“And you’re still having seizures?” My primary care doctor scrolls the “ongoing health conditions” cluttering my electronic medical record. Different providers have coded my seizures differently over the years without bothering to streamline previous entries.
“Sort of. I stopped having huge ones after I started that medication at the top of the list, but I still have smaller ones a few times a month.”
“Never mind. It says ‘epilepsy’ way down at the bottom.” She scribbles a final note on my disability recertification forms, then hands the packet back to me. “Epilepsy, history of stroke, history of traumatic brain injury. That should do it.”
“Thanks so much! Sorry I have to bother you with a bunch of paperwork every year.” I fold the papers and reach for my purse.
“Oh wait – ” She frowns at the computer. “ – it says here you’re due for a tetanus shot. I’ll have the injection clinic call and set something up. Stay safe!”
By God’s grace, I have stayed safe through an eighteen-month pandemic and three rounds of Covid injections. Yet the same was not true of my tetanus booster this past Wednesday. Mom shuttled me to Kaiser at 8:30 am for what was supposedly a quick injection – until I started having seizures on the way home. They didn’t stop until around 7:30 pm.
Two years ago, fifteen seizures would have been an automatic ER trip. I’d like to think we stayed home this time because we’ve accumulated neurological life experience, and this may be true. I remember reminding Mom that there’s not much ER doctors actually do unless someone has an abnormal seizure or stops breathing. Although my memory gets fuzzier after that, Ivan must have agreed with me since he taught all his classes that day.
But whether or not we possess deeper neurological wisdom than in previous years, I suspect the real reason we stayed home is that we’ve gained perspective on what constitutes a “routine emergency.” I was not in danger of dying from my current symptoms, unlike the day I got food poisoning and had sixty-seven seizures in twenty-four hours.
In fact, Wednesday featured several other protagonists with significant needs: Dad is still mid-recovery, and Mom is facing the physical and emotional grind that all caregivers face, no matter how much their loved one is improving. The last thing she needed was a second, higher-maintenance mouth to feed. (I mean this literally, since I stayed at my parents’ condo while Ivan was at work.) As for Ivan, next week is his choirs’ first live performance in two years. The last thing he needed was an absence two classes before showtime.
But Wednesday’s biggest lesson was one of gratitude. Four years ago we used to wake up each morning wondering how many seizures I was going to have that day. Three years ago, we’d wake up praying I wouldn’t have an atonic seizure, since I often struggled to breathe and took hours to recover. Two years ago, I had fewer big seizures but still worried about little ones: a single incident could spark a week-long migraine. This year, I still have seizures and migraines several times a month, but thanks to better medication they’re no longer the first thing on my mind in the morning.
Sometimes it takes a really bad Wednesday to notice how many answered prayers I’ve taken for granted.