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Sarah Price Hancock (pt 2) Ep #32: Surviving Shock Treatment

Trailer: Sarah describes one of her many frightening experiences with stroke-like bilateral hemiplegia.

Sarah Price Hancock show notes part 2


Electrical injury impacts brain stem


(At the end of part 1, Sarah had gotten dizzy and had to lay down on the floor. We connected again a few weeks later.) It takes a while for Sarah's body to normalize from dizziness, so the longer she stays horizontal, the more likely she'll be able to sit or stand later 


Not sure what's going on with Sarah's body, but the research into electrical injury, the focal point of the electricity is on the brainstem - but the brainstem is not involved in emotional regulation that they are trying to effect in shock treatment (ECT) - the electrodes are placed on the temples


And the electrical currents pass through the brain to the anterior of the frontal lobes and brainstem area - they've discovered the most damage is along the current's course through the brain - it also causes diffuse electrical injury in the brain - so the more shock treatments, the more damage they are likely to have


Electrical injury in other parts of the body also impacts the brainstem - we have to remember our central nervous system was designed to conduct electricity, so whenever we're exposed to an electrical current, it is going to travel the path of our nervous system, it is not contained to a specific body part


Sarah is sensitive to electrical currents in the environment, from devices - she had a unique experience, she began working with a doctor who uses acupuncture - sometimes in acupuncture they will create a circuit within your body from one needle to another - when he did this to Sarah, her symptoms completely subsided


The constant static humming she's feels in her body, completely went away - the doctor said he'd never seen that before - Sarah's speech problems completely resolved - then her phone rang, as it got closer to her, Sarah's symptoms started to reappear - when she finished the convo and moved the phone away from her, the symptoms resolved again - the doctor's eyes almost popped out of his head


There is so much we don't understand about the body and its response to electrical currents - Sarah does a lot of 'grounding' - it helps her sleep and takes away the static feeling - this should all be looked into if someone has an electrical injury


Grounding is where the person is literally grounded to the earth - a study in cardiac patients that were grounded for 8 hours a day (during sleep) - an electrical wire is grounded to the earth


The Native Americans use grounding a lot - Sarah knows a story of a man visiting his grandmother on a Reservation and she demanded he take his shoes off because 'they are going to kill you' - she recognized there is rejuvenation by being connected to the earth - the cardiac patient and grounding study measured their cortisol every 4 hours


Getting grounded


Over several weeks, the patients re-regulated their cortisol and improved their sleep patterns and improved their heart problems - that was a controlled research trial - Sarah is very research based and thought 'it couldn't hurt' to try - going barefoot in the grass or using actual grounding equipment


Sarah has felt a difference: improved sleep, improvement in her most annoying symptoms


A woman selling an EMF detector device applied it to Sarah, but it didn't light up, something the woman had not seen before - she didn't know that Sarah was sitting on a grounding mat - Sarah finds it fascinating that we can improve our health many different ways


Sarah also bought a grounding bracelet (from Amazon, like $3), the kind you'd use for fixing computers - the bracelet has a wire that is connected to an alligator clip - Sarah bought a power surger that has a light that indicates when it is grounded 


Sarah warns to consult with someone who knows electrical engineering, not to take her experience as advice because electricity is powerful and don't want to cause problems


Sarah put a grounding screw into the 3rd hole of an electrical outlet and attached the alligator clip to that screw - Sarah then sleeps with the grounding bracelet on - that's the cheap way, you can pay hundreds by purchasing equipment online


Barometric pressure is what changes our weather - a 'low' is when a storm is coming in, the faster it drops, the faster the storm is approaching


When there is the barometric pressure drops, Sarah gets the most intense tension pressure headaches - Sarah has problems going into the mountains because her body has problems regulating pressure, and the motion is also a problem


Sudden storms can cause bilateral hemiplegia - there is a lot to be researched about the body - Sarah sent research on electrical injury to a NIH researcher, he got her on serine and ATP


Patients with delayed onset have low levels of serine, and amino acids - when the NIH researcher read Sarah's list of research, he started to understand why Sarah was not improving


Brain stem and cranial nerve damage is not something he knows how to address - Sarah has been blessed to connect with some exceptional researchers - Phillip Yarnell, Ken Ferguson - specialize in electrical injury - they want Sarah to have a 3T MRI with various sequencing


Doctors don't understand


To identify how her brain is functioning - Sarah was also referred for an EMG and 'sees' inside the brain, not just the surface - the challenge with electrical injury is that they can cause bizarre symptoms, that are broad and varied, so doctors look at the symptoms as conversion disorder because they don't understand - when researches look at brainstem evoking potential, they can cause all these symptoms


This indicates its not a conversion disorder, but a type of seizure - and its not captured on a standard EEG - but during a brainstem evoking potential procedure they overstimulate the patient visually, auditorally and they show damage in the cranial nerves and brainstem causing dramatic problems - so its critical that people with an electrical injury understand that the laws of electricity do not change based on benevolent intent


So just because a doctor gave you electricity, doesn't mean it contravenes the laws of electricity and human tissue - Sarah and her doctor are looking into cranio cervical instability (CCI) because electrical injury causes atrophy to tendons and muscles - some patients develop bulbar type symptoms with difficulty swallowing


When Sarah lays down her thoughts are much clearer, so she's going to get imaging for CCI - when Sarah is horizontal the effect is so profound - animal studies show electrical injury causes compression of the brainstem - the electrical force to cause seizures is about the equivalent of 73 pounds pushing on the brain


The electrical pulses strain the brain - science is compartmentalized and not considering how electricity affects different parts of the body - (Scott mentions the PoNS device)


Sarah tried cold laser therapy and it radically improved things - but it also stimulated her nervous system, and the more she used the laser, after initial improvement, the worse she got - so how much stimulation can the brain get before it short circuits? - new devices stimulate nerves, but the truth is we don't know how they work


So how long with they work? How much time is needed for a treatment? We're getting into areas we don't understand, especially about delayed electrical injury - research looks for immediate results, and not recognizing delayed electrical injury that is well documented in the literature


It is devastating to many people because it is directly related to motor neuron disease, and motor neuron disease is devastating - (Scott refers The Healing Brain by Dr Norman Doidge, and to Dr Fred Khan, about laser therapy)


Cold laser therapy


Sarah knows they use laser therapy in brain and spinal cord injury


Sarah has seen dramatic results but wants to caution people that we don't know enough about delayed electrical injury - for Sarah, who has repetitive electrical injury, her results are probably more dramatic, but less long term - recently she ate something with residual alcohol in it, but her body can't process alcohol


Within 10 minutes of trying it, she couldn't speak or walk - dizzy, difficulty communicating, breathing - her brother immediately took Sarah for cold laser therapy 


The doctor put the laser on her brain stem and instantly her symptoms resolved - but Sarah says use caution, too much of a good thing is not a good thing - just because it works now, doesn't mean it will work, or not cause problems 5 years from now - study and do research


There are many medical practices and cultures we can learn from, but we need to keep tings in context


Sarah quit shock treatments against medical advice in June 2009 - in 2010 Sarah had immediate onset of hemiplegia and frenetic nerve spasms that look like dry heaving, but there is no nausea - then it becomes diaphramatic paralysis - so less then a year after stopping shock treatments - then in 2013 it happened again


The 1st time it happened she was at the dentist and was taken by ambulance to the hospital and tested for stroke - her CT was clean, and within 36 hours she had regained the strength in both sides of her body


It happened again with a doctor, the room had a lot of stimulation - Sarah got very dizzy, and the world turned topsy turvy and Sarah slanted to her right - again she was taken by ambulance to another hospital for stroke assessment - they said she had atypical migraines


So no damage on CT scans after those 2 events, but they started to happen more frequently - in 2007 Sarah was exposed to mold - she was working in a building with a history of a leaky roof and being flooded - within 18 months Sarah was messed up, could not walk, etc 


She didn't know at first it was mold related - but started practicing mold avoidance and her symptoms started improving - so what makes Sarah sick is not one single thing, it is a cumulative issue - she believes there are toxicity issues from her underlying condition of hepatic encephalopathy - this was complicated when they gave her psychiatric medications that her body could not metabolizing - so her brain was marinating in ammonia


No standardization of shock treatment


They tried to fix that by using electricity, repeatedly - Dr Bennett Amolio spoke at a board meeting for the State of California's Department of Rehabilitation - he was talking about brain injury and stated that electrical injury is a functional injury, and repetitive electrical injury is like repetitive head injury with similar effects as functional injuries, motor neuron injuries, and Parkinson type movements in football players


He said the injuries are not seen on typical scans, very fine scans must be used - on the cutting edge of quantifying the problems - Sarah's side effects from shock treatment are typical for shock treatment patients - there is no standardization of shock treatment - there are 7 variables involved


There is an outcome dichotomy of shock treatment: people either say it saved their lives, and others say it ruined their lives, including death as a direct result - Sarah says we really need to make change - need fidelity and standard operating procedures so doctors can replicate what the research shows - with ECT they never replicate electrode placement and seizure threshold and all these things you'd think would be standardized 


So doctors give information in the informed consent, but the doctor may not be using the same protocol - when the manufacturer lists 7 variables that may cause permanent brain damage or memory loss, that is a red flag to prioritize patient safety and minimize patient risk - that is why Sarah created the petition for standardization


Sarah says when people hear these amazing stories about ECT and recovery, but because it is not regulated or standardized, we have to remember these stories, good and bad, are just anecdotes until research is done


Sarah has a podcast - and now that she knows how much better her voice is when she's horizontal, she should get back into her podcast - Sarah worked really hard to get supports and academic accommodation in place and 1.5 years after shock treatment, she was accepted into an internationally recognized rehabilitation program - they looked at her lived experience and her grades in undergrad


They put more weight on lived experience then GRE (Graduate school test) testing because Sarah tested in the bottom third, a vast difference from her 3.9 GPA in undergrad


Dr Karen Sacks admitted Sarah to the program, could see her potential for success - Sarah feels blessed to have been accepted into the San Diego university - the students used Sarah a lot for their research to know what kind of assistive technology Sarah needed - she could then take that report to the accommodation office at the university - Sarah learned about neuroplasticity and what she could do to help her brain


Masters in Rehab Counseling


She essentially had to learn to read/comprehend again because ECT made it that Sarah could not remember the line she just read, or identify what line to read next - she had to listen to audio why the words were highlighted on a screen so she could learn to track her reading - there was a lot of rehab involved that most electrical injury patients don't have access to - so Sarah is creating rehab protocols for these patients so they can get access to life enhancing treatment and protocols - Sarah can read and retain info now, her working memory has improved


Sarah got her Masters degree and was working as a research assistant and graduate assistant, and they were so impressed with her work they invited her back to teach even though she didn't have a doctorate - so Sarah co-taught and co-authored psych rehab accredited curriculum - a phenomenal experience teaching for 4 years


They created recovery based practical solutions for psychiatric rehab - California implemented Professional Clinical Licensing, so they were able to create a clinical track for rehab counsellors - but with the delayed onset of electrical injury, Sarah was forced into early retirement


It was hard because she loved teaching and designing lessons - she loved being able to challenge the notion that psychosis was permanent, but that people could recover and return to work, if they have the supports, they can have a full life - but there is so much bias against people with brain injuries and psychiatric problems


There is an assumption that patients can't recovery, but in reality you can't judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree - if you give appropriate assessment and supports, and if you believe in your clients and help them believe in themselves, will take their life in directions that will be astounding - Sarah thinks helping people recognize their own potential


By bringing together knowledge, we can produce great programs that improve quality of life and reduce harm - When Sarah sits up, her speech is so affected she has had to start using speech to speech relay services - she was just assessed for text to speech therapy


Sarah ability to stand is deteriorating, as is her ability to sit up - but Sarah had strong relationships with universities and is frequently asked to present - now she either has to do it from being horizontal, or horizontal from home via zoom video, or like Stephen Hawking, with an electronic voice - the university said that Sarah's presentations are so profound for the students they didn't care how she did it


Emotional self-reliance


It means a lot to Sarah that people are recognizing lived experience as very valuable - if doctors integrated what they know with what patients know, they would create great care - there some doctors out there who do this and integrate patient experience to understand practical application


Sarah's website is, Sarah's podcast is on emotional self-reliance - there are 10 episodes and walks through the basics of creating emotional self-reliance, autonomy and independence


It is good for anyone who has been slammed again and again - helps people take back power over their lives - her podcast is called Emotional Self Reliance


Sarah says her international petition to get ECT regulated needs more signatures - if any one is interested in helping translate it to their own language, they can connect with Sarah