Victoria woman becomes first successful patient at only TMS center south of Interstate 10
Sept. 13, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.
Updated Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.
While most people struggle with depression, Rebecca Johnson is coping with the exact opposite - learning and loving how to live again.
Depression shadowed the 32-year-old Victoria resident for 17 years until she underwent Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a treatment relatively new to Victoria that stimulates the prefrontal cerebral cortex of the brain, which depression affects.
The treatment is available nationwide, but the center, which opened in Victoria in April, is still the only one south of Interstate 10, said Dr. John Bouras, Victoria psychiatrist and medical director of the center.
Johnson is the first patient to complete all the sessions and it seems to have been a success.
"It turned our lives around," she said about how her family life has improved. "I'm more like who I should be."
LIVING WITH DEPRESSION
Johnson sits in on this interview with a smile on her face.
Several months ago, she wouldn't be smiling - and she definitely would have not agreed to a sit-down interview, she said.
"I would've been a ball of nerves," she said.
Johnson has tried to figure out what triggered her depression, but the only thing she remembers is it began when she was 15 years old.
Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness plagued her, she said.
"I didn't really understand what I was feeling," she said. "It kind of went unresolved."
Then one day, Johnson attempted suicide by overdose.
She remembers scrambling throughout the house searching for any pills she could take.
After several days of hospitalization, she was given Zoloft, an antidepressant that treats depression and other anxiety disorders.
That was when the long, somewhat unsuccessful, cycle with medication began.
Until TMS, Johnson had tried anywhere from 15 to 20 antidepressants and the level of severity with the depression also increased, she said.
Some antidepressants masked the depression, but led to more serious physical and neurological side effects, she said.
In March, a counselor told Johnson about the procedure and the rest is history.
"I feel like a different person," she said. "The idea of not being on medication was No. 1."
LIVING WITH HAPPINESS
Johnson had a total of 35 treatment sessions, Bouras said.
Sessions are about an hour long, Monday through Friday and can take anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on the patient's depression severity, he said.
Since the center opened, Bouras has had five patients.
"She's a pioneer in this," Bouras said.
The reason people are not lining up for the treatment is because it costs anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, and some insurances do not cover the cost, he said.
Costs vary depending on the number of sessions, he added.
"For some patients, it's more difficult to get financing for this procedure," he said. "We have gotten a lot more requests about it."
The procedure is more beneficial for those who are not getting results from medication, he said.
No long-term side effects have been seen in patients who have used the magnetic stimulation. Sometimes, headaches and discomfort happen while in the session, but those symptoms fade away after the first couple of sessions, he said.
Johnson finished the sessions in August and is on one antidepressant to help maintain the treatment.
Studies on the treatment have shown that only 10 percent of people relapse, Bouras said.
Rather than being withdrawn from social activities with her husband and two daughters, she is wanting to participate, she said.
The feeling of happiness is great, but it's difficult to adjust to, she added.
Going to school at Victoria College to become a registered nurse has also become easier, she said.
"It's actually a learning process," she said. "You're not used to feeling good. I'm definitely more engaged with my family, and I'm just an overall happier person."