Shortly after I turned 1, my mother was holding me in her arms while I burned through a fever. Suddenly, my eyes rolled back, and my body began moving rhythmically. I was having a seizure. While my father held me, my mother ran frantically to the house of a neighbour, who was a registered nurse. My father has told me that, while he held me, I stopped breathing. My mother returned with the neighbour, Vedra, who took control of the situation and, before long, I began breathing again and recovered.
A few months later, I had another seizure. It was my brother’s birthday, and my family was planning to go out for dinner, but I had a fever and my mother suggested that my father and brother go out without us. I began having the seizure and, again, Vedra came to the house and I recovered.
It was the last seizure I had. I do not have epilepsy and the seizures were febrile, meaning that they were caused by a high fever. It’s not an uncommon thing to happen to young children, who sometimes lag in developing the nervous system mechanisms to effectively control body temperature.
When my son was born, I was a worried that the problem might be genetic. Every time he had a fever, I was terrified that it would happen to him. What would I do? During my first seizure, I stopped breathing. Without a combination of several factors, I very likely would not have started breathing again, and what if my son wasn’t so lucky?
Today, I am thankful for a lot of things. First, I am thankful for timing. I had the seizures while I was being held by a parent and both my parents were present. My second seizure happened just as my father was about to leave the house. A few minutes later and my mom might have been alone, and I might not have fared so well, because it would be hard for one person both to respond to my needs in the moment and also seek help. When my son had his fevers, I kept thinking: what if he has a seizure while he’s in bed? He could stop breathing and I would never even know.
Second, I am thankful that my parents had the sense to run for help. I think my mother rebukes herself for not really knowing what to do (I always say that perpetual guilt about one’s children is a sign of a good parent) but, really, which of us thinks straight when we perceive our children are in danger? Once, while camping with Gregory (my eldest) and my friend Sarah, I asked Gregory several times not to walk along the seat of the picnic table, because I had the Coleman stove running, boiling water, and I was worried he might fall and either knock the pot of boiling water on himself, or set himself on fire. Moments later, while he started walking along the bench again, he fell, with his arm hitting the stove. That was when I made a complete departure from sense, which is a nice way of saying I went nuts. I started alternating between screaming at him about needing to listen, and hugging him and asking him if he was alright. He was perfectly fine, but in my mind, I had already decided he had burned himself, and I was panicking. In the case of my seizures, I think that having the good sense to run to a neighbour who could handle the situation was the best anyone could expect.
Third, I am thankful that a registered nurse lived nearby, and that Vedra was able to help. She is one of those every day heroes I like to talk about in this blog.
Without all of these things, I don’t know that I would be alive today, and that is certainly cause for gratitude.