April 23rd, 2010

Living with Ambiguity, Part 3,233

Becca Sanders

A few weeks ago, on a Thursday, we were getting to leave for vacation. It was a rush of a day. I picked up fast food for dinner, and after we ate husband J. left for the urgent care with daughter F., whose fever seemed to indicate yet another ear infection. Better get the antibiotics before we go! we thought.

Son H. was ready for his potty time. He disappeared into the bathroom with a newspaper and a cigar – or rather, a book and his Elmo doll. While he attended to business, I started cleaning our hot mess of a kitchen.

After a few minutes, I realized I didn’t hear H.’s usual vocalizations. (H., who has autism, is not very verbal – but he does make a lot of different sounds.) You know how it is when there are kids in the house: silence is not good. What’s he gotten into? I thought, heading up the stairs.

There he was, still on the toilet, but turned to the left as if he was looking at something behind him, something that seemed to frighten him: he was completely still. When I got a look at his face, I knew immediately that something was very wrong: his eyes were all the way to the left, his upper body was rigid, and he was terribly pale. I shouted his name and got him to his feet. He was having a seizure.

I got him onto his bed and called 911. The paramedics arrived quickly, followed by the ambulance. After a few minutes, H. fell into a deep sleep – so deep that when an IV was put into his arm, he didn’t awake or even stir.

You know those stories about people who develop superhuman strength, who lift semi-trucks off of their loved ones? Well – I didn’t freak out. I didn’t cry. Instead I went into some hyper-rational uber-mom state in which my first thought upon learning we were headed to the hospital was, “I’ll need my purse.”

Thus began our two-day ordeal of blood tests, CT scans, and a whole lot of uncertainty. The tests revealed nothing: no signs of epilepsy, no issue with a chemical imbalance, nothing that would explain what happened to our boy. In a few hours H. recovered and was back to his usual self. We were given the okay to leave for vacation, and the next day we did.

We had a great time.

Upon returning we had a follow-up meeting with our neurologist, who said H. has a 50/50 chance of having more seizures, that there’s nothing we can do about it, and that if it happens we should lay him down and make sure his breathing is unobstructed.

Autism continues to teach us to live with ambiguity. We don’t know why lower-functioning kids, like H., sometimes have seizures. We only know we continue to strive to find ways to keep him happy, and keep him safe.

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