By Sandra Mitchell

PASADENA ( — A surprising treatment is giving new hope to those with severe depression, and one Pasadena woman says it might have saved her life.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is prescribed for patients with severe depression, and Susan Pyska says the results were almost immediate.

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Before having the treatment done, Pyska recalls having her first episode of depression in 2000 at 24.

For 15 years, she was on prescription medication.

But when she got pregnant, her doctors warned her that the medications could harm her unborn baby.

“I had to protect my baby,” said Pyska, who endured days when she wanted to end it all.

“I know how low I can go, and I didn’t want to go that low again. I wanted to intervene before anything could happen,” she said.

During what should have been the happiest times of her life, Pyska was struggling. She was hospitalized 20 times in just over one year.

“She wanted to die. She felt no joy in life. She felt only pain. She was very, very dark. She just wanted to be gone, to get out of the pain that she was in,” said Todd Hutton, a psychiatrist.

But Hutton had an idea.

At his Pasadena office, he uses a strong magnet to stimulate the area of the brain associated with depression.

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“Other than feeling the sensation on your scalp, there’s very few side effects,” he explained.

The magnet is placed directly on the patient’s head during TMS.

TMS has helped a lot of patients like Pyska who can no longer be treated by medication alone.

“We are literally making the brain cells fire more. This area we’re targeting is underactive in patients with depression. It is not firing very much,” the doctor said.

Pyska says the results were almost immediate and incredible.

“I think it was the third week, I walked into the office and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” she recalls. “I was like giddy because I hadn’t smiled in so long and felt joy in so long. I was like, ‘I can’t believe this. Put that thing back on. I’m ready to go,’ ” she said.

TMS is prescribed for patients with severe depression and most patients require daily treatments for several weeks. The results are not permanent.

Just after Pyska gave birth, she suffered postpartum depression and returned for more treatments, but today she is a healthy and happy mother.

Patients say TMS is painless and doctors say side effects are minimal and include a slight headache in some cases.

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The treatment is FDA-approved and most insurance companies now cover the $10,000 cost.