Kenora man was 'high as a kite' cabbie

By Jim Mosher of The Enterprise

Wayne Lax shouldn't have been 'flying high' in his taxi - but he was.

Lax, 57, spent more than 25 years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, where he was treated for alcoholism and severe depression.

But he says the psychiatrists who were treating him failed to inform the ministry of transportation that his mental state might affect his driving ability.

Lax says he drove cab in Kenora from 1959 till 1986, including much of the period during which he was under medication and receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as shock treatment.

Physicians and doctors are required by law to inform the ministry of transportation if they believe a patient is medically or mentally incapable of driving.

It wasn't until two years after his last admission that a Thunder Bay psychiatrist, who had treated Lax four years before, contacted the ministry to express his concerns about Lax's fitness to drive.

By that time, Lax says he had medication and alcohol-free for more years.

The ministry's licensing branch suspended Lax's license in March but subsequently reinstated it when MTO received a psychiatric assessment that cited Lax's improved mental health.

"Not once during the time I was treated did any doctor tell me that I shouldn't drive," Lax said. "I was a cab driver and I was impaired for 25 years."

"It wasn't until I got my life together that they started harassing me about my license."

Lax acknowledges that he likely would have been upset if his license was suspended earlier.

"But I wasn't medically fit to drive," he said. "I'm not knocking every psychiatrist, but I think they have to get more responsible. Consider how many people are killed each year on the highways. How many of them are medically impaired?

Letters in response:

Psychiatrist's 'late' report raises questions

To the editor:

I am writing in response to the article published Sun, Jan. 25,1998, "High as a kite cabbie". It is very interesting to me that a Thunder Bay psychiatrist who hasn't seen someone in over four years all of a sudden reports him to the ministry of transportation to express his concern about Mr. Lax's fitness to drive.

Thunder Bay is quite a drive from Kenora.

Why did he all of a sudden remember Mr. Lax? What happened? Did the psychiatrist all of a sudden feel that Mr. Lax was unfit? Did he have a guilty conscience? Was he trying to cover his tracks? Why did he not report Mr. Lax while he was his patient and under his care?

That would have been the opportune time to make such a report while he was treating Mr. Lax by giving him ECTs (electroconvulsive therapy or shock treatment) and prescribing medication for depression.

This sounds like some type of harassment to me. Would you not think that he would require an assessment prior to making such a damaging statement four years later?

Do you wait until someone gets well and on their feet again then report them and try to screw everything up again for him and his family? The care that Mr. Lax was receiving was unnerving and unprofessional.

I have read that ECTs cause a quick response to depression. How many ECTs does someone have to go though before they realize that it's not working? 'Twenty? Twenty-five? Dah!!

Mr. Lax also received medication that at times caused confusion and hallucinations and other side-effects. Combined with shock treatments, he was a danger to himself and others.

Since Mr. Lax took things into his own hands, he has changed 110 per cent. He is now in control of his own life, not putting his life into the control of others. This should tell us all something.

I know about Mr. Lax's condition firsthand because he is my uncle. I have always been a part of his life and have always loved him. But, at times, I didn't really know who he was because he was so confused for many years. I remember my mom saying to me that Uncle Wayne is back up there in the hospital again. We went to see him once in the hospital and he didn't even know who I was. Who says ECTs don't cause brain damage?

Today, he is a changed man - happy and in control. I am very proud of him. There is a determination in his voice and manner. He is helping others to help themselves. He is doing this by telling his story about the more than 25 years of abuse that he received from the psychiatric community in Thunder Bay and in Kenora.

Margaret Hajdinjak
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Cabbie's sister proud of brother's long journey to recovery

Dear Mr. Mosher:

I was pleased to read your article "Kenora man was High as a kite cabbie" (Enterprise, January 25).

1 have a very personal interest in this story and the events surrounding it, because I am Wayne Lax's sister and know from first-hand experience the pain and suffering Wayne endured for so many years.

For me to see him today, I can honestly say he is "Kenora man, a walking miracle". It is so gratifying to see how he has had the courage and strength to pull himself up from the distressing circumstances which controlled his life for so many years. All of the family members saw how he suffered, but it has only been recently that we have come to understand the reasons for his behaviour and actions.

In spite of the obstacles in his way to lead a normal life, he struggled and, for a lot of the time, he worked and supported his family. How he did this really have to wonder, considering all the medication and treatment he has had over the years. It was his own strength and belief in himself, which overcame the obstacles and made him determined to find a "better way". When he became "drug free", he was able to focus and understand what had happened to him for more than 25 years.

I know he suffered from depression, which I believe first started as a "grieving process" after the death of our youngest brother in 1966. Instead of being counseled and helped through this process the administration of medication and shock therapy began. Wayne has often remarked to me: "All I wanted to do was talk to someone." Wayne returned from hospitalization in Thunder Bay on many occasions, and immediately went back to work with no counseling or follow-up taking place. Counseling was recommended, but not put in place.

Wayne lives with chronic back pain which we believe could be the result of the lack of muscle relaxant during administration of shock therapy. To quote one doctor's remarks to Wayne: ĄThey probably did not give you enough muscle relaxant... Shock treatment kills billions of brain cells and breaks bones."

After reading another article of interest (Enterprise, July 20, 1997) relating to Dr. Peter Breggin's theory on shock treatment stating it is little more than an electrical lobotomy: "It's barbaric," said Dr. Breggin. We, Wayne Lax's family, strongly agree.

I have so much respect and love for my brother and support and wish him well in his mission to make people more aware of his story and the impact too much medication and shock therapy has had on himself and many others.

Joyce Roller
Thunder Bay, Ontario

'Survivor' cites, incompetence

Dear Editor:

Jim Mosher's alarming story about psychiatric survivor and friend Wayne Lax ("Kenora man was 'high as a kite' cabbie", Jan. 25/98), once again shows us just how incompetent, negligent and uncaring all too many psychiatrists are.

First, the psychiatrists electroshocked and drugged the hell out of Wayne for more than 25 years. Then they threw him out and failed to protect him by not telling the ministry of transportation that their 'safe and effective' treatments had disabled him so much he couldn't immediately and safely drive a cab - until many years later when Wayne had been well and working for many years.

Considering the professional incompetence, abuse and suffering he was, forced to endure at the hands of several psychiatrists, Wayne Lax is damn lucky to be alive and working today.

This fact speaks volumes for his incredible strength and courage. It's not the Wayne Laxes of this world who are dangerous and whom we should fear, but the many psychiatrists who lock up and forcibly treat thousands of us against our will - for our 'own good' of course.

Wayne Lax deserves a lot of community support and respect - he knows he has mine.

Don Weitz

Psychiatric survivor