- 2 may
I pulled over to the curb of the drop-off zone in the school parking lot this morning, turned to Amy in the back seat and said, "Okay, see you at 2:35."
She had a slight smile on her face, almost mischievous, as if to hint that she was playing a game by not getting out of the car. "C'mon, Amy, time for school." Still just the smile, her eyebrows perked up. "Amy..." She simply looked out the car window as if she didn't hear me. Her expression said she was about to say something funny, her lips about deliver some punch line, but they just sort of quivered a little, and then I realized it.
This was the onset of another seizure.
I said her name a few more times and asked if she could hear me.
"Say something!" I pleaded.
She couldn't. Then the rhythmic spasms began. She tightened up and began convulsing. I got out of the driver's seat, and ran around to open her door, undo her seatbelt, and lay her down on her left side in the back seat.
Meanwhile, cars are pulling in behind us and ahead, dozens of kids and moms are moving past, three feet from us, and no one notices. This is a good thing, insofar as it could be an incident of embarrassing notoriety for Amy, something a few kids would witness and then later recount with exaggeration and drama over a hot lunch or out at the monkey bars. But it was also interesting that with this proximity no one asked if she was okay. I hope no one noticed. If I had called for help I know someone would have been there for us, but I do wonder if anyone saw, knew, and just kept moving. Which, I guess, is actually okay too.
I don't know to what degree my daughter is conscious during these episodes. I'm hoping it's a complete blackout, or at least an overwhelming fuzziness that keeps her from being too aware of her own condition. Her spasms continued for about five to eight minutes during which she appeared to be having a vivid dream - her jaw clenching, the rapid eye movement behind almost-closed lids. Her throat gurgled with convulsions. This is always the most difficult aspect, wondering if she's going to vomit and aspirate it.
I monitored her breathing. It was good and steady. I let her go through it, reassuring her quietly that she was doing fine, that it would be over soon. After what seemed like a very long time, but what was probably only three or four more minutes, her spasms subsided and she was just very groggy. She still could not speak or respond affirmatively in any way, but she was able to sit up now, and in fact preferred that. The crowd behind us was gone now. The bell had rung, the kids were in their classrooms, and the parents had dispersed.
I retrieved my cell phone from the front passenger seat and dialed Viv at her office.
At moments like these I can almost smell the event being burned into my memory. The visuals are movie-like and framed with self-awareness.
I explained to Viv that we were in the school parking lot, that Amy was having a seizure, and that it seemed to be going okay, or at least it was following the course that books and pamphlets and doctors had told us it probably would. I told her Amy was sitting up and that we'd be going home pretty soon. Viv said she'd contact Amy's neurologist at Children's Hospital and get back to me with any recommendations.
I strapped Amy back into the seat. As I got behind the wheel, my imagination flashed to a scenario of me being the driver of the Kennedy limousine in the Dallas motorcade. I accelerated faster than usual out of the parking lot, my mirror askew to keep an eagle eye on Amy who was drowsy but no longer convulsing. Just ahead was the intersection of decision; I turn left and it's three blocks to the emergency room, a right turn gets me back home.
I turned right.
I could see her nodding off as we drove home, the warm sunlight, then shadow, then sun again moving across her face as we rode through the curving residential streets. I wondered what she was feeling, what she was thinking, if she was thinking. I called her name a few times on the ride home to open her eyes and bring her back upright and not have her hanging down across the shoulder belt.
In four minutes we were home. I picked her up and carried her to the porch. I set her down on her feet and held her up with my left arm around her body as I fished for my keys with my right. As I opened the door, she vomited onto the welcome mat. I tried to hurry us in so that I could lay her down inside instead of on the cold cement of the porch. We didn't quite make it to the linoleum of the kitchen before she vomited again. Now I picked her up and carried her to the kitchen, swung her legs out and laid her on her side. I held her head in my arms as she threw up a couple more times.
After a few minutes, things subsided. As I write this now, I remember thinking, knowing, there was going to be a journal entry here, one way or another, sometime or another, and wondered at what point I'd be able to write the words "things subsided."
So things subsided there in the kitchen. I helped her to sit up. She stayed there, cross-legged on the floor, as I grabbed a roll of paper towels and started to clean up the linoleum. I offered a box of tissues to Amy and, to my relief, she was able to nod and grab one to wipe her nose and chin clean.
Viv called and said she was coming home. That felt good.
I guided Amy over to the open sofa bed in the living room, laid her back to remove her wet clothes, and then put her under the covers. I turned on the television. Then came a moment of truth -- I asked her what channel she wanted.
"62" she said.
Ahh. Her brain was on the way back. She could speak again.
It had been a harrowing 45 minutes.
Now it's 1:30pm. Amy's had a nap, Viv is home and making soup, and I'm walking around trying to make as many normal sounds as I can. Something in me figures if I make all the right noises and all the right moves our lives can get back on track without having to summon all the king's doctors and all the king's men.
But y'know, now that I think about it, we're not off the track. This is just where our train goes.
"Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound" -- Nanci Griffith -- OTHER VOICES/OTHER ROOMS
"What happens to all the tears we do not shed?"
- Jules Renard