I had my first seizure a little over seven years ago. I was living with my parents at the time, following a recent divorce, and finishing up my Secondary Education and English degree as a returning, non-traditional student. It was July, and I was taking a few online courses so I wouldn’t have the long commute to the nearest respected university. I still had to finish up some elementary Environmental Science course I had been avoiding as I refused to recognize the value of this course in relation to my given major and career goals. I was completing some lab document about clouds – seriously – cumulus, stratus, cirrus – real remedial bullshit that I have frequently found myself referencing when teaching Ernest Hemingway and Toni Morrison (sarcasm font).
At any rate, I was plugging away at my coursework, trying to complete my assignment so that I could tend to my then significant other, and now spouse Sam, who was staying with us because his appendix was recently removed in an emergency procedure and he was prescribed additional recovery time. My fingers were furiously tapping down upon the keyboard when they began to shake and tremble uncontrollably. The trembling became more severe with each keystroke until I could no longer complete a sentence in my open document – the document that began to appear hazy and unclear before my eyes.
I had suffered from some shaking before. Both my father and my brother also suffered from unsteady hands. Often, when I was struck by such an ailment, I would have a candy bar or serving of yogurt and the uneasiness in my appendages would be eliminated. Therefore, I wondered if I might be diabetic, like my father, his father, and my mother’s father. I sought medical expertise, and was told that I had “extra levels of adrenaline in my body.” Personally, I translated that as “We don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you, so how about this random theory I pulled from my ass – extra levels of adrenaline. Yes, yes, that’s what it is!”
Whatever the reason, I knew that something was not right as I suffered such feelings of dis-ease in my parent’s basement office. I quickly saved my document and began to walk toward the staircase. My plan was to arrive in the kitchen and consume a small snack, in an effort to remedy my current wrongs. I rose from the plush desk chair and took a few small, uneasy steps toward my destination. The entire room began to spin, and each tiny step was a struggle. I doubted my ability to take another step, and thus called out for Sam.
Sam was moving slowly at the time, as he had a drainage tube emitting from a surgical hole in his abdomen. He had been sent home from the hospital only one day earlier. My mother was at work, and my dad was out with some friends, so only Sam and my youngest brother, sixteen at the time, were home to assist me. By the time Sam arrived, I had already collapsed on the floor and my body was violently writhing about. My hands were curled up into iron-clad pulsating fists. My heels aggressively thumped up and down on the tiling as my legs and feet quivered and quaked inexplicably. My head jogged back and forth, hammering hard against the flooring, and Sam kneeled over me and rested his hand under my head to protect me from possible concussion.
I remember being completely overcome with fear and confusion. I had no idea what was happening, or why, and I had no control over my body – yet was conscious and aware of this lack of bodily regulation. I began sobbing and tried telling Sam to call an ambulance, but my tongue had gone numb and I couldn’t form comprehensible words. Sam was trying desperately to help me, but I could see that he was in his own pain.
He called out to my brother, who was in another room of the home playing video games. He requested that my brother bring him the telephone. My brother, Jared, brought the phone to Sam, and then just stood there staring at me for some time, unsure what was happening and how he ought to react. “What’s happening?” he asked Sam, who could not return an answer as none of us possessed any awareness of this current condition. “I don’t know,” Sam said, “I’m going to call your mother.”
Sam still held me in his arms and tried to speak calming words to me while he dialed my mother’s place of employment and waited for someone to pick up on the other line. My brother could not wait, and the scene before him made him anxious. “This shit is freaking me out,” he declared, “I’m outta here.” He ran up the stairs, grabbed the keys to his truck, and we heard the front door slam shut.
As the door was closing, the phone call had been received and my mother was on the other line, wondering what we needed. Sam explained the situation to her, and said he didn’t know what to do. “Oh, she’s just having a nut attack,” my mother told him. “Give her a shot of brandy. Give her a shot of brandy, and she’ll calm the fuck down.”
“No, Cindy,” Sam argued, “This isn’t anxiety. It’s different. I don’t know what’s happening. She can’t stop trembling. Her entire body is just jarring right now. I’m scared.”
Shortly after he expressed his concerns, his fear was allowed to dissipate as my body came to rest. This episode could not have lasted for more than ten minutes, but it felt like hours, and my body was completely exhausted. Sam and I locked eyes, a mixture of panic and relief resting upon both of our faces. Without actually asking the question, we both knew the other was wondering what had just happened.
After helping me to a standing position and then to the bedroom to rest, Sam and I both arrived at the conclusion that I had suffered a seizure. We followed up with medical guidance and several tests were conducted. No absolute conclusion was ever drawn, other than the possible theory that some scarring had developed on my brain from an earlier head injury sustained in a fatal car accident.
The seizures happen rarely, but they do still happen. However, now we know what is happening, and what to expect. We know that it will pass, and Sam does the best he can to keep me calm and comfortable in these episodes.
This Saturday, my daughter was witness to an episode. Like many mothers, I have had neurotic fears and worries about my children. Is someone going to come to the house and abduct them while I’m in the shower? Is she going to trip on a toy and suffer a coma? Will she be mauled by a bear if I let her play alone in the backyard? Are aliens going to snatch her from her body while I sleep? You know, real practical, logical fears. Yet, for all these crazy fears, it had never crossed my mind to prepare for what to do with the children in the event of a seizure.
I was thankful my spouse was home to help me and the children. My son was resting in his swing, so he created no additional concerns after I collapsed on the kitchen floor. My daughter, however, ran to me and crouched down beside me with the same concern and worry her father had seven years ago. She rubbed her tiny hand against my wrist and tried to calm me down, just as her father had once tried to uncurl my fists and hold my hand. When the jolting and juddering became more extreme, my husband left my side to put her in her chair in front of her cartoons. She kept on calling for her mommy, though; she wasn’t screaming, just questioning “Mommy? Mommy?” with clear concern for a tiny toddler not yet two years old.
When the shaking ceased and I was composed again, I asked Sam to bring my questioning, concerned child back to me, though I still lay on the floor feeling faint. She kneeled beside me and smiled, repeating “Mommy?” just one more time. I smiled back and told her that Mommy was okay. She seemed assured, and nodded her head. Then, she got up and walked away. I was relieved that she was okay, and seemed unaffected enough to return to her cartoons. At least I had assumed she intended to return to her television programming. Rather, she had walked away to retrieve a soft pink baby blanket from the living room couch. She pulled it behind her and returned to me. She then placed the blanket over me, kneeled beside me once again, and leaned in to kiss me.
Her loving actions this weekend are an absolute acknowledgement of why I know that no matter what – no matter what – I am going to be okay. I am blessed beyond belief. The seizures have never stopped me; the shuddering hasn’t slowed my spirit. Likewise, I won’t let the bastards keep me down; I am loved and I will rise above the vibrations of ignorance and hatred to be the me who has been kissed by an angel even after she has witnessed some of my scariest moments.