Chris Dobson has suffered from depression for as long as he can remember. After a move to Belleville in 2012, it was a challenge to continue addressing his mental health as his family doctor was five hours away. He suffered from suicidal ideations and most of his days were spent alone, unable to interact with his family and friends.
“I was told in the past that I just needed to get comfortable with being sad all the time and that there was no medication to fix me. My brain was so noisy and every day was a constant fight for me. I wasn’t engaging with my family. I couldn’t work. Unfortunately, I turned to drinking in an attempt to quiet the noise and just get some sleep,” explains Chris.
When Chris’ wife got pregnant with their first child, he finally had access to a local family doctor who referred him to Providence Care in 2021. He slowly began to flourish in the care of Dr. Roumen Milev, Vice-President, Medical and Academic Affairs and psychiatrist with the mood disorders program, who would eventually refer him to the Ketamine Clinic.
Now sober and in recovery for the last five years, it wasn’t until he had his first series of treatments at the Ketamine Clinic after trying a variety of other therapies that were not effective that he finally had a big breakthrough in his mental health. He recalls experiencing a very unfamiliar feeling a few months after starting treatments in February 2023 – hope for his future.
“I was on the couch and got up. I just started vacuuming and I nearly cried. Usually it’s a fight for me to get up and do something like that, or my wife has to continuously ask and encourage me. That was the first time in a long time that I got up and decided to do something. It was huge,” he says.
Chris is one of hundreds who have benefited from the fast-acting anesthetic used in the Ketamine Clinic at Providence Care since its inception in 2018. It is used for eligible inpatients and outpatients with treatment-resistant depression who have not responded to other treatments such as oral antidepressants, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Dr. Gustavo Vazquez, psychiatrist, founder and clinical lead of the low dose intravenous Ketamine Clinic says the clinic has developed a clinical medicine based protocol where treatments are given twice a week for four weeks, and then once a week for another four weeks, with a case-by-case follow up treatments every four to eight weeks.
“Providence Care has the first public clinic in an academic centre in Ontario and a few of our patients actually come from out of province. I am so grateful to report that in these five years, supported by a solid research program, we were able to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of this innovative therapy that is nearly impossible for many patients to access otherwise,” explains Dr. Vazquez.
Chris never saw himself getting this far in his journey to wellness. A pipeliner by trade, he faced years of stigma, on and off disability due to his mental health.
He makes the trip to Kingston every four to six weeks to the Ketamine Clinic. Clients must sign a consent form before every ketamine treatment. They go through a physical examination that includes an electrocardiogram, bloodwork, vital check and weigh-in. Dosage is based on how much a client weighs.
The ketamine is given by an intravenous (IV) infusion and lasts about 40 minutes, during which their heart rate and blood pressure are monitored. Once the infusion is over, recovery lasts about 30 minutes.
The Ketamine Clinic has changed Chris’ life so drastically that he is heading back to work soon. With his wife of 11 years by his side who is currently expecting their second child and a busy three-year- old at home, Chris is very thankful for the care he has received at Providence Care after so many years of pain and suffering.
“It’s really, really made a big difference in my life. And my son notices that. We go to the park, we play. I became pretty resolute in the fact that my life was just going to be extremely hard. And that was just how it had to be. It didn’t make me a good person to be around, let’s put it that way. That has all changed now,” says Chris.
Dr. Vazquez explains that the Ketamine Clinic is still growing and expanding with the invaluable hard work of dedicated and highly trained physicians, nursing and administrative staff to help bring ketamine to more people.
“As a health care worker, nothing is more rewarding than helping others who struggle with these challenging conditions,” says Dr. Vazquez.
As for Chris, he is looking forward to heading back to work, welcoming his second child and continuing on a positive path when it comes to his mental health.
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If you are having thoughts of suicide, or you are worried about someone else, help is available. Call Talk Suicide Canada any time at 1-833-456-4566 – or you can text 45645 between 4pm and midnight ET. If you need immediate, in-person emergency care, call 911, or go to your nearest emergency department.