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.

Broken Jaw Birthday

Story #30 in the book.

I was called over the intercom in my classroom on Rose’s birthday. The message was “Get to the high school.  She’s in the gym.” I zoomed to my car and drove across the street. I cried on the way. Really? On her birthday? Can we not have this special day without a seizure?
I arrived to find Rose on the hard, wooden gym floor with a stranger’s sweatshirt under her head. It was covered in blood. The other students looked sad and afraid. I tried to put on my ‘brave mama’ face, but I am sure my red eyes told the truth.
I forget how I got her to the car. I am sure it involved a rolling chair and handing my car keys to someone I barely knew to drive my car to the curb. Trauma does some memory editing. My only memory is of her bloody face and swollen jaw.
I drove Rose to the Emergency Room. This was one of those times when I put on a comedy routine in the hospital. Rose was my straight-man sidekick. She was a real diva. She demanded warm blankets and bigger pillows. I remember asking the nurse if she realized that there was a ‘Princess Patient’ in her care. Rose did not think my hysteria was funny. I think the nurse was afraid of us both.
Her jaw was x-rayed. The results were said to show no break, but you could look at her and tell that was not true. No point in arguing with an x-ray. After the x-ray came the stitches.
Before the work began, there were those awful numbing shots. Poor Rose handled them like a champ, despite her diva-ness. Her chin had a inch-long split just underneath her lower jaw, right in the middle. An amazing doctor made tiny, perfect stitches as though he were quilting. I was amazed at his skill and precision. I told Rose that I wished she could watch him working. She would have been fascinated.
So this is how Rose spent her birthday that year, getting x-rays and stitches. No party, no pity.

Seizure Mama Speaks Now

Rose’s jaw really was broken despite the x-ray results. This lead to TMJ (temporomandibular disorder) later. Our suspicions were confirmed weeks afterward by her orthodontist. She also had crushing of some roots of teeth in her lower jaw.
I want to point out how important it is to pay attention to everything that goes on in a hospital, even if you are squeamish. I watched every stitch by this doctor. I appreciated his skill and carefulness. He knew that he was working on a young girl’s face. He wanted to make sure the scar would be minimal.
This was not the case with Rose’s last experience with stitches. I knew they were being done haphazardly by a Physician’s Assistant. I joked that we would like thirteen stitches because that was Rose’s lucky number. She should have gotten thirteen tiny stitches instead of the eight big ones she received. This injury was particularly bad. I really did feel faint as I watched, but faked my way through, again.
The stitch-witchery was confirmed by a doctor who worked in dermatology during the follow-up appointment. The stitches were too big, too tight and too far apart. Thankfully the cut was on her arm, not her face. The wound did not heal properly and the scar has widened. It looks like a three-inch-long fish skeleton, minus the head and tail. This story will probably be near the end of this book. It’s hard to finish this thing when the stories keep on coming.