Monday, January 25, 2010


I bet that's a word you've never heard before! It's because I made it up. This post is about Paul who you can see in the picture there at his most recent birthday. Paul is an epileptic. He started having "spells" as he called them while we were dating. I never witnessed any thing different, so I didn't think a whole lot about them and he didn't really talk about them all that much.

Then we got married. Six weeks into marriage I was awakened one night by Paul having a grand mal seizure in his sleep. I didn't know what it was. My first thought was that he was goofing around and I wasn't appreciative of that one bit! Then his eyes rolled back into his head and he eventually fell asleep. It was a morning where he had to go into work around 3 or 4 am, so he was up extremely early. I remember being awakened again as he stumbled around the bedroom, banging into furniture as he attempted to walk. I don't know why it never occurred to me to call 911. I guess I'm just not good at that. Once Ben was choking really bad on a bunch of grapes he swallowed without chewing and I stood there forever debating about calling an ambulance - while his face turned purple! I eventually did the Heimlich on him and the grapes popped out. And when I had my stroke I never once thought about calling. We just drove in. Someday I'll be dead from some accident and they'll find the phone inches from my body and from then on, everyone will say, "If only she'd called 911!"

Anyway, I eventually figured out, as Paul continued to have seizures that we were dealing with epilepsy. We hadn't been to a dr. yet, but I had read enough to recognize the signs. Paul has only ever had grand mal seizures at night (except for one time - fortunately, I was there and was able to catch his head as he fell on the bathroom floor) and they seem to be triggered by fatigue and stress. He has petit mal seizures occasionally during the day but those are pretty much unrecognizable. He says they are preceded by feelings of nausea and then he just has to sit. If someone were to talk to him, he could hear them, but he would not be able to respond. Paul started some epilepsy drugs the summer I was pregnant with Ben and as time has passed the petit mal seizures are pretty much gone. From time to time, he still has a grand mal in his sleep. However, about 8 years ago I figured out that if I grab his right hand and uncurl his fingers and hold his hand straight (not an easy task) then I can stop the seizures before they get too bad. It used to be that when Paul had gone through a rough night he'd be a zombie for days afterwards. He'd be in a mental fog. He couldn't taste things right and it was distressing for me. In the last decade, Paul's behavior got worse during a seizure. It used to be he'd just thrash around on the bed and then fall asleep. But then he started getting up mid-seizure. Once he ran outside in his underwear! I was so thankful it was the middle of the night! I have since learned to grab his arm and pull him down onto the bed (sometimes I'm successful, sometimes not - he outweighs me by a good 60 lbs and a seizure provides, unfortunately, super-human strength) when he attempts to get up mid-seizure. Other times he's gouged me and most recently, he punched me in the ribs. He has no memory of anything the next morning. It used to be that he could tell something was not quite "right" the next day with his body, but that really isn't the case so much anymore. Sometimes I tell him that he seized the night before and he had no clue anything had happened. That's definitely better than the old days, when he was "out of it" for so long afterwards. I look back and I am amazed at Paul's strength. He could have so easily crawled back into bed for the day after seizing but he never did. He always went to work, no matter how crummy he felt. He might have even been able to get a dr. to declare him disabled from his seizure activity, but it never crossed his mind. This whole thing sounds odd, I know, but it's just the way life has always been for us.

But, things are pretty good now. Paul found a good neurologist out here and he's got him taking an additional drug now to go along with his Tegretrol (that he's been on since '96). I think it's been a good month and half since Paul attempted to seize at night. So things aren't bad at all. I will not be surprised if Paul's life is shortened a bit from all this neurological trauma, but I don't expect that to happen for decades yet.

So why do I write all this? Well, it's because of an experience Paul had last week that really touched him at a different level. He was walking out of Walmart in West Des Moines when he saw what he thought was a woman wrestling with a child in the parking lot. He moved closer to see if he could be of some assistance and it turned out that it was not a mother and child. An older woman (a nurse, providentially) was holding onto a young woman as she suffered a seizure. Apparently, this woman had walked out of the store, began seizing, and this nurse happened upon her. So, Paul was able to help. He was able to get a sleeping bag out of someone's car and they were able to hold the woman as she had seizure after seizure in order to keep her from hurting herself. She stopped seizing long enough to tell them that she had been in a car accident in 2006 and was fine until she had a baby a year ago. Then, she started having seizure problems. Paul was able to tell her that he knew all about epilepsy from a personal standpoint! Eventually, the paramedics arrived and they took the lady to the hospital.

Paul immediately called me after this happened and then he had to tell me the story again when he got home. He said it was just eye-opening and strange at the same time to watch someone else seize because he has never seen that before, since he's unconscious when he has his own. I think it really affected him!

The brain is an amazing organ. I have gained new appreciation for it in recent years as it seems that our little family has more than the average share of neurological problems. If we were computers, I think we'd have crashed by now! But we're humans, intricately and beautifully created by God. And even with our physical ailments (the result of a sin-cursed world) it's so neat to be able to see God's handiwork and restorative powers!


  1. I have only had one experience with a person having a seizure. I was working in the library in college and this young girl fell out of her chair at the computer and started 'flopping' (for lack of a better word) around on the ground under the computer desk. 15-20 people just sat around her doing NOTHING. For some reason something kicked me into action and I started bossing people around... you call 911, you move the computer chair, you get some cool paper towels, you open the doors to the library so the crews can get in here easier, you do this, you do that, and I just sat under her and held her head so she would stop slamming it on the concrete like floor that was jut covered with super thin carpet. I don't know where all of that came from since I am normally just like you, hesitating to call, second guessing... should we call, should we not. I don't even know what I would do if I had to experience that over and over again with my family members. You are such a strong woman from the life experiences you have endured. God knows just who can handle which situations, and He knows you are just the woman for that task. :) Glad Paul has gotten it under better control and has now gotten to experience from an outside perspective what one looks like for a little empathy.

  2. VERY proud of Paul to jump in and help. I have passed out in a Wal-Mart parking lot while holding onto one rung of the shopping cart because Jewel was a young toddler (I think 18 months old) and sitting in the front of the cart-strapped in for goodness sake). As my ears started to ring I dropped to my knees trying to prevent the full passing out. I yelled for Cannon to go get help (poor kid he was only 5 years old) I noted several people passsing me and no one stopped. As I started to come to a bit a mother and daughter stopped to see if I needed help. At this point, I could not see only hear (unfort. I have passed out several times eyes seem to stop working 1st followed by ears. I know hearing is the last thing to go during the dying process). They took the cart out of my hand (funny how my mom's instinct did not let go of the cart even while unconscious-I do remember thinking I could not let go worried about Jewel). Cannon finally got employees to help me. The mother and daughter were a God send. Cannon even remembered where Daddy worked:) . I will be forever gratful to the mom and dau who stayed with me and Jewel until the employees got to me. I never did get to thank them as I was not fully conscious and ended up passing out again while being carried into Wal-Mart.

    Tell Paul our thanks to him.