CBS Evening News recently aired a five-part digital series on mental health care in America called “State of Mind.” One episode, “Out of the Depths,” chronicled one man’s journey from severe depression to recovery.
That man is Vito Randazzo, and the doctor who treated his depression is Dr. Sameer Sheth, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Vito Randazzo suffered from severe depression. Worse, his depression failed to respond to any kind of treatment. He tried psychotherapy. He tried medication. “I must have tried over a hundred different medications, and a hundred different combinations of medications,” he told CBS.
He followed that with 60 rounds of electroconvulsive therapy, in which electric current was passed through his brain to induce seizures. That helped a little, but not for long.
Vito was left unable to work or participate in family life. He told CBS, “Every single day was a push just to survive.”
Finally, Vito was referred to Dr. Sheth. Dr. Sheth, like other neurosurgeons, has been successful in using a technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat movement disorders like Parkinson disease. But Dr. Sheth is also at the forefront of using DBS to treat severe mental illness, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
Dr. Sheth implanted small electrodes on either side of Vito’s brain, in targeted areas known (through MRI scans) to be involved in Vito’s depression. Dr. Sheth attached the electrodes to a small battery pack implanted under the skin of Vito’s chest. The batteries deliver electrical impulses to the electrodes, stimulating those areas of the brain.
“The brain is a bunch of neurons and nerve cells that communicate using electrical rhythms,” Dr. Sheth told CBS. “When those electrical rhythms and that communication is not working properly you see disorders.” The electrical impulses in deep brain stimulation help to restore those electrical rhythms and let the neurons communicate correctly again.
Vito was awake for part of the surgery, and he told CBS he felt different immediately, while still on the operating table.
Dr. Sheth cautions that DBS treatment is not a magic bullet, and Vito still has to work hard to overcome his depression. But the deep brain stimulation has given his brain the ability to do that work. It’s been a long, slow road, but Vito told CBS that the treatment has been “life changing. I’m living life again.”
We are glad to see that Vito is doing so well. Congratulations to Vito on his continued recovery, and thanks to CBS for featuring Dr. Sheth and the potential for DBS to offer hope to patients who have run out of treatment options.
View the entire CBS presentation here.
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