On Sunday evening, my husband, Dean, had a seizure.
We were home alone having a lazy Sunday after a very fun and exhausting week. We had celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Tuesday the 25th, gone to a concert that Dean had bought me tickets for as a birthday gift on that Friday and the previous evening had been to a house party hosted by Dean's former roommates, the place he had lived before we were married, who were all moving because the house was scheduled to be demolished. We had stayed much later than we intended and slept in Sunday morning, but both felt fine.
If Dean seemed less inclined than normal to do anything, I attributed it to the fact that it was rainy, cold and gross outside, and maybe he WAS a little hungover and just didn't want to tell me. Dean has epilepsy, and takes a very low dosage medication, but hadn't had a seizure during the course of our entire relationship (well over four years). In fact his general practitioner had suggested that he might even be able to go off medication and his neurologist said that he was doing so well on such a low dosage that he didn't need to see him every year. Every two years would be fine. Epilepsy was the last thing anyone was thinking of.
I did my run inside on the treadmill and we watched two movies while I occasionally picked things up around the house. Jake, the cat, was unusually annoying. He wouldn't sit with us to watch the movies and kept continually yelling at us. He had food, he had water, we couldn't figure it out. When he wasn't screaming at us, he was sitting on the coffee table in front of me, staring at me intently as if I should be doing something differently. It wasn't until later that I thought maybe he knew what was coming before we did. Finally, I suggested we get started cooking for the rest of the week and Dean agreed. We have a comedy podcast we like to listen to while we're cooking and Dean cued it up. I began sorting out ingredients (we were going to try a new quinoa salad recipe from a magazine I had) and Dean grabbed a clean glass and went over to the freezer to fill it with ice.
I was looking at a bag of quinoa and our measuring cup and something funny was said on the podcast. In my peripheral vision, I saw Dean strike a pose in reaction to the joke (at least that's how my brain registered it at the time) then the glass in his hand smashed Mazel Tov fashion onto the floor. My eyes went to the glass (dramatic, I thought) then to Dean who had started flailing, moaning and falling to the left and backwards.
I heard myself yell, "Dean! Dean!!! DEAN!!!!" as if someone else was yelling it.
You're on your own, get it done.
I ran to stabilize his head. During the first show we did together, where we met, there was a strobe effect in one scene. Dean explained to all of us that contrary to popular belief, there is only a very specific strobe frequency that generally triggers seizures and manufacturers are careful to avoid this frequency. His medication was also supposed to regulate him, but as a fail safe, he and the stage manager demoed for the entire cast the correct way to stabilize someone during a seizure to hopefully keep them from biting their tongue or hurting their head. He was already so rigid that I wasn't able to do exactly as they demoed, but I did my best (his glasses were somehow still on his face, but askew, I snatched them off and put them in my pocket) and then began counting out loud. "One... two... three..."
At some point during our relationship, I had done my own reading up on seizures. Just in case. My best friend from back home, Natasha, had once discussed with me how we shared a similar outlook. We're both optimistic disaster planners. We plan for the worst possible outcome, then once prepared, hope for the best and get on with enjoying things. I had read up on seizures not really ever expecting to see one. But I knew that the length should be recorded and if it was longer than five minutes it was more serious. As I counted to fifty, Dean seemed to stop convulsing. I rolled him to one side and stuck my hand near his nose to reassure myself that he was breathing. (He was. Very obviously so, I don't know why I felt the need to check.)
He was unconscious. I held him on his side and vacillated for a nanosecond about which of his parents to call first. I decided on his dad. I had never seen Eldon flustered. I was feeling very flustered. He answered the phone with a cheery, "Hey!" I launched in, "Dean just had a seizure. It lasted fifty seconds. Do I need to call an ambulance?" He said, "Okay. Did he hit his head?" "I don't think so." "If he didn't hit his head and you're not far from the hospital, I don't think you need an ambulance if you can get someone to take you." "Right. Right. I'll call Charles." "Okay, I'll call Cheri." I hung up. I called Charles. Man of Honor at our wedding and best Chicago friend who I always call in times of crisis (and times of joy. And sometimes just to catch up.) Charles didn't answer. I called Mike (also in my wedding party and the recipient of a few calls of varying severity). Mike answered. "Hey!" "Dean had a seizure. I need to get him to the hospital." He had to have me slow down and repeat myself. I have no idea how fast I was talking. "Jaime's here with his truck, I'll send him, there's no way you'd get him into my car." "Okay."
At some point I turned the podcast off. I don't remember if it was before or after I made the calls. Dean started to regain consciousness. "Are you okay? Does anything hurt?" He stared blankly at me. I got up and began throwing away the big chunks of glass. Neither of us were wearing shoes. His mom, Cheri, called. I started explaining what had happened and what the plan was while throwing away chunks of glass and occasionally running back over to Dean to check on him. Charles called and I got off the phone with her, saying I would call again from the hospital. He said he was on his way with Jaime (they had all been together with Mike when I called) and I told him that they were going to have to come upstairs to help me get him down to the car. "The lights are on, but nobody's home," I said as I looked at Dean and he stared blankly back at me. He said they were seconds away.
I began throwing things into a bag while occasionally passing by Dean and assuring him that I was still here and tossing chunks of glass into the garbage. My keys. My phone. My wallet. His phone. I couldn't find his wallet and decided that my insurance card would have to do. At some point during this Dean pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall. I ran over and asked if anything hurt. He said no. I held up a pair of his shoes and told him Jaime and Charles were coming to take us to the hospital and could he put these shoes on? "Yeah," he said in a what-a-stupid-question tone of voice. I left the shoes next to him. He made no move to attempt putting them on.
Once Charles and Jaime came up, I led them into the kitchen where Dean was still sitting blankly on the floor. A small pink puddle where his head had been during the seizure told me that I was not as successful as I would have liked in preventing him from biting his tongue. (PSA, you’re never supposed to stick anything into the mouth of someone who is seizing. They could bite you and/or break their teeth on a foreign object.)
Charles said, “Hey, man, what’s up?” And Dean responded, “hey…” In what sounded like an attempt at a normal voice, but was kind of slurry. Somehow they got him up and Charles pulled Dean’s arm around his shoulders and guided him out of the kitchen. He sat him down on the couch and I wedged his shoes onto his feet, threw a coat across his shoulders (I had held it up and asked him if he could put it on and he stared blankly at me, so I instantly vetoed that idea) and we got him over to the door. Charles and Jaime guided him to the staircase and tried to encourage him to take a step down. He kept looking back at me. “Go ahead, go down,” I said, “I’m right behind you.” The first couple of steps were difficult, but then he seemed to get the hang of it. Still, it was one of those times were you curse being on the third floor. After getting down the steps, getting him into Jaime’s car was the next hurdle.
Charles told him he could hoist him up if he got one foot up, but Dean kept looking over his shoulder at me. I decided to run around the other side and encourage him to get in. That seemed to work better. I got him seat belted in and we were off. The hospital was only five minutes away, Dean went in and out of sleep during the ride. I tried to call Cheri back but it went to voice mail so I thought screw it, I’ll try again when we’re in the hospital. Once in front of the ER, Charles helped Dean down from the car and started to guide him in through the doors. Dean finally said his first complete sentence as he started to place where we were, “Is everything okay?” he asked Charles, as if wondering why we were headed into a hospital and who might it be that was in need of care. Charles cheerfully told him that everything was fine and that they were probably just going to want to shine a light in his eyes and check his vitals.
Jaime got Dean a wheelchair and there was some confusion as I was trying to check him in and the other staff started to just take him back into a room. I eventually was able to dash off after him.
Once in a room, I was able to help him get his shirt and hoodie off and get him into a hospital gown. They hooked him up to all of the beeping machines. I answered the first round of questions and then they turned to Dean to see how out of it he was. They asked his name and birthday and he got those right. The doctor asked if he knew where he was. “Well, basically,” he replied. She kind of smirked, “Okay, where are you?” “The hospital?” They asked what medication he took and he was actually able to answer. Neither of us remembered the dosage and I kicked myself for being such a crappy wife and why hadn’t I thought to bring the bottle with me? (I can tell you that I do indeed know the dosage now). She left saying that they were going to run some blood tests, and that they would give him a small dose of medication so that he didn’t seize while they were testing him, and something else that would probably make him sleepy, so go ahead and nap. Another doctor came in and asked mostly similar questions. He (and pretty much everyone we talked to) was surprised when we said it had been in the neighborhood of four to five years since Dean had experienced a seizure. He asked Dean if how he felt now was pretty much how he felt after all of his previous seizures and I kind of wondered how the hell he was supposed to know that, since he most likely wouldn’t remember this moment in the morning.
He asked Dean about his medication, and I said that I knew he hadn’t taken any that day. Dean said it had ‘been a while’ and I asked if he hadn’t taken any the day before, because I thought he had. The doctor asked if he had run out of the meds and Dean said yes. Thirty minutes later, Dean had no recollection of saying that, and said that he wasn’t out of his medication and he knew he had taken some on Saturday. (I checked when we got home, he had plenty left.)
“Okay, because you told the doctor that you were out.”
“Well… I mean I don’t have any here…”
I told him that Charles and Jaime were in the waiting room and asked if he remembered them coming to get him. He said he remembered waking up in the car. (He no longer remembers that.) He also sleepily asked, "Did Charles and Jaime sneak whiskey into the hospital?"
After that, we were alone for a few minutes and I discovered my phone had no signal. I asked if he would be okay while I went outside and updated the guys and tried to call his mom. He said yes and also mumbled that he loved me and thanked me for everything, which he did frequently during the next few hours. I went outside where Charles and Jaime had been joined by Mike and Dan. I told them that they were going to do some blood work and if that came back normal they would most likely send him home tonight. I borrowed Charles's phone to call Cheri. (During the call I noticed that my phone began to receive signal in the lobby, not in the back.) I updated her with what I knew and said I would call back once we knew more.
As soon as I went back someone was already back in the room asking him questions. I felt bad for being away and jumped in when I could. They gave him the promised meds and said someone would come back to take his blood soon. Dean asked me when his mom was coming. I told him that she had not said that she was coming. He said, "She'll come." He doesn't remember that.
Shortly afterward a very jovial woman came in to take Dean's blood. He remembers none of this but they bantered. She informed him that she was the lab and she was here to get his blood work. He said, "Fun times!" She said, "I don't know about that. I don't know if we're fun." She then commented on what great veins he had, to which he replied, "I get the job done." Every time they went to stick him with a needle Dean would look at it and start making a face, I would tell him he didn't need to look at it, that he could look at me, so he would look at me and make horrible faces. She asked if we needed anything else, we didn't, she left.
Up to this point, everything had happened so fast, I was like, this is the most amazing ER ever. But then there was a notable halt. Dean mostly slept. I mostly paced. I was afraid to leave him because he was so drowsy and obviously had no memory retention. Also, everything had been coming so quickly, I was worried that the moment I left, someone would come in with the results of his labs and I wouldn't be there to hear what they were. I also knew I should start subbing out my classes for the following day. I had no idea what Dean would be like and I had no idea what time we would get to bed. I wanted to update his family and our friends in the waiting room and my phone had no signal. I tried to log on to the wifi, but there was a password and I didn't have it. I tried going out into the hall to see if I could get signal anywhere and still retain a view of his door, but that was also a bust. Eventually, I told him that we should probably tell the guys that they could go home and we could let them know when we were released. He agreed. I still dithered for several minutes before finally heading out into the lobby again.
I told the guys that we were still waiting on blood work results and that I didn't know how long we would be if they wanted to head out. They said they were only five minutes away and we could call when we were ready to be picked up. We all gave hugs goodbye and they headed out. I took a few seconds while I was in the lobby to send quick emails to both gyms that I was scheduled to be at the following day requesting subs for my classes. I then sent a few texts updating family and went back. And waited.
Dean was mostly sleeping. When I came back in he asked me how long I thought it would take for his mom to get there. I reminded him again that she had not yet said she was coming. While he slept and I had no signal or wifi, there wasn't much for me to do. I went through my phone and reconstructed a time line of the evening based on when I had called who. I estimated we got him to the hospital in less than 20 minutes after he had the seizure. Not bad, considering it probably took at least five minutes to get his shoes on and another five to get him down the stairs.
Eventually another nurse came in with some medication for Dean. It was to replace what would have been his dose of meds for the day. She asked how he was feeling. He said, "I mean... all things considered, I guess I'm alright." He took the meds (dropping some en route which had to be recollected) and I asked about how long it would be before we got blood work. She looked at her computer screen and said some of the labs were still running so it could be a bit. She asked if we needed anything else and I asked her if I could have the wifi code so that I was able to clear my schedule for the following day. She gave that to me which alleviated a lot of the frustration of not being able to communicate.
I was able to get my classes subbed out (my managers stepped up at one club to say they would take over and get it done, such a relief) and start sending immediate updates and answer questions from family members. Dean's mom asked if we wanted her to come up.
Shortly after that, a final doctor arrived (this is the one Dean remembers, so he started remembering snatches about three hours after we got him to the hospital). She told Dean that the level of medication in his blood was low and that was probably the cause of the seizure. She asked a few more routine questions and told us that he needed to follow up with his primary and his neurologist the next day, but we were being released for the evening. She went away to complete the paperwork and I told Dean his mom had offered to come up. He said that if she felt like coming, she would be welcome. I texted her and told her that I was taking the following day off, but that he had been asking about her, so I was sure he would like it if she came. She said she was on her way.
Another nurse came in to help Dean out of all of the tubes and things. She asked if he wanted her to remove the four sticky things on his chest or if he would rather do it. He said he would do it. After she left I told him his mom was on his way and he threw up his hands in exasperation. As if he hadn't been asking for her the entire evening. (He doesn't remember that.) I started getting our things together and texted Mike to let him know we were released. I asked Dean if he wanted to take the sticky things off now or leave them. He said, "Let's leave 'em. Give mom a show." (He doesn't remember that.) I grabbed his shirts and saw him picking at the sticky things and asked if he wanted me to take them off for him. "You can do ONE." He said. I pulled one off as fast as I could, he winced and I reached for another. He dramatically covered himself like a woman disrobed, "I said you could have ONE!" (He doesn't remember that either.) It was nice to have him attempting to joke around anyway.
We got out into the lobby and called Charles and told him we were ready and my phone had signal. I had given Dean back his glasses and his phone. He made a Facebook update that he didn't remember making in the morning. Jaime and Charles picked us up and asked how we were doing. I said that Dean was doing pretty well and thought he could get up the stairs on his own. Charles said, "How about this, I'll walk behind you up the stairs just in case." Which is what he did, although when asked about it later, Dean thought both Charles and Jaime had walked him up the stairs.
I asked Dean if he wanted to be on the bed or the couch. He said the couch for now. I got him comfortable there and left him playing with his phone while I cleaned up the detritus in the kitchen. I had managed to get up more of the glass than I though, but swept up the entire floor. I had put down the measuring cup that I had been holding inside of a pot of water that I had been about to boil. There were vegetables everywhere. Little spots of water on the floor where the ice Dean had grabbed had gone flying. I cleaned it all up and decided that I would make the salad while I waited for Cheri. I called her and let her know that we were home and she said she was on the way and would probably get there at around 11pm. I also called my mom and updated her. Then I went back to check on Dean.
I asked how he was and he said he had a little headache and gave me his phone to show me a picture of something on it. I looked at it and responded appropriately to whatever it was. I asked if he wanted some water or food. He said no. I asked if he wanted to move to the bed, he said not now. I asked if he wanted his phone back or just to rest for a bit. He said he just wanted to rest, so I laid his phone on the arm of the couch next to him. I had put on some 'relaxing' music when we got in and asked if it was too loud. He said no. I left him there and put fresh sheets on the bed and made it up for when he wanted to be transferred. I put lavender in the aromatherapy diffuser in the bathroom and turned it on. I wanted everything to be as peaceful and chill as possible. I told him I was going into the kitchen to make the salad. While I did that I called my best friend Natasha from home and updated her.
I finished the salad and portioned it all out into individual containers for lunches. I cleaned the kitchen completely. It was near 11pm, I figured Cheri would probably want something to munch on and realized that I hadn't eaten dinner. I started some popcorn and ate a few slices of cheese. I had a feeling that Dean was trying to wait up for his mom, but the weather was terrible and I didn't know when exactly she would get in. I finally told him it was time to move to the bed, got him into a fresh shirt and tucked him into my normal spot against the wall so that later I could just crawl in to the outside spot without waking him. I asked if he wanted me to plug his phone in across the room where it usually was, or in my usual spot where he could get to it easily. "In the place where I could get to it easily would be fine, thank you." He did that a lot when answering questions that evening. He would repeat the entirety of the option that he wanted using my words.
Cheri called me just as the popcorn was done and said she was two blocks away and would be buzzing soon. I told her that I would just come down and get her so that the buzzer didn't startle Dean or wake him up. I had garbage bags to throw out anyway from my cleaning distraction. As soon as she was upstairs she went in to say hello and goodnight to Dean. Who apparently said, "lemonade shake ups, anyone?" I asked if she wanted popcorn and a drink, she said God yes, so I got those and I updated her on everything that was going on. After we were done with that, she told me what was going on in Peoria. I settled her on the couch and we all went to bed. I had nightmares about Dean having another seizure. I also had nightmares about Dean faking seizures as a joke and me getting really really angry at him.
I was unprepared for how absolutely exhausted I was the next day. I felt like I had been the one having the seizure. It was another rainy and gross day. Dean was very sore and his tongue hurt him a lot. I was going to run out and get everyone breakfast until we discovered that the water was off in our building. Great. So in order for us to use the bathroom, we all had to leave. We went out for breakfast and Dean was mostly fine and if we asked if he was okay, he insisted that he was. After breakfast we walked some light errands to Walgreens and the liquor store (Dean wanted to get a bottle of whiskey for Charles, Jaime, Mike and Dan) and I stopped by the post office near our house to mail some pictures to my grandma. When we got home, Dean mostly wanted to sit, which was fine, and Cheri set about repairing an afghan she had made us as a throw for our couch. When the water came back on, I went for a training run. I wanted to get it done while Cheri was with Dean, although he seemed fine. I didn't feel like running, but figured it would make me feel better. The run wasn't great, but I got it done. My mind reviewed Sunday night during the whole thirty minutes. When I got back, Dean was playing a video game and Cheri was still involved in the afghan. I did my weight training and then took a shower. Cheri had a rehearsal that night, so she left at around 3pm. Dean was going to go back to work the next day, as was I, everything seemed fine so there was no reason she shouldn't get back. I even thought maybe I would go to my 4pm yoga class and give him some time to himself.
After she left, Dean seemed to get a little down. I asked him how he was and he said he was a little bummed out. I asked if he was bummed because he had to go back to work tomorrow, because he didn't feel good or because he had a seizure. He said it was because he had a seizure. I said at least we knew now that he did need the medication and we would try to be more careful about getting sleep no matter what in the future. He kind of nodded and I asked if he wanted to maybe go for a walk or something. He said his friend Joe was going to come by to give him a game system to borrow. I said maybe after Joe left. He agreed. I watched the time for my yoga class come and go without saying anything. I didn't want to leave him.
Joe came over with a WiiU game that Dean really wanted to play. He came up for a bit and chatted. He also brought Dean a jacket that he was getting rid of (he had just moved) if Dean wanted it. He did. While we talked, Dean threw in a few snarky things like, "oh, be careful or you might have a seizure." I was actually kind of glad that he was expressing a little anger. I figured he might have felt safer doing so now that Joe was around and it wasn't just me or his mom. He was mostly trying to convince us that he was fine. I told Joe we were thinking of ordering pizza or Chinese food and would he like to stay? Joe had to go to Target first, but said he would come back and join us afterward if he wasn't intruding. We passed the evening talking with Joe, eating pizza and watching He-Man on Netflix. At around nine, I noticed Dean was slurring his speech more than usual and said we should get to bed and Joe left.
While we were getting ready for bed, I told Dean that we could skip Breakfast Date if he wanted to just get more sleep. (We have a standing breakfast date at a coffee shop up the street before he goes to work on Tuesday.) He said no, he wanted to do it. The next morning we went to Breakfast Date. Dean left for work right after, as usual. I hugged him goodbye longer than normal. We said I love you more than the normal amount of times. As I started to walk home, the feelings that I had apparently pushed out of the way the previous few days started coming. I normally enjoy my Tuesdays after Breakfast Date. I don't have any classes until the late morning. I come home, get things done, get my training run done and go to work feeling like I've already had a day. Today, I felt weird.
I came home. It was cold and gross outside and threatened rain. I didn't want to do my interval run. A few times tears started to come up and I put them aside. I started cleaning the kitchen. Under the burners, everything. Dean's mom had bought him flowers. I put them in new water with the plant food. I just kept moving. I wanted to call my mom. She wouldn't be up yet. I started trying to justify not doing my run. I had been through a rough Sunday night also, I could have a break. But I knew I would feel better if I got it done. Finally, a voice in my head said, "It doesn't have to be great. Just get it done." I finished cleaning whatever I was cleaning and didn't stop moving. I put on my running clothes and my shoes without stopping the momentum. I didn't stop to check the weather, I just left. I gave myself permission to have a shitty run, but I knew I would feel better just getting it done.
I did. I didn't get rained on. My intervals were slow, but not as slow as I thought they would be. I let my mind go and it pretty much replayed the entirety of the seizure the entire time. With occasional stops and rewinds. I expected my emotions to come out when I finished my run, but they didn't. I showered, got ready for work, started writing this.
It's taken a couple of days to finish. We finally cooked something together. Dean suggested listening to the podcast we didn't get to finish and I agreed, although I didn't want to hear it. It was going the entire time he was seizing. We listened to it. It got past that part. Nothing happened. We were fine. It was funny. This evening I even watched him put ice in a glass from the freezer for the first time. (I had been jumping up to do it in previous days.) It's ridiculous how nervous I was just watching it. He finished and I said, "Okay, that's done." I'm pretty sure he had no idea what I was talking about.
And my hope is that by writing this I can stop hitting 'play' on the video of Sunday evening in my mind every time I go for a run. And then I can move on too.