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Did Pumphead Syndrome contribute significantly to Robin Williams death

Did Robin Williams, Did Pumphead Syndrome contribute to his death?
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Again and again we hear about serious depression in connection with the tragic death of actor, comedian Robin Williams. Still, we have yet to see one mention of his 2009 open-heart surgery being connected to that depression.

Having experienced open-heart surgery myself just months after Williams was cracked open, I can attest to the fact that the constellation of side effects commonly referred to as “Pumphead Syndrome” (because it revolves around the heart lung machine’s pumping oxygenated blood to the brain) is very real and can seriously affect one’s life following this very invasive procedure.

Pumphead Syndromeor Postperfusion Syndrome occurs as a result of
- Inadequate oxygen reaching the brain while the patient is on the heart lung machine
- The heart lung machine pumping microscopic amounts of “debris” which damage the brain.

Regardless of the circumstances, from personal experience I can attest to the fact that damage to the brain does occur. Cognitive decline is a serious side effect resulting from open-heart surgery, and one significant element of that decline is depression.

Another symptom is the inability to think clearly. And yet another that I experienced is a continuous foggy headed feeling that left me somewhat lethargic at a time when medical practitioners recommended increasing physical activity as part of my recovery regimen.

Considering the circumstances of Robin Williams’ death, it seems that an open and honest discussion of what happened to him following his surgery is in order. People need to realize that such risks occur so that they can plan for them. I certainly would have liked to have known that depression and many other mental issues were possible side effects of my surgery.

Fortunately, I have been working on improving my mental (as well as emotional and spiritual) capacities since 1975. That was the year I began meditation, and I feel that my regular meditation practice greatly helped me to cope with the cognitive decline I experienced following my 2009 open-heart surgery.

May we all learn to open our hearts from Robin Williams and all the love and joy he shared over the years.

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