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A tale of two (or three) seizures

This may well qualify as TMI, but for the sake of recording dramatic life events, I feel compelled to write these stories down. The second one, in particular, has great comedy potential, at least of the black variety.

So I had my first seizure in August, while i was vacationing with my family in Central Oregon. The notable aspects of that seizure were that I was conscious the whole time, kept my balance the whole time (I was standing), got my first ever trip in an ambulance afterward, and got my first IV ever at the same time. I was taken to the ER at Redmond Hospital, where they checked me for signs of stroke (negative) and tested my blood for electrolyte problems (negative). They diagnosed it as a "pseudo-seizure," which I've also seen called, more poetically, a Psychogenic Non-Epipleptic Seizure and also a partial seizure, since it doesn't involve the whole brain, which we all thought was caused by stress and anxiety. I followed up with my regular doctor, and he said a single pseudo-seizure was probably nothing to worry about, but if I had another ...

Fast forward three months. I had left the stress and shingles of the summer behind, and had started back up on my exercise and urban hiking regime. I was feeling very smug about how healthy and strong I felt. I was driving down I-5 on my way to Astoria for one of my semi-annual vacations in La Push on the Olympic Peninsula, when suddenly, shockingly I started to feel the unmistakable signs of an oncoming seizure. I was in the middle lane, and I had two military vehicles in fairly tight formation on my right. Shit! So I pulled a maneuver that would have pissed me off it I'd been one of the drivers in those two vehicles, but which probably saved a life or two: I cut between the two vehicles and straight onto the shoulder of the freeway, where I managed to safely brake to a stop and put the car in parking gear. The seizure hit me, but I was still able to control my movements enough to turn on the emergency signal. The thing that sticks with me now is that I could feel the traffic whooshing by -- the slipstreams tugging at my own vehicle -- and that made me feel unsafe. Once the seizure had receded, I put the car back into drive and pulled onto the off-ramp that was just ahead of where I had stopped. I pulled off to the side of the offramp pretty quickly, because I was still feeling shaky, and I immediately went back into seizure. I could hear a steady ticking sound, which bothered me, and I thought I'd turned on the righthand turn signal, but it didn't stop when I hit the control stick, and I couldn't turn my eyes to look at the dashboard to see what was really going on. My eyes wanted to drift upward to the left. Eventually that seizure receded as well, and I was able to see that the clicking was the emergency signal, so I turned that off.

Based on my August experience (and sheer, stupid stubbornness) I decided that this seizure was also likely to be transitory, so I continued my drive to Astoria and then onward to La Push the next day. The day after that -- so two days after the seizure on I-5 -- I went for a hike on Rialto Beach. The tides were not in my favor, timewise, with low tide coming around noon or so, which didn't leave me much time to get where I wanted to go and get back before sunset. So I decided to start hiking at high tide, hoping I'd get a good head start by the time the tide went out. This meant I had to hike through the zone where all the driftwood gets tossed at high tide, so it was very arduous and irritating work. Eventually I got so tired and pissed off that I gave up on my plan. I sat down on a piece of driftwood and started eating a sandwich I'd brought with me. Lo and behold, I felt a seizure coming on, and here I was with a mouth full of sandwich. I was terrified that I was going to choke on it, out there in the wilderness all by myself. So I tried to wash the sandwich down with water from the water bottle, but that didn't work. Then I tried to dig the sandwich out with my finger, but it was stuck in my mouth like glue. Finally I managed to flop onto a log on my belly, which I hoped would mean the sandwich wouldn't get stuck in my throat, but which ended up also allowing me to spit the food out. Then the fucking seizure took over. I figured I'd set it off with the hard hike and irritation. Those of you who've seen the "enchanted isle" photo I posted here and on Facebook might be interested to know I took it minutes after this seizure. Magic strikes at the strangest times.

Again, I was perfectly conscious of what was happening during both of these seizures, which is usually not the case for epileptic seizures. I was even able to control my appendages to the extent of doing things like maneuvering the car to the side of the road or using my finger to dig in my mouth. The whole thing with the sandwich is the thing that seems like a comedy routine from a certain twisted perspective.

Anyway, when I finally got back to Seattle, that's when I made an appointment to get checked out by a doctor again, and that's when I was set up to get an MRI, which is how they found the tumor that probably caused the seizures, including the one in August. The neurosurgeon told me that removing the tumor won't necessarily stop the seizures, so I'm currently taking an anti-seizure drug called Kepra. The law in Washington is that I can't drive for six months after a seizure, and one of the striking things about my visit to the ER in Oregon is that the doctor who saw me there specifically said I was okay to drive -- I guess because he didn't think it had been an epileptic seizure.

I suppose the moral of this story is that if you have any kind of seizure, even a conscious one, maybe you should have an MRI to look for a physical cause. I don't know if it would have helped my prognosis to have caught this three months ago, but it certainly would have stopped me from endangering other people by driving.

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
replyhazy
Dec. 8th, 2015 07:23 pm (UTC)
Well, crap. That's utterly terrifying. You are a fabulously quick thinker.

I can scarcely say anything more true than GET WELL SOON, and I hope they find ways to deal with the problem that are not too horrible. You are a highly valued piece of fandom!
kate_schaefer
Dec. 8th, 2015 09:17 pm (UTC)
It's not TMI. Thanks for writing this.
don_fitch
Dec. 8th, 2015 10:01 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's TMI -- I think it's Knowledge that might well benefit any of us. I hope none of us is ever in a position to need or use it, but if we are, you've given us some idea of what to do and how to cope with a situation we'd rightly find terrifying. And yeah, I think you stayed cocky a bit too long, but we'll also take that into consideration.

Meanwhile, I hope you had a good Sushi Day yesterday, and recover completely from this problem. And yes (now that you've reached the age of starting to think about it) you'll probably someday die of some other problem. Now excuse me while I take my mid-day bowl of pills. (It's a good thing the medications are split into three times per day -- the idea of a meal with more pills than food isn't appealing, but it could happen.)


randy_byers
Dec. 8th, 2015 10:09 pm (UTC)
Maybe pill sushi?
don_fitch
Dec. 8th, 2015 10:29 pm (UTC)
Never work. Regardless of this modern abomination of pieces of sushi that are two mouthsfull (I discovered sushi back c. 1950, in Japan, where it was done Right) it requires a mixture of textures and tastes that simply can't be done in a pill. Mind you, prescription pills might be less expensive.


akirlu
Dec. 9th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much for telling these stories, both from a preventative perspective, and because I am grateful to know more about what is happening with you, and how. Both the November seizures sound completely terrifying, and yes, kudos to you for your heroically quick thinking while in their grips. I am also very glad and grateful that you did not choke to death on your sandwich while out on the driftwood at the high tide line, because while it might have made good black comedy, it would have sucked exceptionally in just about every other way.
randy_byers
Dec. 9th, 2015 10:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not too keen on the concept of choking to death myself.

Edited at 2015-12-10 03:28 am (UTC)
surliminal
Dec. 10th, 2015 12:39 am (UTC)
It's fascinating, in a grisly kind of way.

How are you coping with not driving then? Not easy in the US.
randy_byers
Dec. 10th, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
Probably won't be a big problem for me, but we'll see. Right now I've got plenty of people who are happy to give me rides when needed.
gerisullivan
Dec. 10th, 2015 05:31 am (UTC)
I join everyone else in saying TMI = not and thanking you for writing it -- for the reasons Don cited, for the reasons Ulrika cited, etc. etc. and All That Jazz....

Fast thinking that likely saved lives during both of those November seizures! Wow, am I ever glad the quick steps you took in eash of those.

FYI, I'm ocean-side in Kill Devil Hills, NC, as planned. Complete with bonus balcony and the powerful sounds of water. I'm joining so many others in sending you an ocean of good wishes, love, and more as you do the whole surgery, recovery, and beyond thing. And, hey, I have a real ocean to convey them. :-)

kate_schaefer
Dec. 11th, 2015 04:04 pm (UTC)
I expect you won't be writing much for a few days. I hear the operation went well, insofar as they can tell just now. May recovery go well also!
mszappata
Dec. 25th, 2015 05:56 am (UTC)
Get well soon.
mszappata
Dec. 25th, 2015 05:57 am (UTC)
Have a very merry Christmas and a nice holiday!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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