it remains indelibly associated with dramatic invention: with the dazed, incoherent character of Catherine in Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer or with Jack Nicholson's Oscar-winning performance as a deranged asylum inmate in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

But for a time in the s and Forties, the procedure was at the forefront of neurosurgery, viewed by the medical establishment as a cutting-edge treatment for mental illness.

Before the introduction of antipsychotic drugs or the popularisation of psychotherapy, the lobotomy was touted as a miracle cure for anything from schizophrenia to postnatal depression - and not just in the United States. Neurologists in the UK are estimated to have carried out 50, variants of the operation, until the late s. Derek Hutchinson, a year-old grandfather, underwent a lobotomy in - without his consent, he says - at the hands of surgeon Arthur E Wall while a patient at the High Royds Asylum near Leeds.

Unlike Dully, Hutchinson was awake throughout his operation, which a psychiatrist had insisted would curb his aggressive tendencies.

There is a long exhalation of breath on the end of the phone, halfway between a gasp and a sigh. It felt like a broom handle was being pushed in my brain and my head was splitting apart. Originally developed by Portuguese physician Antonio Egas Moniz in , the lobotomy involved drilling two small holes in either side of the forehead and severing the connecting tissue around the frontal lobes. The hope was to dull the symptoms of psychiatric illness by reducing the strength of emotional signals produced by the brain.

My Lobotomy

Although Moniz won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in , he insisted that it should only be used as a last resort, in cases where every other form of treatment had been unsuccessfully tried. Dr Walter Freeman, a neurologist and Yale graduate, brought the procedure to America in the late s. Freeman's first job after medical school was as head of laboratories at St Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington DC, a sprawling mental institution that housed 5, inmates in near-Victorian conditions.

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Spurred on by his first-hand experience of the horrors of state-run mental institutions and determined to make his name as a medical pioneer, Freeman developed a version of Moniz's procedure that reached the frontal lobe tissue through the tear ducts. His transorbital lobotomy involved taking a kitchen ice pick, later refined into a more proficient instrument called a leucotome, and hammering it through the thin layer of skull in the corner of each eye socket.

The pick would then be scrambled from side to side in order to damage the frontal lobe.

Introduction

The process took about 10 minutes and could be performed anywhere, without the assistance of a surgeon. Over the years, Freeman developed a reckless enthusiasm for the operation, driving several thousand miles across the country to carry out demonstrations at asylums and hospitals. An instinctive showman, he sometimes ice-picked both eye sockets simultaneously, one with each hand.

He had a buccaneering disregard for the usual medical formalities - he chewed gum while he operated and displayed impatience with what he called 'all that germ crap', routinely failing to sterilise his hands or wear rubber gloves. Despite a 14 per cent fatality rate, Freeman performed 3, lobotomies in his lifetime. For the survivors, the outcomes varied wildly: some were crippled for life, others lived in a persistent vegetative state. Born with mild learning difficulties, she was left incapacitated by the procedure and spent the rest of her life in various institutions, dying in at the age of Yet occasionally, the operation appeared to have a calming, desensitising effect on the mentally ill.

The lobotomy's mixed success rate was a symptom of its imprecision: it was a hit-and-miss procedure developed at a time when little was known about the very specific nature of the brain's structure. Dully's almost total recovery is thus an anomaly. To look at him, you would never guess that he underwent such brutal surgery. There is no slowness of speech, no telltale squinting of the eyes, none of the lack of social inhibition that characterises most lobotomy survivors.

Now 58, he has a full-time job training school bus drivers and has been married to Barbara for 12 years. He has a son, Rodney, 27, and a stepson, Justin, 30, and a tabby cat called Princess who prowls on a parched flowerbed while we talk. About the most unusual thing you would notice about me is my size. Dully is a broad, bulky man and 6ft 7in tall.

When he turns on his laptop to show me photographs of his operation, his hand completely covers the computer mouse. The pictures are disturbing in their very matter-of-factness. Freeman was a fastidious archivist and insisted on recording each stage of the operation on camera. In one black-and-white image, Dully lies unconscious, his mouth lolling open. The tip of a 12cm long leucotome has been pushed deep into his eye socket. How does he feel when he sees these photographs?

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On the surface, at least, his life is settled, but it has taken Dully the best part of four decades to be able to speak with such ease about his past. I felt that I was the secret, the skeleton in the closet, the dirty laundry. It was the first time he had seen his medical files and the first time he had found the courage to confront his past and speak to his father. I asked my dad about it and I don't think he meant any harm. He said he got manipulated by Lou. She threatened him with divorce if he didn't go ahead with it. My dad said he only met Freeman once. Dully breaks off and leans back in his chair, arms folded across his black polo shirt.

His father, now 83, has never apologised, but Dully remains astonishingly sanguine about the operation and the chequered legacy it left him.

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On that day, he performed the first-ever transorbital or "ice-pick" lobotomy in his Washington, D.C., office. Freeman believed that mental illness was related to overactive emotions, and that by cutting the brain he cut away these feelings. One of Freeman's youngest patients is. My Lobotomy: A Memoir [Howard Dully, Charles Fleming] on lepakendfald.tk * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In this heartfelt memoir from one of the.

For years after the lobotomy, he was in and out of mental institutions, jails and halfway houses. He was homeless, drug-addicted and alcoholic, a petty criminal with little concept of how to live a normal life. I blame everyone for what happened including myself. I was a mean little ruffian. Lou was looking for a way to get me out of the house, for a solution to the problem, and Freeman was looking for a subject.

Both of them came together I think he was misguided. He tried to do what he thought was right, then he just couldn't give it up. That was the problem.

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