New York Post
March 30,2001


FEELING powerless, the mother wept quietly inside the Brooklyn courtroom yesterday. She wants her son back.

She lost him first to schizophrenia. Now, a state hospital is holding him captive, and doctors insist the way to make him better is to shoot 150 volts of electricity through his head.

“It’s a sad situation for me because my son is sick and I want to help him, but I don’t know how,” Lucyna Szyszko said, using her hand to cover her blood-red, 50-year-old Polish eyes.

“I don’t know what to think – if he will ever come back to us.”

The mother wants her 25-year-old son, Adam, out of the state’s hands. She hopes to retrieve his troubled brain through psychotherapy.

First, she must sit inside the Appellate Division courtroom and try to stop the electroshocks the doctors at Long Island’s Pilgrim Psychiatric Center want to administer to her son instead of medication, which he’s allergic to.

As lawyers make their arguments, the little memories that mothers cherish push tears down her cheeks.

The teachers at Lindenhurst, L.I., high school complimenting her on 13-year-old Adam’s intelligence.

Adam’s lawyer, Kim Darrow, asks the judges to throw out a Suffolk County Supreme Court decision to allow the shock treatment because his client is incompetent and the parents’ legal right to object was not fully recognized by the court.

Adam receiving a high-school award for finishing the school year at the top of an English as a Second Language class – only a year after the family emigrated from Poland.

The state’s lawyer, Thomas Litsky, argues that since Adam objected on his own to the treatment – and since his objection was rejected by a court – the state didn’t have to seek consent from the parents.

Adam’s fingers gracefully coaxing classical music from the piano after five years of music lessons.

Outside, a dozen people from a variety of advocacy groups have gathered to support Adam – who was zapped twice before the family won a stay. One of them, Ellen Glick, 59, remembers how she was forced to get electroshock treatment when she was 18 and sank into a deep depression when her family forced her to sever a relationship with a black man she loved.

“It’s pretty barbaric,” said Glick, of Manhattan, who was zapped about 20 times over three months.

How she was no longer allowed to take her home-cooking to her son, and how his music teacher and friends weren’t allowed to visit – Pilgrim’s alleged retaliation to the family’s objections to Adam’s electroshock treatment.

The appeals court will take several weeks to issue a decision on the fate of Adam, who, for reasons unknown, became sick two years ago, when he was studying business at Hofstra University.

In the meantime, the mother is left feeling powerless, with only tearful reminders – and the hope of one day finding the son she lost to mental illness.


Anna Szyszko (right), with mother Lucyna, holds a picture of her brother, Adam, who she says has been involuntarily given shock therapy.

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