NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
As many as 50,000 Americans were lobotomized, most of them in the 1950s and '60s. One of them is Howard Dully. He underwent the now infamous ice pick lobotomy when he was 12 years old. At the age of 56, Howard Dully began to ask others the questions that haunted him afterwards: about the procedure itself; about Walter Freeman, the world-famous neurologist who popularized the transorbital lobotomy; about why he was taken to Dr. Freeman's office in the first place; and about what he lost in those 10 minutes when Freeman inserted modified ice picks under his eyelids and twirled them around inside his brain. One of the people he spoke with was Dr. Freeman's son, Frank.
(Soundbite of "My Lobotomy")
Mr. FRANK FREEMAN (Walter Freeman's Son): We had several ice picks that just cluttered the back of that kitchen drawer, and the first ice pick came right out of our drawer, a humble ice pick to go right into the frontal lobes. It was--from a cosmetic standpoint, it was diabolical. Just observing this thing--it was horrible, gruesome.
CONAN: That's an excerpt from "My Lobotomy," Howard Dully's radio documentary about his journey of discovery, which you may have heard last night on "All Things Considered." Today, Howard Dully joins us to talk about it and to take your calls. We'll also talk with co-producer Dave Isay and with Dr. Elliot Valenstein, who wrote a history of lobotomies. If you know someone who had a lobotomy, if you have questions about how it was done, who it was done to, our number here in Washington is (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later in the program, we'll hear from a lawyer in Zimbabwe who just won a free press award for her work defending journalists there.
But we begin with Howard Dully, who's with us here in Studio 3A.
And, Howard, you said in the documentary that until now, you never shared the fact that you'd had a lobotomy, except with your wife and a few close friends. How come? Were you ashamed of it?
Mr. HOWARD DULLY (Lobotomy Recipient): Pretty much. Yeah. The stigma that's attached to brain operations and mental conditions is really overwhelming to anyone that has had one or has had to deal with it. And I've had to deal with several instances of mental problems, I guess you would say, not only the lobotomy but being housed in a state mental institution would also--be a stigma attached to that.
CONAN: Sure. You were 12 when this happened. According to the documentary, you don't remember the day?
Mr. DULLY: I remember being in the hospital. I don't remember the day specifically. I remember being taken to the hospital vaguely. I remember the room a little bit that I was housed in, but I don't remember, actually, the electroshock or the procedure at all.
CONAN: Electroshock was to make you unconscious before the operation.
Mr. DULLY: Correct. He said he gave me four or so in the records, or `one too many' is what he indicated. I don't know what that meant.
CONAN: It's interesting, you're talking about his records. You went back and looked at his records.
Mr. DULLY: Yes, I went with Dave Isay and Piya to the archives at George Washington University and was able to get my records. I understand I was the first lobotomy patient to do so.
CONAN: That must have been a stunner. You're the first after all these years to go back and look?
Mr. DULLY: Yeah. It amazed me. I thought people would have been there already.
CONAN: You talked about the isolation and the stigma associated with lobotomy. You were 12 years old. I mean, teen-agers are--can be cruel.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah. Yeah.
CONAN: It had to have been worse then, do you think?
Mr. DULLY: It could've been. I was not--I didn't go back to school. I was either not allowed back to school or wasn't in the program, I guess. However, I did go back to my home and the same environment that I had left, which I was not supposed to do for at least six months, I believe it was.
CONAN: And this was the home of your father and your stepmother.
Mr. DULLY: Yes.
CONAN: And one of the things that you really learned about all of this was really about your family dynamic.
Mr. DULLY: Yes. I suspected some of it, but I had no proof or evidence. The need for me was more than just being able to point fingers. I don't--that didn't really mean so much to me. It was just the understanding why. And knowing that it wasn't me makes me feel much better--vindicated, so to speak.
CONAN: When you say `it wasn't me,' in other words, the reason you had this operation had nothing to do with you, it had to do with your stepmother.
Mr. DULLY: Apparently, yes.
Mr. DULLY: I've had communication since then to that fact. So--and in the records, it tends to indicate that because of what was said and what was denied on the documentary.
CONAN: When you went home and later were sent to a state mental institution, when did you get out?
Mr. DULLY: I got out twice. I got out once after about 14 months and went to a school for problem kids. We became a problem at the school and that's why the school wound up closing down. They didn't want to put bars on the windows, and it was co-ed, so needless to say things occurred, much to parents' dismay. And in 1966 the school closed and I went back to juvenile hall and was released to a halfway house.
CONAN: And by that time you were, what, 17, something like that?
Mr. DULLY: Sixteen, 17, in there, yeah.
CONAN: Yeah. How did you make the transition--you're now, you know, married, you have a good job, you--how did you make that trans--that's...
Mr. DULLY: It was a long, painful process. I actually sat on welfare and SSI for 20 years at least, from the time I actually got out of Agnews the second time until I was probably 40 years old or so. And it was a long process. But one day what happened was I just woke up and found out that I wasn't advancing, I wasn't becoming anything. You know, I was allowed to take my money and give it to other people, and I couldn't save money. I'd never have a new car. I'd never be able to pat myself on the back for doing a job well done or anything like that because I wasn't doing a job. So--and besides that, being bored to death.
CONAN: Eventually you did get a good job as a bus driver and do other things.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah. I actually went to college.
CONAN: Which one?
Mr. DULLY: Phillips Junior College. It's now closed. But I got an AS degree before it closed. And it was accredited. So...
CONAN: Then why, after all that time, in your mid-50s, did you decide to start looking for these answers?
Mr. DULLY: Actually, the questions have haunted me all my life. The fear of coming out of the closet, so to speak, was what kept me there, the stigma that was attached to it. I wasn't sure that I was willing to face that and the possibility of ridicule for being operated on, or maybe I'm not different, maybe I'm not normal, those kind of things. And I'm not sure I wanted to find out the answers at that time. And then my mom passed on, my stepmom passed on in the year January 1st, 2000. And I realized that if I didn't start looking now that the people weren't going to be around to get the answers from, maybe, for too much longer. So I had to make a choice then. And when I first started, I didn't want to use my name or anything at that time. Yeah.
CONAN: Let's get a listener on the line. We're talking with Howard Dully, who underwent a lobotomy at the age of 12 and has written about it and talked about it in a radio documentary called "My Lobotomy."
This is Pat. Pat's calling us from Naples, Florida.
PAT (Caller): Yes, I'm Pat from Naples, Florida. I just wanted to tell you about a cousin of mine who, in her late 30s or early 40s, was forced into a lobotomy by an uncle of hers who had some control over her finances. And she was forced into a lobotomy because they said she was a homosexual. And she lived after that in somewhat sheltered situations, like a boarding house, but she never could hold a job and she certainly is not as lucid as your guest. She was eccentric. She had no emotion, only showed emotion as she learned it. But it was only because she was a homosexual that they gave her a lobotomy.
CONAN: Did you know her before and after?
PAT: I don't remember her before. She was not in my life and I was a young child. I knew her later. And she herself told me how and why she had had the lobotomy. And at that point in her life, she was in her 70s and she said, `Oh, well, that was the right thing to do because they told me I was homosexual.'
CONAN: I wonder, as you've talked to some of the patients, the other people who've had lobotomies, Howard, have you heard a lot of stories like Pat's talking about?
Mr. DULLY: I've heard and read a few. I do know that the lobotomy was used quite extensively on women and usually women that were active, so to speak, or--and, you know, I mean, it came down to actually giving them to people with headaches. And my question's always been, what happened to `Take two aspirin and call me in the morning'?
CONAN: Yeah, migraines, things like that.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah.
CONAN: Pat, thank you very much. We appreciate the phone call.
PAT: You're welcome.
CONAN: Joining us now from our bureau in New York is Dave Isay, co-producer of "My Lobotomy" with Piya Kochhar. He's executive producer of Sound Portraits Productions.
Dave, good to have you back on the program.
DAVE ISAY (Co-producer, "My Lobotomy"): Hi, Neal.
CONAN: Where did you run into Howard? How did your part in the story begin?
ISAY: Well, I got interested in lobotomies--actually, probably the first time was when I saw the movie "Frances" about Frances Farmer. And in that movie, she was--there's a scene where she's getting a transorbital lobotomy from Dr. Freeman. And in fact, there's no indication that she ever received a lobotomy. But some point later, I was talking to someone and they started talking about seeing people with scars on their head from lobotomies. And I started researching. And I read a wonderful article by a guy named Jack El-Hai who wrote a book called "The Lobotomist" later, but this was an article in The Washington Post about transorbital lobotomies, and became really interested and wanted to find someone who had had this procedure and see what kind of effect it had had on them, because no one had really talked about it.
And through my co-producer, Piya Kochhar, who did an incredible amount of legwork and kind of old-fashioned detective work, through serendipity and a lot of hard work, we found Howard and Howard found us. This was about two and a half years ago. And we spent the next two years together on this journey with Howard and his wife, Piya and myself. And it's been amazing. I mean, Howard's courage is mind-boggling in taking this on.
And as Howard said, when he had his first conversation with Piya, he told her three things. He said, `I'm never going to talk to my dad, I'm not going to use my name, and I'm never going to fly.' And he's done all three. And I just feel privileged to have been able to work him over these last two years, to go on this journey.
CONAN: We're talking with Dave Isay and with Howard Dully, the co-producer and subject of a documentary called "My Lobotomy," which was broadcast last night on "All Things Considered" across the country, around the world, really. If you'd like to join our conversation, give us a phone call: (800) 989-8255; (800) 989-TALK. You can also send us e-mail, email@example.com.
I'm Neal Conan. We'll be back after the break. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
`Please, please, allow me to compliment Mr. Dully's extraordinary work on "My Lobotomy," writes Gregory Collver from Charlotte, North Carolina. `I heard it yesterday on my drive home and I was absolutely mesmerized by the piece. I have never been so moved by a piece of radio than I was to hear his pain, his frustration with a situation that was outside of his control, and his courage to look so deeply into his own fears. Mr. Dully, you have earned my respect as both an artist and a human being.'
Howard Dully is with us today. A new radio documentary aired on NPR last night chronicling his life after receiving a lobotomy when he was 12 years old. Producer David Isay is also with us. If you'd like to join us, our number is (800) 989-8255, (800) 989-TALK, or you can send us e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's get another caller on the line. This is Salina(ph), Salina with us from Portland, Oregon.
SALINA (Caller): Hello.
SALINA: Well, that's a really difficult thing to talk about. I heard the piece, also, and I think all the things that they just said were really true. He was really brave. And this happened to a family member of mine and it's been really difficult--it's just been an awful, awful thing to know. But my understanding of it is, is that my grandmother was improved, in fact, by the procedure, and this was good because part of that--she had been institutionalized. And she was able to function somewhat normally. It's unclear because she wasn't well before, so, you know, the difficulties that she had afterwards, it was hard to decide whether that was better or worse. But from all observations, it seemed to be better.
CONAN: When you said it was hard to hear the program, in what way in particular?
SALINA: Well, it was hard to listen the program, you know, knowing--you know, having this--it's a terrible stigma. It was really brave of him to come forward with this. And he did talk to my mother and she was in the piece as well. I thought the piece was really well produced.
CONAN: Well, thank you very much for the call, Salina. We appreciate it.
David Isay, I guess you can take some credit for the production of the piece there.
ISAY: Yeah, sure. But it was certainly a collaboration from the first moment to the last moment with Howard and with Piya. And, you know, Howard was such an amazing--from the get-go, I mean, he just jumped into this with such heart. And you hear his interviewing skills are absolutely tremendous. And, you know, one of the ironies of the piece--the first caller was talking about her mom or her grandmother or aunt who had been lobotomized and kind of became emotionally flattened. And that's something that you--that was what the operation was about. Dr. Freeman felt that mental illness was about kind of emotions run wild and he was trying to flatten emotions. And the irony of the piece is that Howard is so emotional and it almost feels like he's this kind of emotional whirlwind amidst all these other people who have a problem connecting to the kind of deep emotionality of what happened. So it's just been--as I said, it was a real collaboration. It's been a privilege to work with Howard.
CONAN: You mentioned Howard's interviewing skills. Well, let's hear them. This is an excerpt from "My Lobotomy" in which he did that thing he said he would not do, interview his father.
(Soundbite of "My Lobotomy")
Mr. DULLY: My question would be naturally: Why would you let it happen to me if that was the case?
Dully's Father: I got manipulated, pure and simple. I was sold a bill of goods. She sold me and Freeman sold me, and I didn't like it.
Mr. DULLY: Did you ever meet Dr. Freeman, and what was he like?
Dully's Father: I only met him, I think, the one time. He described how accurate it was and that he had practiced the cutting on literally a carload of grapefruit, getting the right move and the right turn. That's what he told me.
Mr. DULLY: Have you ever seen a picture of the operation and the procedure at all?
Dully's Father: No.
Mr. DULLY: Would you mind if I showed you one or...
I show my dad the photograph of me at 12 years old with the ice picks in my eyes.
Dully's Father: Oh! The thing I'm intrigued by is how you look so calm.
Mr. DULLY: Is there anything in this that you regret at all?
Dully's Father: Oh, see, that's negative, and I don't dwell on negative ideas. I see what--and what am I talking about?
Mr. DULLY: Be positive.
Dully's Father: I always try to be positive. I don't make it always.
Mr. DULLY: OK. But this was--you know, this was really (clears throat)--excuse me--has affected my whole life.
Dully's Father: Nobody is perfect. Could I do it over again? Would I have? Ooh, hindsight's beautiful. Fifty years later I can say this was a mistake...
Mr. DULLY: Yeah.
Dully's Father: ...but so was World War I a mistake.
CONAN: `So was World War I a mistake.' Well, the analogies in that interview--having your head compared to a grapefruit is another one.
Mr. DULLY: I'd like to say one thing, if I could, about that interview. That was probably the hardest one for me to do of all of them.
CONAN: I'm sure.
Mr. DULLY: It was the closest one to my heart.
CONAN: Afterwards, how did you leave it with your dad?
Mr. DULLY: Very emotional. I was very emotional. My dad was--to me, it was kind of like my dad's way of saying what he wasn't going to say, that he understood that he--you know, how I felt and that I probably--or not probably, shouldn't have had the operation; understanding the complexity of my family and the way people are. You have to be able to read into what people are saying when they're talking to you. And my family dynamics were very complex.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Roger, Roger calling us from San Antonio.
ROGER (Caller): Hi, Howard.
Mr. DULLY: Hi.
ROGER: I wanted to say thank you for sharing that history. I think that you really don't get the sense of these things because I was born in '67. So lobotomies were pretty much gone by the time that I, you know, was a youth. But it's one of those things that until you actually hear the story, it doesn't really impact you, especially coming from an individual who's going through the journey. So first, I want to thank you for that.
And really just two questions I had. One was, are you at peace with your father and do you regret not--I mean, after going through all this--I know you were hesitant to even talk to him about it--but do you regret not having the opportunity to actually talk to your stepmother about it?
Mr. DULLY: OK. First, with my father, yes, I very much love my dad and I am at peace with him. I see him. He doesn't live far from me. I saw him before the interview. It's just something we never talked about during the years, really. And I do regret not being able to ask my stepmother--I have said all through this piece to everybody involved that if I could sit down and have dinner with her and talk to her today, I would. I have no ill will, hostility toward anybody involved in this. My part in this was just wanting to understand and wanting to come to grips with it. Pointing fingers is not going to do any good. Hating people is not going to do any good. Acceptance is what is needed here, and healing. And that's kind of the way it is with all family situations, really.
CONAN: Roger, thank you.
ROGER: Thank you.
CONAN: Here's an e-mail we got. `I am the granddaughter of James Watts, Dr. Freeman's partner in the first lobotomy performed in the United States. My grandfather performed lobotomies for years and split with Freeman after their disagreement that lobotomies could be performed as an outpatient surgery. Granddad maintained that the brain was the most sensitive and delicate organ in the body and the least understood. He had great reverence for the human body and the sanctity of the soul. I never had the opportunity to discuss my grandfather's work with him as an adult. I do remember asking him about lobotomies at around age 12. He said that many of the people who were having lobotomies performed on them were being held in horrible conditions, in insane asylums, etc. He said if he could relieve those people's suffering and return them to society, even to just push a broom, that was better than being locked up in a cage like an animal with no treatment whatsoever. My family is proud of my grandfather and his achievements. I don't want to speak for all of them beyond that. I am deeply saddened by the pain and sufferings that lobotomies have wrought on numerous individuals and their families. My thanks to all the people who are bringing their stories to light. Thank you, Mr. Dully,' from Ann Watts Savory(ph) in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. DULLY: Excellent.
CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the program now. The history of the lobotomy begins in Portugal and its inventor received the Nobel Prize. Joining us now to talk about its history is Dr. Elliot Valenstein. He's the author of "The Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments for Mental Illness." He's also professor emeritus in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Professor Valenstein joins us now from the studios of our member station WUOM.
And thanks for being with us today.
Dr. ELLIOT VALENSTEIN (Author, "Great and Desperate Cures"): Yes. Hi, Neal.
CONAN: Dr. Freeman developed that ice pick lobotomy a bit later after that first Portuguese invention. This was really in response--and just listening to that e-mail that was from Dr. Watts' granddaughter, there was a situation where serious mental illness was untreatable at the time.
Dr. VALENSTEIN: Oh, that's absolutely true. And I think that has to be understood. There were really no treatments for serious mental illness. They actually had some treatments like keeping people asleep for long periods of time. There were drugs that were used, but they were not the type that I use today. They were non-specific barbiturates that essentially sedated people, but in no way did it address what was bothering them. And the patients were just accumulating in state hospitals, which, as Dr. Watts' granddaughter indicated, those were horrendous conditions. There were books written about how bad those conditions were.
CONAN: Movies. "The Snake Pit."
Dr. VALENSTEIN: "The Snake Pit" and a book called "Shame of the States." And the same was the condition of the state hospitals. Patients got worse there, and that was partly what motivated Freeman. He was convinced that people would get worse in those hospitals and he probably knew more about those state hospitals than anyone else in the country because he visited so many of them.
CONAN: And let's be also careful to point out that, though many people's personalities were changed and people's lives were seriously damaged and some were killed, in fact, that there were some patients who did show progress. We're going to play another clip of tape from the documentary now. This is the first person who received a transorbital lobotomy from Dr. Freeman named Ellen Ionesco. Here's her daughter Angelene Forester describing her dramatic improvement.
(Soundbite of "My Lobotomy")
Ms. ANGELENE FORESTER (Lobotomy Patient's Daughter): She was absolutely violently suicidal beforehand. After the transorbital lobotomy, there was nothing. It stopped immediately. It was just peace. I don't know how to explain it to you. It was like turning a coin over, that quick. So whatever he did, he did something right.
CONAN: And Dr. Valenstein, I guess the problem came when he stopped just concentrating on the seriously mentally ill and expanded this operation to cover, well, all kinds of maladies or imagined maladies in some cases.
Dr. VALENSTEIN: Yes. That's something that happens very often in medicine, where something is introduced for a specific ailment and then it--once everything gets up tooled up, they look around for additional applications. It was initially--that is, lobotomy was initially considered to be a treatment for the otherwise incurable people as a last resort. But it was realized when they got into it that those were the people that were not helped very much. The people that were helped more were people with very exaggerated emotional states, violent or not, but very exaggerated emotional states that simply prevented them from functioning in a normal way. These were mostly affective disorders--that is, emotional disorders--rather than being people who were delusional and schizophrenic.
CONAN: We're talking about the documentary "My Lobotomy," the story of Howard Dully, which broadcast last night on NPR. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And here's an e-mail that I'd like to--both you, Dr. Valenstein, and Howard to respond to: `Does your guest think he fares well because he was young when the lobotomy was performed? Possibly because he was still growing, the brain had an opportunity to compensate for the injury. Did he meet other patients that were young when the procedure was done, and if so, how did they fare?'
Howard, what do you think?
Mr. DULLY: That's the only thing I can believe, is because I was told that some of the pathways that grow in don't stop growing until you're about age 20, and maybe that helped compensate for what was damaged.
CONAN: Doctor, does that make sense to you?
Dr. VALENSTEIN: Well, it's certainly true that the brain is growing, but I think there were a number of good results. The results were very variable, in general. There were some horrible ones and there were some excellent ones, where people went back and were able to hold very responsible positions, supervising a great many people, doing professional work, after a lobotomy. And age, I don't think, was as irrelevant a factor. Freeman believed that what was most important was that the people were not ill that long. He even presented graphs showing that you got best results from people who were not institutionalized for long periods of time, which is somewhat of a flawed--I can't go into it now--somewhat of a flawed analysis. But he was convinced that there was a danger in waiting too long. I don't think age was a major factor in the outcome.
CONAN: But he continued doing these procedures even after he had objective evidence suggesting that, well, the vast majority of people were not helped by them.
Dr. VALENSTEIN: Well, he didn't believe that. He presented evidence that people were helped. At the time that he did the operation, the majority of the people were in very bad psychiatric states, and he thought that--and he was very conscientious. One thing to say about Freeman, he was extremely conscientious in following up on his patients. He got in a van and traveled around the country looking for patients, sometimes after 25 years following a lobotomy. And he recorded honestly whether the outcome was good or bad. And he thought the majority of the people, from his perspective, were holding down jobs and had improved over what they would likely to--the state they would likely have been in had they been left institutionalized in these horrendous state hospitals of the time.
CONAN: Here's another e-mail, this from Cindy: `Has anyone examined the brains in autopsy of lobotomized patients to see what, if any, regeneration there was or renewed connections were formed?'
Dr. VALENSTEIN: Yes, there were a lot of examinations. There were not really major restoration of the brain in terms of new growth. They were really examined--the brains were examined in order to determine if the best results could be assigned to the destruction of a particular area of the brain in an attempt to refine the operation. But there really was not any evidence of any major regrowth in the nervous system. In fact, with the techniques available at the time, one couldn't even determine if there was any--even a slightly--regrowth or regeneration of some fibers.
CONAN: Dr. Freeman, it's also important to remember, was one of the top men in his field, at the peak of his profession, in 1949, when this operation was first developed, and yet he's remembered today, Dr. Valenstein, as, I guess, maybe second to Josef Mengele, as a monster. Is that deserved, do you think?
Dr. VALENSTEIN: No, I don't think that's deserved. One has to consider the times. We already talked about the fact that there were no other treatments available. Lobotomy in America was not all Walter Freeman. This was part of mainstream medicine. The most prestigious medical schools practiced lobotomy. Columbia University engaged in a huge project called the Columbia-Greystone Project. Greystone was a state hospital in New Jersey, and Columbia University staff were studying and performing lobotomies. So it was widely accepted, not only as evidence the fact that a Nobel Prize was given, but people talked about, even in prestigious medical journals, like the New England Journal of Medicine--they described lobotomy as `ushering in a new era of scientific psychiatry.'
CONAN: Dr. Valenstein, thank you very much for being with us.
We'll have more after a break. This is NPR News.
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Tomorrow it's "Science Friday," and Ira Flatow will be here with a look at Charles Darwin. A new exhibition on his life and work opens this week in New York. It comes, of course, amid new controversies about the theory of evolution and the theory of creationism. That's tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION/"Science Friday."
Right now we're continuing our conversation with Howard Dully and David Isay about the documentary "My Lobotomy," which aired last night on "All Things Considered." Many of you may have heard it. If you'd like to join the conversation, (800) 989-8255, or you can send us an e-mail, email@example.com.
Let's get another caller on the line, and this is Rick. Rick's calling from Denver, Colorado.
RICK (Caller): Hello.
RICK: Am I on the air, I guess, huh?
CONAN: Yes, you are.
RICK: Good. Yes. Well, Howard, congratulations. I, too, have had a brain operation. Mine was a temporal--in your inner temple, of course, in the right side--temporal lobotomy. I had a long series of seizure disorders, and they were able to remove some scar tissue from my right side of my brain. You, obviously, had yours done earlier. I didn't have mine done until I was 57.
Mr. DULLY: Wow.
RICK: And it's a quite a bit different situation for me.
CONAN: And did it improve things for you, Rick?
RICK: Well, it did reduce my seizures, except for the one post-surgical grand mal seizure I did have, but I guess the negative aspect has been the loss of vision in the peripheral configuration and the lack of what I consider sharp memory and thinking capability. Howard may have already, you know, commented on that, and he could probably relate to that.
CONAN: Yeah. It seems that whatever's done and whatever benefit, there's a penalty.
RICK: Yes, there seems to have been. My seizures were not what they call tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures. Most typically, they were just absence seizures. I think most people call them daydreaming. And--but my wife was very convinced it was necessary, much, I guess, like his stepmother may have been convinced that it was necessary...
Mr. DULLY: Yeah.
RICK: ...to pursue that situation.
ISAY: Well, I want to step in for just a sec, because...
CONAN: Go ahead, Dave.
ISAY: ...in--I think in Howard's case, and, you know, Dr. Lichtenstein has been talking accurately about how, at first, at least, this operation was used by Dr. Freeman and Dr. Watts to--in a--to great effect. But in Howard's case, there--what we found and what we've learned is that there was nothing wrong with him. So that--this was a very different sort of case. And, of course, this was--the lobotomy that you received, the brain surgery, the psychosurgery you received, was more advanced than the transorbital lobotomy. The ice pick lobotomy was much less precise.
RICK: Oh, yes. And, you know, you've already commented on the brutality of that particular operation.
RICK: There are some excellent books out there which describe the process, and I don't know if it was Dr. Freeman or Dr. Watson who--you know, his partner--would go and do eight or 10 of these a day.
ISAY: That was Dr. Freeman.
Mr. DULLY: And up to 25 he did, actually.
CONAN: And his partner's name was Dr. Watts, I think.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah.
CONAN: Rick, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.
RICK: Thank you. And, Howard, best of luck. Please...
Mr. DULLY: Thank you very much.
RICK: And stay in there, baby. It's a long haul, as you know, and...
Mr. DULLY: Yeah.
RICK: ...I'm so glad that you've got a wonderful partner to support you.
Mr. DULLY: Well, thank you. The one thing I wanted to comment on, the part that bothered me so much in the description of it, is the eggbeater-type fashion. That--somehow, that's pretty scary sounding.
CONAN: Put the ice pick under the eyelids and twirl it in an eggbeater fashion. Yeah.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah. That doesn't sound very precise at all.
CONAN: How do you look at that picture of those ice picks under your eyes, in your brain?
Mr. DULLY: Actually, believe it or not, it doesn't bother me. And I...
Mr. DULLY: The only thing I can attribute that to is the fact that I lived it. You know, maybe if it wasn't something that was done to me, it wouldn't--it would bother me more. But because it was me, I lived it, I lived through it, I don't have any pain from it, it didn't seem that bad. But I understand it disturbs other people.
CONAN: You can see photographs of the lobotomy and other accounts of the operation at our Web site, npr.org. You can also listen to the documentary there, "My Lobotomy."
Dave Isay, before we leave, I did want to ask both you and Howard one last question, and that involves the process of--Dave, as you know, there's been controversy in the past over--in your documentaries--where the subject voices end and maybe yours begin. In this case, is there any--do you have--was there any question about--are these Howard's words? Are they your words?
ISAY: Well, it's been a long time since--I don't--I'm not sure I agree with you that there's really been controversy over where my voice ends and the subject's begins. But I think what we've tried to do at Sound Portraits for many years is be the vehicle through which people can tell their story the way they want it told. And I would hope that--I mean, these were all Howard's words, and I'd hope that he feels like he was accurately portrayed and that these were his words and this was his story.
CONAN: Howard, is this your story?
Mr. DULLY: Yes, it is. The--they assisted with writing some of the script. If there was a problem with it, I was allowed to take that problem up with them and we modified it to where it was satisfactory.
CONAN: And time is always a problem.
Mr. DULLY: Yeah. There was a lot cut out. Yeah.
CONAN: Howard Dully, thank you so much for being with us, and thanks for bringing your story to NPR and--through Dave Isay and Sound Portraits to the rest of us. It's an astonishing story. Thank you so much.
Mr. DULLY: It's my pleasure.
CONAN: And, Dave, thank you again.
ISAY: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: When we come back, we'll be talking with a human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe who has just won an important human rights prize.
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