5:50am on May 10 , 2015, Mother’s Day, I woke from sleep. It was not to a child in my face nor a baby crying and not breakfast in bed. My husband was moving with his back to me. It looked like he was shaking. Drowsy and thinking he was merely scratching due to an eczema outbreak I mumbled “Rolston stop scratching”, but the shaking continued.
I said his name a few more times before I realized something was not right. As I looked over his shoulder I saw it clearly. He was having a seizure. I knew instantly. It was when time slowed down and I said his name over and over telling him he would be ok and touched his face unsure of what to do except to hold onto him and speak into his ear.
Brenton was in bed with us. He was asking if Daddy was ok and I kept saying yes. Reassuring two of my favorite guys was now my responsibility in that moment. It was all instinct but I remember it vividly in retrospect.
When the shaking stopped he did not come around. Knowing he needed help I could not give I attempted to call 911. My hands at first could not swipe the screen to make the keypad come up. The password I implemented to stop my toddler from texting and calling was effectively stopping me from the same. With erratic breathing on the verge of tears and shaking I told the operator my husband had a seizure. She asked for my address and said they would send someone. I was told to unlock the door.
Hanging up the first thing I did was call Monica. She is my person, my best friend and the boys godmother. I said, “Rolston had a seizure, I need you to come. I don’t know what to do.” She heard the tears behind my words and said “No tears you have to be strong for the boys. I am on my way.”
I went to unlock the door and came back to Brenton who had taken off his pajamas at some point in the night, so I grabbed the closest pair and waited for the paramedics for what seemed like an eternity. Looking back it was about 5 minutes. Rolston still had not come around, but I put him comfortably on his side.
There were two paramedics, one young man and one woman who was probably slightly older than I am. She assessed Rolston and I told her what happened. She did not tell me he was ok, but she worked on him. The young man spoke into his radio and took notes on a pad. Brenton sat on my lap. I heard the cries of the baby and went to get him together. We all came back and sat together on the couch in our bedroom holding onto one another as the paramedics tried to get Rolston to come around. As more and more paramedics arrived they asked more questions and were trying to determine how to get Rolston down the stairs.
Finally as if he knew I needed him to respond, the woman said again Rolston, Rolston and with a jolt upright he sat up and said “What, what?” He looked so frightened and she said plainly, “Your wife thinks you had a seizure.” He glared at me clearly upset and confused and I said simply, “You did” with tears in my eyes.
You see I thought he was going to die or that he would never come back around. I was thinking about what my life would be like without the love of my life. What my boys would do without their father. I am a worrier by nature and even if he is late coming home I tend to go to the worst case scenario. So you see in this moment of real crisis I was strong and completely petrified all at once.
For the first time since I woke at 5:50 that morning to my husband having an unprovoked seizure in our bed with my oldest son at my side, I did not take a real breath. The moment he said what my body relaxed a bit and I took one deep cleansing breath. Not knowing that all was well or what caused the seizure I was comforted knowing he was awake.
I got him a t-shirt at the paramedics request and they got him up and on the stretcher to take him down the stairs. Later he would tell me he has no memory of any of these events. The only thing he does remember is Brenton looking out of our bedroom window and the paramedic was waving to him and right before they put him in the ambulance the paramedic said your son is waving to you, he waved back to him with a big smile. He has no recollection of the ride in the ambulance. That whole day is a blur for him except that one moment is very clear to him.
I watched him wave from downstairs out the living room window. I was waiting for my parents to answer the phone. I needed them to come. Rolston had a seizure. I kept it together and my mother told me they would come as fast as they could which meant about 9 hours or so.
I took another breath. The ambulance was gone. He was safe. Soon I would go to him.
Looking around, I wondered what to do. I could not simply wait wringing my hands. Instead I went with routine. Baby gets a bottle and sits in his walker. Brenton lies in bed and they watch Team Umizoomi while I take a shower. When I was dressed and ready my savior arrived and I could not hug her knowing the tears would come and they would not stop. Instead with a knowing glance I thanked her. I had to go.
I was calm and drove carefully. It was about 5 minutes to the hospital and when I arrived I gave the information and just as I was almost done it happened….the adrenaline wore off. I told the receptionist and she said as she slid the tissues toward me you can go see him. He is right through the doors and on the right in bed 5.
Crying I walked through the doors not asking where to go or for any kind of permission. I slid back the curtain not knowing what to expect. It was dim but he was there. Himself. He said hi and so did I. I went and sat by him and took his hand. Relief washed over me again.
A doctor told us he seemed to be fine now. He said the words I will never forget, “Everyone in life is entitled to one seizure.” What? I had no idea. Later as we told people about the events of that day we heard stories about all kinds of people who had a seizure or even a few and then they stopped and never happened again.
After notifying everyone in our circle about the events and that Rolston seemed fine, but was at the hospital, I went back to the house. Somewhere I did not realize that my wonderful friend had to celebrate her son’s birthday let alone Mother’s day with her family. She said she was sorry. I looked at Brenton and started to laugh. Puzzled Monica asked what is it and I said, “those are Emerson’s pajamas.” And we both laughed. She hugged me and asked if there was anything I needed. I told her to go have a wonderful day with her family and thanked her.
For the next day and a half we spent waiting and talking to doctors and back and forth with the children or without them. I ran back and forth making sure everyone was ok. They were. I wasn’t. I didn’t know it yet, but I wasn’t and I am still not even almost 3 months later.
Waking in the night is still a regular occurrence. Flashbacks and bad dreams. Anxiety. And that it will happen again. Those are all very real for me. I worry they are real for Brenton who had his own experience.
We let his teachers know. He did not speak to them about it. His GiGi walked him through it and he still talks to her. He asks if daddy had another seizure at least once a week and sometimes even daily. He talks about the giants walking up the stairs. It took a while for us to determine they are the EMTs. He hyper focuses about ambulances and asks about doctors. I do what I can to comfort and reassure him, but worry he has scars or worse open wounds from that day.
For Rolston, it as if it didn’t happen so he requires no reassurance or comfort. He is convinced he is fine. He is convinced it was a one-time occurrence.
I wish I could be as certain, but I am not. Yesterday we met with the new neurologist at UPENN. You see UPENN is where we go if there is a problem. They are the best in the area. The oldest neurology department in the country. I told the story of that day again. It was as if it was yesterday. I recalled the details of the position of his arms as he shook, the clenched jaw, the noise he made, the eyes rolled back and the drooling. When the shaking stopped I explained the timeline, the 25 minutes it took for him to come around and the fog that persists surrounding the events that followed for him as I instead remember it all so clearly.
It could be the left frontal lobe based on the position of his arms. But they cannot be certain. It could be a one-time occurrence. But they cannot be certain. They are certain he cannot drive for 6 months. They are certain that the EEG was normal. They are certain they want to do another where he is sleeping since the seizure occurred out of sleep.
She felt comfortable with a 60% chance it would not happen again. But all I heard is 40% that it would. She is comfortable with no medication. She is comfortable with a follow up in a few months. Call her or email her anytime she said. She meant it.
Oh how I wish it all made me feel better. I should be so grateful that it is not worse and truthfully I am so very grateful. I take myself back to the moment when I was convinced he was leaving us and feel so thankful he feels wonderful and that it is behind him. I just wish I could forget that day like he has. Brenton and I, the witnesses, that we could erase that day.
That day changed me. That day shook me. That day haunts me. May 10, 2015 was that day.