2001 was unequivocally the most emotional and challenging year for my family. I turned 40 in April of that year, and looking back it was such a tumultuous year. By December of that year we were preparing for the holidays, trying to get through the emotion of the year so far, and then our life path was thrown on a whole new curve- Again!
My daughter Hilary, was 14 in 2001. Hilary was in high school, I was working full-time, Bryan was in 7th grade, and Naomi was staying at home with Zach during the day. On this typical weekday we were all getting ready for school and work at the same time to get out the door by 7am. Hilary was in my bedroom heading into the shower, brushing out her hair, and them bam! She fell to the floor and was having a full-blown grand mal, epileptic seizure. I was able to get her on her side, and screamed for Naomi to dial 911. I was panicked. It seemed like Hil’s seizure lasted for 10 minutes, everything just seemed to be going in slow motion, and I thought the seizure would never end. I remember being so worried that she would choke before the paramedics could get there.
During this whole scene Bryan is in his bedroom with Zach keeping him calm, and Naomi is on the phone with 911 while we wait for the paramedics to arrive. Finally the firemen and paramedics arrive, and wheel the huge gurney down our hallway to get Hilary into the ambulance. By the time she left the house in the ambulance for the hospital Hilary was awake, but not very alert. And to this day she does not remember much about that morning, except bits and pieces of the ambulance ride to the hospital. One other note here, Hilary had a few episodes of not feeling good, and not remembering things prior to this first seizure that we witnessed. We’re fairly certain she had at least one other seizure while getting ready to go out somewhere and no one heard her fall in the bathroom.
Now for a little history on Hilary’s medical condition. When Hilary was four years old she was diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy. This type of epilepsy causes a person to loss complete awareness of their surroundings, kind of like a black out without passing out and falling to the ground. We used to call them “fade outs”. Hilary was medicated with depakote, and this took care of the “fade outs”. At age nine she was backed off of the medication at my request and under the direction of her doctor, and we did not observe any additional “fade outs”. One of my most vivid memories of this time was taking Hilary to the neurologists office for an EEG when she was four years old. She had the curliest hair in the west, and when they put the sticky stuff in her hair to attach the electrodes I thought, “Oh no how will we ever get that mop of curls clean?” Also, I was 8.75 months pregnant at the time with Zach.
So why would Hilary have a grand mal seizure at age 14? The doctors could not answer that question, except to say that her brain activity is in overdrive 24/7. Hilary was in the ER for a good part of the morning, and she was released to go home and rest. They put her on depakote right away, and the levels of the medication in her system would be monitored every three months or so. I was so devastated, upset, and emotional I couldn’t see straight. I never, ever expected Hilary’s epilepsy to return. Another one of my kids with a chronic condition, and she will now be on medication forever.
How could all of this be happening to one family? Why?
My family and friends were so very supportive during this time. They helped to give me the strength to make it from one day to the next. I remember many phone conversations with my sister just telling me to breathe. Quite frankly I just wanted this year to end, and get on to 2002. I was definitely looking forward to the New Year.
Hilary had great success with the depakote and only suffered one other seizure,in July of 2003. The second seizure did not require a hospital visit. We knew what to do to help Hilary, and thankfully we were all at home with her when this one happened. Knowing what we know now, Hilary believes this second seizure was triggered by the amount of intense physical activity from her volleyball training program. She can tell now when she needs to back off a little bit when she is working out.
Hilary’s main challenges with her epilepsy have been; getting her license (she had to have the doctors ok), and trying to remain “normal” even though her livelihood now depends on a daily medication. She has had her fair share of ups and downs emotionally staying on her meds, and going to the doctor as directed. It has taken a long time for her and Zach to commiserate with each other on what they go through on a daily basis to stay active and healthy. I think they didn’t want to burden each other. But as they are now both in their 20’s they are starting to realize they have their own little support network at home.
Finally 2001 was coming to a close. I know for myself at the time I just needed to keep looking forward, that’s how I stayed positive. Of course there was some reflection on what we had gone through. But by the end of December we were all doing ok. Zach was getting the medical attention he needed. Hilary was on her meds, and doing fine. Emotionally we were all still suffering, but we just took one day at a time, and I had to be the cheerleader for the kids. They needed positives everyday, otherwise how would they learn to survive. That is probably the single, biggest lesson that the kids learned.
In life there are always, always obstacles thrown in your path. How you choose to deal with those obstacles is what ultimately determines your survival. You can choose the “poor me” route, or you can choose the “what’s the one thing I can do today” route, and forge ahead each and every day. I, as you can probably tell, chose the latter. I have always been a positive, upbeat person. I would rather focus on the road that lies ahead of me, and not be looking back over my shoulder for the “what ifs”. I’m so pleased to have finally shared the story of our 2001 Life Curves. It is my hope and dream that our story will help other families push through any obstacles thrown in their path, and just forge on through for survival.