Frozen. Locked. Helpless.
These three words epitomize the feeling I felt one night in March 2009. My mind froze and my body suddenly and without reason locked up. The signal of communication between my brain and body were lost.
In talking about my first semester back in my last post, I told you “about halfway through, I was mentally done.” This was the moment that I was referring to: my life’s latest curveball and the topic of this next entry.
To set the scene, I was reading my family law cases and the time was just about 6:50 according to my roommate. A couple of minutes later, I noticed that the words on the page began to blur and when I tried to yell for help, I couldn’t. I could not move my arms, let alone highlight the passage that I had just read. Within seconds, I was standing next to my desk, spinning in circles uncontrollably and then all consciousness was lost. My body was jerking and I was having uncontrollable spasms. My heart was beating faster than I ever heard it and I was sweating bullets. I felt my eyes rolling to the back of my head and the drool pooling at the corner of my mouth. Eventually, the twitches ceased and I slept.
When I woke up, I was on the ground with the upper half of my body in the closet.
“How did I get here?” I wondered. Alone and afraid of the unknown, I rose from the floor and walked into bathroom where I threw ice-cold water on my face. When I looked up into the mirror, I noticed a massive egg in the middle of my forehead.
I tried to recall the events that took place but was unable to remember anything after my manic spinning. I assumed that I was trying to find a place to sit down but lost my balance, fell and landed in the closet. There were no words; no feelings that I could use to express what was going on in my mind. It could only be summed up in one word: terrified.
I walked down the hall to my roommate’s bedroom and was greeted with an abrupt “what happened to you?!”
“I don’t’ know”, I replied.
I called home and my mother answered. I heard her talking and asking questions, but I could not answer any of them. “I do not know what happened” I continued to tell her. She asked questions to gain information such as “what was I doing” or “when did this happen?” Again, I had no idea but my mom said to me: “You need to find out how long you passed out for. It is 7:05. What is the last time that you looked at the clock?”
Wait, holdup. It was only 7:05? That means that I had only been out for a few minutes? Why did it feel like I was in the deepest sleep for days?
I feared the worst. I thought, “did the shunt stop working or worse yet, did the tumor grow back in a more aggressive manner?”
At the same time that I called my parents, my roommate was on the phone with Ashley to let her know that something was wrong. Within minutes, Ashley arrived and began asking questions. Unfortunately, I could not answer any of them. Still, I had no clue.
Now, to think having to be seen at the hospital was a hassle, Ashley brought me over to Rhode Island Hospital for an evaluation. I was without any of my records or past MRI’s and there was really no way for me to explain what happened other than “I was reading, felt weird and passed out.” The doctors were completely unfamiliar with my medical history and the treatments that I had been through and they had to take my word on what I was telling them. Fortunately, in my wallet, I carry my neurosurgeon and clinical coordinator’s cards for situations like these. I remembered that I had them in there so I took out the card, handed it to him and directed him to call the number. The cognitive exams and strength tests were normal and he assumed it was a seizure and pumped me up with anti-seizure medicines and fluids to hydrate me. I was kept for further observation and finally released around 3:00 a.m.
The next day, I was back down at Yale for an appointment with my neurosurgeon. Following the regimen of questions and my responses, he prodded a little further and sent me for a precautionary scan. Finally, and to my great relief, the cause was confirmed – I had suffered a grand-mal seizure.
Unfortunately however, there was no telling what caused the seizure, but it is not uncommon for someone who has undergone such traumatic brain injuries as I had just been through to suffer a seizure. But again, I could only wonder and ask myself “why me?”
With my prescription for Dilantin in hand, I was back on my way to school and headed back to classes. But like any traumatic experience in life, I had conditioned myself to fear having another seizure. Any evening that I sat my desk reading a case or outlining for class, I was reminded of my incident and felt the fear of “what if?” It’s completely irrational but I was uneasy thinking that something else would derail my quest and cause me to land back in the hospital.
After another email to my professors letting them know of the latest episode, they took it easy on me and I did not get called on the remainder of the semester. But yet, exams were quickly approaching and I had to control my emotions and pull through.
However, if a seizure was all that I had to deal with, life isn’t so bad I told myself. I told myself “It’s just another chapter to a great book.”
Or perhaps I’ll need to devote a couple of chapters to this topic….