Rose Knows: Then and Now

(Chapter 15 of Seizure Mama and Rose reexamined)

No one welcomed epilepsy back into the family. We did not want it. We did not want the doctor’s appointments, we did not want the drugs, we did not want the side effects, the struggles, the limitations and most of all, the fear.

Epilepsy was back to claim pieces of our lives. It was back to take Rose’s independence. It was back to whittle away at all her hard-earned progress. She had been free. She had been thriving and growing.

What tricks would it play this time? What events would it ruin? Where would it throw her down to the ground? What would the new drugs do to her? These were the thoughts that swirled around in my mind. I wanted to reject this reality. We all wanted to deny epilepsy’s return. It would not let us. It refused to be ignored.

REJECTING REALITY?

We all have things that we want to reject. I did not know how much of this I did until recently. It seems I do battle with reality quite a bit. One of Rose’s many doctors referred to this as “shoveling sand against the tide.”

I have been shoveling sand throughout adulthood. I have fought the many things I did not want to accept. I have depleted myself trying to change the inevitable. What good has this done? None. It has been harmful.

This is where you come in Another Mother. You will be the best mother you can be to your fragile child. You will search for the best doctors and the best treatments. You will support your child to be his/her best. Then put your shovel down and rest.

This is not giving up. This is not defeat. This is acceptance. With acceptance comes peace.

I am going to have to accept quite a bit that I cannot change, epilepsy included. This is not the reality that I would have chosen for myself, but it is what it is. Life happened while I was planning other things. Wishing and shoveling will not change whatever is coming.

I am just going to let things happen.

I am putting my shovel down.

FLOW

Reposted Chapter 11: Mama in Kindergarten

Rose and I started kindergarten together. The first two weeks were half days, so the teachers could make home visits in the afternoons. Our plan was for me to stay with Rose at school until her teachers came to our house for the home visit. They knew this plan and could have scheduled our home visit earlier. Rose and I were both known at the elementary school because Rose’s older brother was there. I had been involved in the Parent Teacher Association and volunteered often.
I will always remember those two weeks of constant action. Rose’s teacher and assistant were both amazingly patient and pleasant women. There was constant activity every minute of the day, even during nap time. I found it exhausting, but very entertaining. I felt really good about Rose being with these two women. I knew, despite their many responsibilities, they would take care of Rose as best they could.
The day of the home visit arrived. Rose served her teachers brownies and lemonade. We talked briefly about funny events that had occurred during the first weeks of kindergarten. Rose was happy to have her new teachers in her home.
They both sat on the couch as I demonstrated how to handle a seizure using Rose’s large stuffed cow, Lovey. I described how a seizure might start and then placed Lovey on her side. I opened Rose’s big red seizure bag that was to stay in the principal’s office. I put a rolled towel from inside it under Lovey’s head and pulled out Rose’s emergency medication and pretended to administer it to the cow.
After I finished the demonstration, I looked into the teachers’ faces and waited. Would they handle this for us? Could they do this? Were they willing to take this on? Most importantly, was I going to have to spend the year in kindergarten?
They looked at each other. Then looked back at us. Ms.J said, “We can handle this.” I couldn’t believe what I heard. Just because public school is obligated to make accommodations does not mean they gladly do it. Ms.S said they both knew how to handle seizures. One had a husband who had epilepsy, the other had seizures herself and was taking the same medication as Rose was. The principal knew all this. That’s why he put Rose in their classroom. I felt so blessed to have these two women be part of Rose’s team. What a relief and a gift. I will always be grateful to these two wonderful women.

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

A “seizure bag” went wherever Rose went. In it were several towels, a change of clothes, wipes, paper towels, and a bottle of water. Her emergency medications came in packs of two syringes and were somewhat expensive. One was kept in the big red bag at school, the other one in my purse. These emergency drug syringes could not be left in the car. The drug could not get too hot or too cold, so the syringe stayed with me. This meant that I carried an over-sized purse for years. I rolled the sealed syringe in a bandanna scarf to protect it inside my cluttered purse and used the bandanna to cover Rose during a seizure. This is how you live with epilepsy on the go.

THEN and NOW will show up sometime soon.

Then and Now: Second Drug Down

Sometimes wisdom comes in unwanted ways. The learning curve gets painfully steep during medical crises. There is trauma mixed with desperate love for a heart-breaking combination.

I am adding some things here that I have learned while my father was in the hospital with cancer. These were hard lessons. These situations may arise with your family as you navigate serious medical decisions. Let’s hope you never get to this point.

The first difficult situation is when all decision makers do not agree on the next course of action. Different personalities handle emergencies differently. This can cause friction within your frazzled family. A hospital social worker may need to get involved to get a clear idea of what the patient wants and what the doctors advise. Sometimes it is only a matter of miscommunication. Sometimes one person’s expectations are unrealistic. Other times fear blurs logic and makes a loved one afraid to have any treatment tried despite the necessity.

The second difficult situation involves Covid-19 protocol. Some hospitals allow only one family member to be with the patient. Who will that person be in your family? We tag-teamed and texted constantly to keep everyone in the loop. It was still lonely and stressful. Other hospitals do not allow any visitors under some conditions. This is horrible for everyone, especially the patient even though it may be necessary. This pandemic has effected the lives of everyone, even those who have not had Covid and are fully vaccinated. Hopefully this will end in the coming year or two.

My family left a notebook in the hospital room so that everyone could record what happened on their watch and left notes of love and encouragement in it for the other members of the team. Near the end of daddy’s life, we wrote down his every word and movement so that the information would be there to share with the entire family.

Maybe some “If- Then” discussions and role playing ahead of time will help prepare your family before you are trapped with these hospital protocol dilemmas. It is always better to be proactive than reactive.

Lastly, I would like to add that PTSD may be in your future. When it finally makes itself known, get some support and/or medication. The whole family is affected by the serious illness of a loved one. Self-care of the care-giver is very important. That’s YOU Other Mother. Your family needs you healthy and whole to play your role.

Seasoned Mama

Reposted Chapter 9: Second Drug Down

Rose had many sore throats and ear infections from the time she was a baby. To help with these issues, she had a tonsillectomy and a tube placed in her left eardrum for drainage in December. She was five years old and in her second year of prekindergarten preschool. The surgery went as planned. We went home feeling like we were eliminating several health issues. We were relieved to have these two surgeries behind us.
Around 4:00 AM the night after the outpatient surgery Rose started vomiting. We hoped this was due to the post-surgery pain medications. Her vomit consisted of applesauce and white flecks. We wondered if the white flecks were pieces of drug 2D. The vomiting continued. We tried to intervene with a gel applied to her arm. The anti-nausea gel was our safety net for nausea. We kept syringes of it in the refrigerator.
The first seizure occurred about 10:00 AM. The first one was short. The one that followed was a bit longer. Then there were two episodes of stiffening of her arms. Any series of seizures is scary, but Rose’s body was under the stress of post-surgery and the after-effects of anesthesia. We knew we needed help.
We went to the Emergency Room at our local hospital. We made it clear that Rose’s neurologist must be contacted before any drugs were given in her IV. A large dose of drug 2D was administered without consulting Dr. T. When a blood sample was drawn later, the levels of drug 2D was really high, too high. No other drugs could be given.
Rose had four more seizures while at this high level of 2D. She was seizing while unconscious. Her emergency, sub-lingual pills could not be used due to her high levels of 2D. We watched helplessly, realizing drug 2D was not effective in preventing Rose’s seizures.
Rose was moved to a room on the pediatrics floor. I was comforted that her bed was surrounded by caring and attentive professionals. I was not comforted that they could barely hide their panic. I watched as they lovingly tried to help my unconscious little girl as if she were their own.
They were hovering around Rose’s bed, totally focused on her every move when a nursing assistant rolled some scales in to the room to attempt to get Rose’s weight. The group heard the squeaky wheels of the scales enter her room. They all turned from the bed to see the scales. In unison they belted out, “Not now.” It was such a ridiculous event that I laughed out loud.

Seizure Mama speaks to parents.

When you take your child to a hospital, you are no longer in charge. They have their rules and protocols that they must follow. You must be assertive, yet patient. I am not good at either of these things, but I have had to practice. You and your child will have to live with treatments received in the Emergency Room long after the doctors and nurses have moved on to the next emergency. Keep all your medication information and doctor contacts with you at all times. These medical professionals need all the information they can get, fast, so they can make the right decisions quickly.

Then and Now will HOPEFULLY appear on Wednesday July, 14, 2021

We are struggling here. We are doing our best. That’s all anyone can do…including you Other Mother. My dad’s memorial service is Saturday. It has been a year since he left us. I still cannot use the d-word. I am still in a sling. My garden is full of weeds. My son moved into his first house. Not all struggles are bad.

Please know my heart is with you even when I take breaks from our blog.

Flower/Seizure Mama

The First Neurologist: Then and Now

I love the fresh hope that comes with a new specialist. It feels like a pro has been added to a team of amateurs. Expectations are raised to new heights.

We really did gain confidence in Rose’s treatment temporarily. Dr. T had expertise and experience. We felt we were in good hands. We were for a while.

Dr. T was very focused and proactive at first. Then her partner left. She had all the patients of the practice. I do not blame her for being scattered. She seemed distracted and even testy when we questioned what she was saying. My notes from our appointments confirmed the randomness of her recommendations.This ship was sinking.

It is really scary to switch specialist. A second opinion must be requested. A letter and records must be sent to an unknown doctor. It is like starting over.

It takes bravery, or at least desperation, to move to a new neurologist. There is that word again!

BRAVE

The uncertainty that comes with seizures requires constant bravery from everyone. Fear has to be met head-on. Hide it, swallow it, curse it, whatever it takes. Just do not let fear keep you with an ineffective doctor or ineffective drug. Listen to your gut. Your child’s future depends on your making good decisions. Based on facts NOT fears.

Next up: Chapter 8: Gilligan at the Lab on Saturday, June 19, 2021

Reposted Chapter 7: The First Neurologist

Rose’s first visit to a neurologist was months after her first officially epileptic seizure. During the previous months she had tried one drug that failed and was on a second that was prescribed by her pediatrician. Many tests had been run including an electroencephalogram(EEG). She had experienced a second big seizure. We were anxious to learn everything we could from this appointment.
Dr. T’s diagnosis was complex partial epilepsy. This meant that Rose’s seizures started in a certain place in her brain and then generalized to a full seizure know as grand mal or tonic clonic. This made sense to us because her febrile seizures started with chin twitching. Rose referred to these as a “tornado in her mouth.” She could not speak during these episodes, but she could point to her mouth. That little aura served as a warning that was so helpful in those early days. The “tornado” aura soon disappeared, so that we were all surprised by Rose falling to the floor.
Since her seizures were lengthy, Dr.T advised us to get CPR training. She recommended that we call 911 for any seizure lasting more than five minutes. We knew that longer seizures meant danger to her brain and her life. Her dad, brother and I vigilantly watched her, but since Rose was a very active little girl, this was not easy. Our family started tag-teaming “Rose watch” duty. She always stayed within earshot of the person responsible for her.We made sure someone was always nearby and alert.
The neurologist evaluated Rose physically and mentally with simple tests. She was extremely bright and was evaluated as entry-level first grade, although she was just entering her last year of preschool. Dr.T instructed us to watch for developmental backsliding and side effects involving Rose’s gums. After our experience with her first drug 1T we knew that such changes were plausible. We hoped that this second drug would do its job without the side effects.
The plan was to stay on drug 2D for three years and then slowly wean down and off if no more seizures occurred. We were glad to hear that these childhood seizures might eventually diminish. Our new goal was three seizure-free years.
We jumped through all the seizure-prevention hoops. Rose took all medications on time. She was encouraged to take afternoon naps even if it was just quiet time in her bed. We diligently watched for fevers and treated each immediately with a red or pink over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug(NSAID).

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

The term SUDEP(Sudden Unexplained Death from Epilepsy) was not coined at this point. We knew that during Rose’s first long seizure her heart may have stopped. We knew that the longer and stronger the seizures were, the more dangerous and life-threatening they were. This was always in the back of our minds. It is still in the back of our minds. Rose is twenty-six years old and away at college, but that fear still remains here. You must go on with your life despite this threat. Uncertainty is present in every life; you just got yourself a big ol’ dose of it to hide somewhere.

THEN and NOW will be posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Mama has a lot to say about this. Whew!

Be Brave: Then and Now

Epilepsy requires bravery from everyone involved.

Mama had to fight through a whole lot of fear to get to the brave side of the continuum. The fear is always there. The bravery has to be sought for and fought for. This was the hard part for me, but not for Rose.

Bravery is in her blood. Sometimes she reminds me of Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump. She is perched atop the mast of her boat yelling at the storms and shaking her fist. That is her super power.

Where did this come from? Experience. Rose knows her storms are inevitable, so instead of going below to cower, she climbs her mast and dares it to destroy her. No where is safe. Might as well give epilepsy the finger.

Her bravery has been a surprise since she was small. Doctors expected to drug her for certain procedures. “No need.” I told them. She sat quietly watching or lay in the tunnels with her eyes on me as machines examined her insides. Her bravery was a blessing. It forced me be brave or at least pretend to be brave.

Reposting of Chapter 7: The First Neurologist will be on Saturday, June 12.

Reposted Chapter 2: Fevers and Seizures

Rose had many ear infections that were usually accompanied by fevers. Unfortunately, these fevers sometimes caused more febrile(with fever)seizures. We were vigilant about taking her temperature anytime she was sick. If her temperature was elevated, we gave her a children’s liquid form of an NSAID(non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). We tried diligently to prevent her fevers from getting high enough to possibly cause a seizure. We attributed her problem to a faulty thermostat. No fevers, would mean no seizures… we thought.
Over the next three years after her initial seizure in the pediatrician’s office, Rose had twelve more febrile seizures. These were always scary. It seemed as though we just couldn’t prevent them even though we tried to intervene with over-the-counter medications. We began to suspect that there was another cause of these events than just fevers.
I began wondering if these seizures originated from a source that was always present, not just something related to or caused by fever and illness. Was there something in her brain causing these? Maybe a lesion,or tumor, or chemical imbalance? When would this end? All children get sick, but most don’t have seizures accompanying illnesses.
I began to feel that the cause was lurking somewhere in Rose, waiting until she was weakened. I suspected that this was no visitor that showed up with illnesses and fevers; this was a resident. I constantly watched for flushed skin and chin twitches.
I did some research. I read all about febrile seizures. No one mentioned the word epilepsy. It crossed my mind, but not my lips. Not my child. It was these ear infections. If we could get them under control, things would be fine. An Ear,Nose and Throat- specialist, that’s what we needed. Get some tubes in those ears so they could drain, the infections would clear, the fevers would stop. Voila!

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

Later on there were some suspicious incidents that did not involve fevers. Rose referred to them as “tornadoes in her mouth.” I did not know anything about partial seizures. I had never researched epilepsy before. I did not want it to be epilepsy, so I ignored some signs. That’s called denial. Would my being more proactive have made any difference? No one can know. I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. When there were undeniable signs of something more, I jumped into action. When the doctor’s diagnosis was febrile seizures, nothing countered that. I am not one to borrow trouble.

Fevers and Seizures: Then and Now will be posted on Wednesday, May

Follow Rose diaper to dorm room.

https://bookauthority.org/books/new-epilepsy-books

Hot Diaper: Then and Now

I have replayed this memory many times, because it was the beginning. Would my handling it differently have lead us down a different path?

In my mind, I have watched my young-mother-self over and over. Young me panicking and running out of the house with hot little Rose, knowing only that I needed help. A mother and baby alone at home among the woods, down a long driveway, inside a locked gate.

What I see now is insecurity as a mother, fear as a care-giver and and a lack of confidence in handling a new problem. This is the surprise for me. I was a confident biology student and science teacher. Why was motherhood a game-changer?

My answer is that I am a person who has to be over-prepared to feel confident. I had years of training in biology and then additional years as a teacher. I felt prepared, so I was at ease in those roles. I did read books on parenting and talk to other mothers, but I never relaxed when it came to the childcare issues. I always second guessed my decisions, thus the “Blame Game.” Maybe I will be a confident grandmother after all this experience. Ha!

Now that I have had decades to reflect on my mothering skills or lack of skills, I have come to the conclusion that I did my best with the best intentions. No mom could love her children more than I love my two. Even though I could have handled this first seizure in many different ways, I always come back to the same conclusion…

that I am glad this event occurred in the pediatrician’s office where I had a nurse’s and doctor’s assistance for this first of many traumatic seizures.

So… Hi, Ho! Let it go!

Seizure Mama

Dear Parents: Then and Now

I wrote the letter to parents last. I wanted any parent who picked up this book to immediately sense empathy. I wanted them to know that we as parents recorded our experiences honestly and even ignorantly. We did not have all the answers. Nobody did.

I wanted to send a message of hope to anyone desperate and scared enough to read a book with the words seizure and epilepsy on the front cover. I hoped our stories to be like a remote friend that had been where the reader was, having conversations about our common experiences.

This is not pleasure reading, it is desperate, panicked reading. I remember when I started looking for anything that might help us. We were grasping for any straws that might lead to a better treatment. No drugs had worked. We had many side effects, but no progress.

I also wanted to let the parents know that a cure may not be in the cards. This was a giant pill for us to swallow. We kept searching for a magic drug only to discover there were bad drugs and worse drugs and possibly no drug that would control Rose’s seizures. Our search for an effective combination took twenty years.

We were fortunate to find the right treatment only because we never stopped searching and we had a neurologist who refused to give up on Rose. If you have not found the right neurologist, keep searching. Giving up gets you nowhere.

This may take over your life for a while. Save a tiny part separate. For me, it was my garden. It was always waiting for me to shed my role as Seizure Mama and return to being the Flower. My garden has saved my soul and sanity over and over again when everything else fell apart.

Get yourself a little life raft to hold on to and keep you busy during the storms. A purposeful hobby that your troubled mind can escape to., to take your thoughts somewhere else besides epilepsy. I have sewn hundred of masks through the pandemic to curb my fears. I could not stop the virus, but I could help protect people I knew from getting it.

I want to highlight that your role as a parent is a supporting role. You do props and costumes and stay behind the curtain. You do not have epilepsy, your child does. Make them face it. Make them handle it. Make them own it.

They will need every scrap of strength and perseverance to get through this life with epilepsy. They must practice being tenacious and tough. They must develop their superpower of going it alone and fighting their own battles.

Getting back up is the tough part, but that is when the magic happens.

Seizure Mama