I was reminded by one of my other mothers how I felt
when IT came back.
A seizure happens after a long seizure-free spell.
You are thinking that IT has finally left her alone.
It throws her down while you are not there.
She is injured, you are shaken.
At some point we have accepted that IT will be back.
We will not let it steal the time in between.
We will do what we want and be who we want
until IT returns.
Getting back up is the most important part.
IT will NOT keep her down.
Attached is the post I wrote when Rose had her first seizure while away at the university. I was sad and angry and scared…
I want to send a message straight from my “mama heart” to yours.
It’s about knowing what you can do and what you cannot do.
There are better tests, treatments and therapies now. Keep searching for the right ones.
Everyone’s epilepsy is different. You have access to more information and support.
You cannot do everything. You cannot fix everything. You cannot be everything.
Guilt is toxic. Depression is damaging. Exhaustion is depleting.
Trust yourself to do your best. That is all you can do.
Be kind to your frazzled self.
Look for tiny bits of joy everywhere.
Pause to ponder and wonder.
Protect yourself and rest.
Your fragile child needs you.
Take care of you, too.
I know your pain.
A tether is a connection of a mobile thing to an immobile thing
to limit the movement of the movable part of the pair.
The irony of this description is not lost on me.
Rose was prevented from flying away and I was immobile.
I am the heavy, the anchor, the immovable.
Who wants a heavy, immovable mother?
Who wants to be heavy and immovable?
Maybe I have been looking at this the wrong way.
I want to move, too. I want to fly, too.
I am still stationary long after my Rose bird has flown.
I am still here holding down an empty fort.
I am still here.
Still tethered by fear and habit and age.
I need to rise up. I need to look up.
I need to be free from the hanging, empty tether.
Free to be me.
I am a bit antsy.
It reminds me of how I used to feel when the school year ended.
I am glad to be done with publishing our book, but now what?
I have no reason to stay home and stand by.
These past years have been lonely, but busy.
Now it is just lonely…and winter.
I will reinvent myself again. That is nothing new.
I need to be useful, or at least feel useful.
The folks who know us best will notice omissions in our book.
There are missing stories.
I see no point in sharing them with our fragile and frazzled audience.
Some are painful while others are pointless.
There are stories of folks doing the wrong thing or nothing.
Why should I shame people for trying to do what they think they can do
or not trying to do what they know they cannot do.
There is so much forgiveness in my heart that I even have some left over for myself.
I am not a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. I am only a mother.
My job was to be there and care.
That’s what I did.
So friends, if you wonder why those events that you witnesssed have been omitted from our memoir, keep in mind…
the point of our book is to help not to harm.
My ‘Other Mothers’ need stories they can learn from.
We want to stand on the edge of the crazy cliff with them,
not shove them over it.
That’s why we are here. To stand together.
Seizure Mama and Rose
As I am putting the finishing touches on our book,
I keep telling myself to “remember my audience.”
I want our book to help parents of children with epilepsy.
I have honestly documented events in our lives.
I have added a “Seizure Mama Speaks to Parents” after each story.
A letter to parents begins the book.
An epilogue tells about writing the book and blog.
The last chapter is about letting Rose go it alone.
That was always the goal.
What else do you need parents?
I am thankful to have this blog,
so I do not TOTALLY feel this is our ONE SHOT.
I want to do this right.
HELP ME HELP YOU.
I need honesty from my “OTHER MOTHERS.”
Seizure Mama/Flower Roberts
Image by our fabulous publisher JAHBookdesign. Just the beginning…
Story 26 (September 2002)
After the toxicity scare, we no longer had confidence in neurologist #1. The doctor’s responses to our questions seemed short and unfocused. The drug and dose changes that she recommended seemed random. Our chart of drug changes was full of changes in dosages and seizures.
We asked for a second opinion. This first neurologist sent a letter of introduction for Rose to another neurologist in a different city. The letter described Rose’s condition and drug trials and requested a second look at Rose’s possible treatments for the future. I bet neurologist #1 was happy to pass hot-potato Rose off for some re-enforcements. I appreciated that a second specialist was going to have input into Rose’s care.
Our first visit with neurologist #2 took hours. He was very thorough and reassuring. He wanted to nail down the type and source of these seizures. He felt that Rose had been prescribed too many drugs on too small doses to rule them out as an effective treatment. He wanted Rose in an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit(EMU) to get a video-EEG. He said he felt we had been yawing around the pond of treatment choices.
This was a relief for us. We felt the same way. I was like Rose had been part of a badly designed experiment with too many variables. We were now going to get some hard data we could use to get better results. We finally felt hopeful.
We felt like this doctor heard what we were saying and understood what we were feeling. We didn’t just want to try something new. We wanted what we did next to be the right choice, not just a random change. We needed all the cards to be put on the table. It was time. Rose needed to learn and grow, not fall and fail.
Seizure Mama speaks to parents:
No one doctor knows everything. Each has his/her own training and experiences. It is always good to get a second opinion. Do not be afraid to ask for one. It may be just what you need to get a better result. Your current, struggling physician may appreciate your nicely worded, respectful request.
Do not, however, bounce from one specialist to the next in hopes of finding a quick fix. Patience is needed when trying out drugs and doctors. Do not secretly sneak around because each physician needs to see all your child’s records to make informed decisions and avoid repeating failed treatments.
I would also advise getting a second opinion for any surgical procedure. Even though installing a VNS(vagus nerve stimulator) may be a simple procedure, the device is permanent. You are making decisions for your child. Do it carefully and wisely. Get as much input as is reasonable.
I have been reading another insightful memoir written by a person with epilepsy.
Each one I read brings back memories of our struggles.
Each also reminds me that this is not over for us.
Epilepsy rarely vanishes.
It does, however, hide for long periods.
Rose does not want to know this.
Neither do I.
So we are living like it is gone while we can.
But when it returns,
we will need you.
It will be hard trying to fit our big lives
back into the confined space of seizures.
While she was home for fall break, she dropped her shampoo in the shower.
It was her habit to say something to let me know she was okay.
She did not say anything. I made myself stay in my bed and listen.
Fear is never far away.
We will need you.
(I almost entitled this “She Will Need You”)
We are still tethered together.
Mother and daughter.
Epilepsy and fear.
Story 24: June 2002
Of course epilepsy came on vacation with us. Rose had three seizures during our week at the beach. Two occurred while she was swimming in the pool. She always wore a life jacket in the water and someone stayed an arm’s-length away. I knew it was risky to let her swim, but she loved it so much. We live on a lake so our family and friends swam a lot. We could not forbid Rose from participating in something we all enjoyed together. If she seized in the water, we just held her until the seizure ended and carried her out to a lawn chair to sleep afterward. We suspected extreme temperature changes triggered seizures, and so we tried to avoid the water in the mornings when it was cooler. We also covered Rose with a towel when she got out so she would not get chilled.
Rose also loved the ocean,but swimming with her among the waves made me a complete wreck. I was afraid we would both go under if she seized in the ocean. She was content to go in for only a few minutes and then play in the tidal pools with her shovel searching for little fish and shells, and building sand sculptures.
One day Rose and I had just walked down onto the beach and picked our spot on the edge of a tidal pool. I set down our bags and towels just as Rose fell face first into the sand. I placed her on her side to seize, as I tried to wipe off some of the sand that stuck to her face. A nice lady nearby offered me a bottle of water to wash her off. The seizure soon ended, but Rose was covered in wet, sticky sand. I swaddled her in a towel and sat close beside her to wait out the thirty minutes or so it would take before she woke up. My family could see us from the porch of the condominium, so I knew help would arrive when someone spotted Rose lying still under a towel.
While I was sitting quietly beside Rose, two boys about her age walked by. They were carrying a surfboard, table-fashion, covered with an assortment of shells and seaweed. They both glanced at Rose as they passed, but soon put down their board and walked back to me. They asked what was wrong with Rose. I explained that she had had a seizure but would be fine when she woke up. I asked about the treasures they were carrying on their board. I shared that Rose would have loved to see their haul from the sea if she were awake. They walked back to their board and one returned carrying a giant pin shell. “Give her that when she wakes up” he said. We still have this treasure.
Seizure Mama speaks to parents:
There will be many children who do not understand seizures Some children will be afraid of your child after seeing him/her seize. There will be a stigma. It will be harmful and painful.
There will also be children with great kindness, who will be protective of your fragile child. They will be loyal friends. Relish the memories of the kind kids. They are the angels of this broken world.
Story # 23 (August 2002)
Rose’s latest drug combination became a recipe for disaster. Now she was constantly dizzy and nauseated. She was limp and barely moving or responding. She was silent. She was being poisoned.
We put her on the couch so we could all keep an eye on her. At this time, she was on three drugs,one of which was an extended release form. One drug must have amplified the affects of the other two. Her nausea and vomiting soon turned to dry heaves and bile. Her seizures were clustering. We knew she was in danger.
We called the on-call neurologist at about 11PM. The doctor’s foreign accent made our conversation difficult. My husband and I were both on the line listening. We thought the doctor said to use the emergency drug if Rose had another seizure and then take her to the Emergency Room if she had another seizure after that. Was that really what the doctor said? Two more seizures and then the ER?
The next morning Rose was very pale, weak and, listless. She barely moved. We tried desperately to get her to eat and drink each time she woke up. She was fading before our eyes. I called the doctor’s office as soon as it opened to report Rose’s condition. I cried as I explained that she seemed poisoned by these three anti-convulsant drugs.
The wise nurse calmly told us to get a timer. She said to set it for twenty minutes. Every time it went off, we were to wake Rose up and make her sit up, and sip some water. We set and re-set the timer all day long. For hours we watched her and waited for the timer’s bell to ring, over and over.
Hours later she began to improve. The poison was being diluted. Rose was re-hydrating. The color came back in her face. She was safe. No trip to the Emergency Room required.
Seizure Mama speaks to parents:
We kept gel in the refrigerator to put on Rose’s arm for nausea. There were several times when her vomiting led to seizures because she had thrown up her medication. We began sifting through her vomit if it occurred soon after a dose of medications. I know this seems gross, but you need to know whether a dose needs to be replaced or not. Doubling a dose may be worse than missing a dose. You need to be sure which to do.
This particular situation was the exact opposite of seizing due to lack of medications. Rose was sick and seizing before ever throwing up. Her dosages were too high. The combination was too much. She was listless and unresponsive. I still distinctly remember this because I was so afraid.
Know your child’s dosages and drugs. If you go to the Emergency Room, drawing blood and checking drug levels may be an important piece of information for the doctors involved in the treatment.
We wrote down all dosages on a calendar and used a pill organizer. There was no guessing about the medications that were taken. We also recorded how the dosages affected her. This information was used to convince the neurologist that she needed a different drug or combo. Do not count on your memory. Write it down.