Monday, November 9, 2015

The First Crash

     I almost wasn't allowed to go with Ron to Okinawa. That was a scary day. We met with someone here in Virginia  before our planned departure date in the summer of 1993. She said I couldn't go because I was pregnant and have epilepsy.
    We had to wait until the next day to work it out because the doctors in Okinawa were asleep during our meeting. Our days and nights are the opposite of Japan's, which makes it seem even further away than it is.
     The following day, doctors at the Navy hospital on Okinawa told the woman saying no that it was okay for me to accompany Ron; they could take care of me. If they had refused, he would have spent a year there without us. Families stay for three years.
     So, I was given medical clearance and we lucked out by getting housing a few blocks away from the hospital on Camp Lester. We were surrounded by doctors and nurses and their families, and I didn't need to go to the hospital if a typhoon headed our way during my last trimester. That's what women who lived further away had to do, but I was already practically there.
    I didn't take Depakote again until after Jimi was born in late November, just before Thanksgiving. He was perfect. I couldn't sleep that first night in the hospital because I kept peeking at Jimi to make sure he was real and not just a dream.
This was taken two days before the crash. 
  My seizures came back when I stopped taking the medicine, but they were no worse than before. Only my close friends knew about it, but they understood that it didn't stop me from doing anything. I still faked my way through seizures in public because it was too much trouble to explain them.
     I still do that; it's a basic survival skill.
     My "Epilepsy Lite" story remained unedited.
     That changed when I was four months pregnant with my son, Tommy.
     It was a really, really scary day because I completely lost consciousness, and I was driving when it happened.
    There were no subtle warnings before that day, no signs that my seizures would be any different than before.
     I was driving home after leaving balloons in my husband's car for our anniversary.
     Jimi, almost two, was along for the ride, sitting in his car seat in the back.
    I felt an aura, that brief deja vu feeling before a seizure, and searched for a gate so I could drive onto the nearest military base. There was a housing area on the left side of the road, convenient because then I didn't need to cross three lanes of oncoming traffic. (We were in Japan, remember?) The last thing I recall is driving through the gate and being surprised there was no guard.
     I'm not sure if I woke up immediately after the accident, but I think I did. My first clear memory after the crash is being in the ambulance with Jimi somewhere beside me. A huge wave of relief flooded through me when I realized he wasn't hurt. Then I worried about Tommy, but not in a hysterical way. Usually, I'm calm after a seizure, almost dreamy, depending on the circumstances.
     It felt like he was okay, but I still needed the doctors to tell me.
     They did just that after examining me at the Navy hospital. Jimi passed inspection, too.
     I felt bad when Ron told me he didn't know if we were even alive until he arrived at the hospital. I felt even worse when I thought about the Happy Anniversary balloons waiting in his car.
I had a scary black eye for Halloween that year!
     My neurologist, who was also a neighbor and friend, insisted I restart Depakote that day.
     I resisted.
     He persisted.
     I continued to resist, worried about the side effects on Tommy.
     There had always been an aura, I argued, giving me time to sit down. Driving was out of the question; I knew that. So what was the danger if I had never fallen down before?
     I can be very stubborn sometimes.
     My neurologist thought I was making a poor decision and ordered a psych consult.
     There were two psychiatrists at that hospital, and I was best friends with the wife of one. (We were all neighbors and like family to each other because our own families were so far away.)
     The other psychiatrist determined I was sane enough to decide for myself whether to take the medicine.
     I was mad at my neurologist that day, as a doctor but not a person. That anger subsided the following month when I fell in the kitchen.
     There was no aura that time, or else it was so brief I didn't have time to think. I was standing by the refrigerator and then suddenly I wasn't. Instead, I was on the floor, looking up at Jimi who was saying, "Wake up, Mama. Get up."
     That might have been Ambulance Ride #2, I can't remember. We lived so close to the hospital, one of my friends could have taken me that day.
     My disease didn't knock me down like that -- on the floor -- for another 18 years when, once again, Jimi stood over me. Remember? I described it in an earlier post...The day his wisdom teeth came out when I woke up surprised to see "grown-up Jimi" standing over me instead of the toddler pictured above...
     Now, can you see what a trippy disease this is? Are you starting to understand?