Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sane on the brain

NPR covers Howard Dully’s effort to uncover the truth and reasons behind a transorbital or "ice-pick" lobotomy performed on him at the age of 12.

"If you saw me you'd never know I'd had a lobotomy," Dully says. "The only thing you'd notice is that I'm very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I've always felt different -- wondered if something's missing from my soul. I have no memory of the operation, and never had the courage to ask my family about it. So two years ago I set out on a journey to learn everything I could about my lobotomy."

Difficult at times to listen to, yet so compelling to hear, the story goes into the history of the transorbital lobotomy and its creator, William Freeman. The procedure started off as an attempt to cure debilitating mental illness but dissolved into a cure-all for a wide range of ailments. One woman went in to expel chronic migraines and left with the mentality of a 6 year old.

The most painful moment was when Dully, after some fifty years, finally confronted his father about why it happened and why Dully was never told that the procedure was even performed on him. His father was evasive about his role and remained detached even when a tearful Dully said that he still loved him.

Families would talk about how their loved ones were severely damaged by the procedure, while other victims questioned whether or not it scarred their souls.

The lobotomy was always something of a joke to people. I would laugh at Homer getting one in a fantasy on the Simpsons, but this was one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve heard in a long time.