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

The Missing Stories

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

 

The Long Haul

I have been reading books about publishing books.

Sometimes I want to throw up my hands and run back to my garden.

More time and effort is needed than I want to invest.

But this is not a vanity memoir.

This is not just Rose’s story.

It is the story of our family navigating the epilepsy journey together

and coming out the other side whole.

I know folks that need our stories which mirror their own.

I will keep struggling to maintain a balance between our present and our past.

We know there is someone out there that needs us.

We will hold fast for the long haul

and stay the course.

So our stories will keep coming.

Slowly but surely.

Seizure Mama/Flower Roberts

The Art Stayed

Rose was home bound several times during her twelve years of public school.  It was during these periods that we saw her academic struggles up close.

She would go from knowing her multiplication tables to not remembering them, but the art stayed.

Rose could spell words one week and forget them the next, but the art stayed.

She would read a story and forget the names of the main characters, but the art stayed.

When everything else seemed to be flushed from her brain by seizures and side effects, she could still mix a perfect flamingo pink paint and create beauty with her shaky hands.

There were times when we gave up on academics and just did art.

When nothing would go in, the art still came out.

Her teachers were understanding through these roller coaster rides.

When she was stuck in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit for days at a time, Rose made hotmats. She asked the healthcare workers which colors they wanted and custom made them for people. It was a great way to keep her busy. The nurses and staff thought it was super cute.

When the academic struggles get to be too much for your child,

draw their spelling words, make a math collage, make up a story…

Sometimes it is better to pause than to pass.

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

I am a former teacher. I knew how important it was for Rose to not fall behind in school.  I also knew how unimportant it was for Rose to fall behind in school.

While she was home bound in grades 3 and 4, her teachers and I refused to frustrate her by pushing the curriculum. One of her teachers said it was like trying to teach a blind person colors.

We worked to keep her moving forward in any way that worked. Art always worked. It was also a way to reassure all of us that Rose was still in there, through all the seizures and side effects.

They could have been terrible times, but we did not let them be terrible. Sometimes you have to let go of the agenda and go with the flow.

Seizure Mama/Flower Roberts

Epilepsy Blog Relay Post: June 23, 2019

 

 

The Technology Tumor

Long before the rest of the population was hooked up to technology,

Seizure Mama was wired.

My first two technology tumors were a beeper and bag phone.

For you young people, a bag phone back then weighed about thirteen pounds.

It was the size of an encyclopedia.

If there was an emergency with Rose,

the beeper went off with the number of the person who called.

I would unzip my “encyclopedia” and call them back.

I carried this phone in a giant purse or backpack everywhere I went.

When I want to whine about having to wear a little pack with my phone in it now,

all I have to do is think back to the beeper and bag phone days.

That shuts Mama right up.

Seizure Mama

Story #8: Preschool for Two

After the series of seizures in the hospital, drug 2D was weaned down and replaced with drug 3S. This new drug was sprinkled onto pudding or peanut butter. The new set of side effects to watch for were hair loss, increased appetite, and learning issues. Well, at least her gums were safe now!
Rose’s birthday is in October so she was either going to be older than her classmates or much younger. Since she was small and had health issues, we had chosen to keep her in preschool an extra year before starting public school. We were glad that we had done this in view of all these ear infections, drug transitions, and seizures. I wore a beeper on my belt at this point. I would drop her off at preschool and go walk at a park down the road or visit grocery store located just across the highway. I was never more than two minutes away. Rose and I were tethered together out of my fear. These Mother’s Morning Out days of preschool were our only break from each other.
Our family loved this preschool. We knew all the teachers well since Rose’s older brother had attended there a few years earlier. The one person on the staff who was not my friend at the time was the director. She was gruff and blunt. She said what she thought without any sweet Southern filter.
When Ms. B heard about Rose’s surgery and the following series of seizures, she phoned us. She informed us that the church preschool could not be responsible for handling medical emergencies. The teachers were not trained for these. Rose was a liability risk. This was hurtful to us, but I also understood it. Rose’s teachers truly loved her and if anything happened to her on their watch, they would have been devastated. By law, public schools have to accommodate students with special needs, but churches do not.
Our options were to pull Rose out of her preschool or have me stay in the building every day while she was there. We were not going to tell Rose at the tender age of five that she was not welcome back into her beloved preschool because of her seizures. Instead I simply stayed at the church every day. The staff knew that I was upstairs in an empty room near the director’s office. I was only a shout away if needed. I read books and studied. Other mothers and teachers dropped by for visits. The director came by to check on me. I began helping her out with needed tasks. Then I cataloged all the children’s books and repaired them. I even substituted when other teachers were sick.
The experience was good for all involved. Rose got to stay in school and her teachers did not need to worry because I was close by. The director and I became good friends.
When Ms. B would drop by to check on me everyday, sometimes I shared my worries. Once when I was obsessing about an upcoming event, she said, “Don’t cross the Fox until you cross the Fox.” She then went on to share that this was some advice from Abraham Lincoln. Apparently there was a Fox River. As folks traveled toward the river they worried about whether the river was up too high or moving too fast to get across. Lincoln was reminding folks to wait and “cross that bridge when you get there.”
Once Ms. B caught me crying. I was overwhelmed by all the hoops we were having to jump through to get help for Rose. She looked into my eyes and asked, “How do you eat an elephant?”and then answered, “One mouthful at a time.”
Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

Forcing the responsibility for your child’s safety onto others is not fair to them or to your child. If your child’s seizures can be dangerous or even life-threatening, you want a willing and competent person in charge of his/her care. You must be an advocate and an assistant. People fear what they do not understand. You must educate the people around your child about epilepsy. Yes, there is a stigma. There will be some shunning. But if you confidently share information with others, there will be no surprise,or public revelation to dread. We were always open about Rose’s epilepsy. This is so much better that trying to guard it like a secret. Be brave and honest. Would you hide your child’s asthma or diabetes? Of course not. Then do not hide this condition. There should be no shame. If your child senses your shame, he/she will feel ashamed of it,too. Do not hand them a handicap.