Chapter 50 of Seizure Mama and Rose by Flower Roberts (on Amazon)
My son ended up in the Intensive Care Unit at our local hospital due to an isolated auto-immune event. He was transferred to our favorite hospital, which is an hour’s drive away. We made the drive back and forth every day. My husband and I tag-teamed for the three weeks while our son was in the hospital and rehab so that he was never alone.
I still had to teach my classes and labs at night at our local community college. Rose had to accompany me to my classes and labs during these weeks. We would visit my son each day and leave in the late afternoon to drive an hour back toward home and eat supper on the way. We would then go directly to the college. I would leave Rose in the lab during the lectures in the adjoining room. Then my students and I would enter the lab for another three hours.
On this particular night, Rose and I had stopped and eaten fast food on the way. Rose had gotten an ice cream float made with a red soft drink. Earlier that day she had bought a red drink from a drink machine in the hospital. It was a stressful time. No one was eating or sleeping well.
On this particular evening, I finished up the lecture and my class and I entered the lab. We happened to be dissecting hearts that night. There was definitely an aroma in the laboratory. Rose complained about everything stinking. I had just gone over the cat’s heart parts with the class. I asked Rose to help me put my demo cat back in the bag. As soon as she finished, she said she felt strange.
I told her to come around behind the front station with me and sit on the floor. She went into full seizure as soon as she sat down. One seizure finished and another started.
I alerted some of my students to assist me. Many were Certified Nursing Assistants taking classes to get into the nursing program. They knew just what to do. When the third seizure started I covered Rose with my lab coat and administered her emergency medication. The seizures stopped.
One of the students that assisted me sat on the floor beside Rose and cried afterward. She shared that her seventeen-year-old brother had seizures. No one had ever told her family about this emergency medication. They usually had to transport him to the hospital at times like this. This girl stayed beside Rose long after the lab was over. This young woman and the mother of one of my former students at the middle school stayed late. The two finally agreed to leave only if they could find a campus security officer and bring him to the lab. I truly appreciated these two women staying with us. I was exhausted before class even started and now I was totally spent physically and emotionally.
This was the event that led to Rose avoiding Red Dye #40. We remembered our neighbor’s beagle had seizures if he ate red colored food. Since that night in the lab, Rose has avoided red foods and has read food labels. It is amazing how many non-red products contain Red Dye #40. We believe that red dye had been one of her triggers all along. I wish we had figured this out sooner.
Seizure Mama speaks to parents:
First, we have learned that Red Dye #40 does affect the brain. Think of all the brightly colored foods that are marketed to children. Once you start looking at all the chemicals in foods, you start to wonder what the effects of those might be on a young body and brain trying to grow and develop.
Second, everywhere I go, someone knows someone affected by epilepsy. You are not alone. Many folks don’t share their stories until they connect with someone who will understand. Then the flood gates open.
WARNING: Misery loves company. Maintain your boundaries. You don’t need to host a pity party everywhere you go. Listen, share a story, maybe some good sources for information, such as the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Then gently remove yourself.
When I taught middle school I used to get very upset about bad things happening to my students. Rose would put my face between her hands and look into my eyes and say, “You are not their mama.”
Sometimes you have too much trouble of your own to be borrowing someone else’s. Remember whose mama you are. You may have a big heart, but you’ve got your hands full.