In July 2009 while in my first trimester of pregnancy, I started having unexplained seizures. This is part 3 of the series that recounts that time. Read the previous entries here:
We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty wet with rain
And I will never never never grow so old again
It’s been difficult writing this part of the series, covering the hospital stay and weeks to follow. Like I’ve said before, I remember very little. And the pieces I do remember don’t follow any logical time sequence. Through my few memories and Tony’s written account, I’ve tried to make some sense of it.
Despite my hazy memory, I very clearly recall the ambulance ride from our local hospital to Beth Israel in Boston. I wanted Tony to ride with me, but he needed to drive so that he would have a vehicle in the city. I asked the doctors if I could go with him in the car, but I still needed to be monitored closely. So it was just me and the nice 12-year-old boy pretending to be an EMT in the back of the ambulance. He was sweet. Not much of a talker, which was fine with me. I felt old, pregnant, and quite content to just lie there quietly with my hands folded over my tummy.
This ride was much different than the one from earlier that night. It was calm, smooth, and unhurried, although we made it into town quickly. It was a Saturday morning and the highway was empty. The sun was just rising on a clear day. I couldn’t see much outside the windows, being horizontal like I was. But I could see the way the sun sparkled off the tops of buildings of the Boston skyline. Orange, gold, silver, iridescent and shimmery. It was beautiful and so peaceful.
That drive was like being in the eye of the storm. Coming out of hours of total chaos and heading into much of the same. A brief respite at dawn. I breathed it in like fresh air. I wished it were a little longer so I could enjoy the quiet.
I was taken to the emergency room at BI, back into the storm. Nobody was sure where I was going to land. Obstetrics? Neurology? The big debate of the day. Tony was already there waiting for me as I was rolled into a ‘room’ in the ER, which consisted of a corner with a curtain around it. These busy big city hospitals are short on space, I guess. Doctors came in and out, asking loads of questions. I deferred to my husband much of the time, something I would become very used to doing.
I was happy to see my mom arrive. She carried her purse and a plastic shopping bag full of the essentials, tissues and mints and magazines. Always prepared, my mum. My sisters arrived soon after. I was glad to have familiar faces around. But they all looked tired and worried and I just wanted people to stop. Guys, it’s okay. I’m fiiiine. I truly felt that there was no reason to worry. It was a fluke. A crazy weird fluke. I ate something bad, is all. This business, all this fuss is just silly!
Of course, I didn't see myself on the floor the night before. The convulsing and the blood. Fighting with the EMTs as they tried to help. Perhaps 'silly' isn't the word my husband would use to describe the situation.
None of the doctors or nurses could tell us exactly what had happened or why. But they had a plan. They would perform every test they could think of. And so it started. Blood tests, motor, memory, and reflex tests, lumbar puncture (yeah, it was about as pleasant as it sounds), MRIs, EKGs, EEGs… The works. The only thing they weren’t able to do was a cat scan, which is not baby safe. I’m cooking this baby just fine on my own, thankyouverymuch.
When I was in one of the more time consuming tests, Tony was able to step out with his mom, dad, and sister for a bite to eat. I imagine he needed (and deserved) a break. I learned recently that this was the time his wall broke down. Always the picture of strength and support for me, he could finally let go of all his worries and fears. Spill it out on a cafeteria table with his family there to hold him up. They listened and hugged him as he let it all out.
“It’s going to be okay,” they assured. He didn’t know if it was true. But he felt better.
At some point in between one test or another, I was finally moved into a room in the neurology unit. Since the baby was fine (can I get a hallelujah?), they would focus on this noggin of mine, :knock knock:. I was relieved to be in a real room. I hated the feeling of being in limbo. Either put me somewhere or send me home, ya know?
I was settled in the room after a long, crazy day. The rest of the family had left and Tony stayed by my side. I was exhausted. My whole body was sore from the fall, and my mind needed the escape of some cheesy sitcom. We lay curled up together in my hospital bed watching TV. Tony is always warm and he made it feel like we were home in that stiff, starch white bed. It didn’t take long for me to drift off in his arms.
He told me later on that he was scared to go to sleep that night. Any movement I made in my sleep would cause him to tense up with anxiety, reliving the night before.
At midnight Tony was awoken by another one of my movements. But this time I was not just shifting my weight in my sleep. I was convulsing. He thought he was having a nightmare at first. When he realized what was happening, he hit the call button and yelled that I was having a seizure. A nurse came in and the two of them turned me onto my side. All they could do was wait it out. It lasted about a minute, just like the last time.
I remember nothing of that incident or the rest of the night to come. I’ve been told I was in a fog for a while, came out of it for a few minutes, and then went back to sleep.
Tony barely slept. He sat in the chair next to my bed and watched my every breath, dozing off here and there.
That morning at around 6am, the nightmare continued. Another seizure. Tony jumped to his feet and ran to the door to find help, almost knocking down my neurologist, Dr. K, who was on her way in. The two of them again moved me to my side and waited for it to be over. Dr. K saw most of my third seizure, as well as the emotional reaction of my husband to all the stress. Tony is a very reasonable, together person. But this was too much. He had watched his pregnant wife have three violent, unexplained seizures in a 26-hour period and nobody could tell him why or how to fix it. Dr. K helped calm him down and assured him that they were going to take care of me. She told him how strong he was being for me and for our baby.
I go back and forth all the time on whether I believe in God or a higher power. But I believe something sent Dr. K to my room at the exact right moment. She was there to witness my seizure first-hand, enabling her to better treat my condition. And she was able to be there for my husband in a way that only an outsider, someone emotionally removed from the situation can be. I dunno… Maybe it was just a coincidence that she was walking into my room at that precise moment. But either way… It seems like someone up there is looking out for us.
I remember waking up that morning to a gray day outside the window, Tony sitting in the chair next to my bed. I stretched and reached for his hand.
“Morning babe,” I said.
“Hey. How do you feel?”
“Fine. Tired. Sore.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“… Oh god… no.”
I was afraid to hear him say the words. I knew by looking at his face, but I didn’t want to hear it. Again? Seriously? No, no, no. I was angry. Pissed off at my body, at my brain, at the world. What the hell is going on?
When I found out that there were two more seizures that night, my anger turned to legitimate concern. All along I had been worried about the baby and my husband and putting everyone out with all this nonsense. But it finally hit me. Something might really be wrong.
I know, I know… One random massive seizure wasn’t enough to make me concerned for myself. It took three. Everyone has their limit, I guess.
Now both Tony and I were praying and pleading for someone to just make the damn seizures stop. We could only hope that Dr. K had the answers.
Continued in Part 4...