The Pills [Will] Help You Now…

Last Thursday, I had a life-changing event…

And I slept through it.

Thursday was a relatively normal day, followed by a relatively normal drive home. I was hungry so I decided to make a little white cheddar mac & cheese (don’t judge me). I remember stirring the noodles and then sampling a noodle to check for doneness.

And then I woke up in my bed. I was instantly confused. I didn’t remember deciding to have a nap. Then I looked at my arm and my favourite black sweater had melted holes in it, and my arm below was burned. I carefully peeled off the sweater and tried to figure out what was going on. I went downstairs to see the state of my mac & cheese. The pot was off the burner but the burner was still on. I sent G a very confused text and then phoned him. He was just leaving the Safeway with our dinner fixin’s so he drove straight to get me. Based on everything I told him, he told me we were going to go to the hospital, which I didn’t want to do.

For all the negativity I hear about our medical care, I certain had a positive experience. I was admitted almost immediately upon arrival in the University of Alberta Emergency room. Things to monitor what-seemed-like every bodily function were attached to me, and I spent the next 8 hours in a bed there. They made it clear in almost the first hour that I would have to spend the night, so I eventually (like, 3 a.m.) made it into a neuro ward where I got a few hours of sleep, though it was difficult with an IV in one arm and a large uncomfortable burn on the other.

The history behind all of this – and something many people didn’t know – is that I actually was having seizures before Thursday’s blackout. I lovingly called them “episodes” like some quirky old aunt in a PBS miniseries set in the 1930’s, but these were actually called “simple partial seizures”. The first one was in January 2011, and they feel like I’m trying to remember something familiar, like a dream. And as I chase these memories, I fall deeper into them until I just snap out of it. I saw a neurologist about them but they were so infrequent, and I never lost consciousness, so I didn’t want to take pills for them.

On Wednesday night as I was falling asleep, I had one of my partial seizures, and during the day at work on Thursday I had another one. I believe that due to being both mentally and physically rundown, my brain just wasn’t able to contain the seizure to one side and when it spread, I had the full seizure.

Thursday’s seizure – known as a tonic (gin??)-clonic seizure or, if you watched ER, a “grand-mal” seizure – was obviously more intense but I don’t remember it. I think the burn on my arm happened as I fell in the kitchen, knocking the pot off the burner. I landed on one side of my face, hence the black eye and other bruises. The back of my neck is also bruised but if I was jerking around (basing this on my extensive ER-watching) I could have easily thwacked my neck into an appliance or my table. Some of my muscles are sore, presumably from being clenched up. At some point, the physical neurons fired up in my brain and told my body to go to bed, so it got me up off the kitchen floor and zombie-walked me up a flight of stairs and put me to bed for about an hour – I have no memory of doing this. The Walking Dead will never be the same to me again; no wonder my cats were terrified and hiding under the bed when I woke up.

So what does this mean for me now? Well, it means that I cannot drive for 6 months. There’s no one enforcing that, but if I had a blackout seizure behind the wheel and hurt or even killed someone, that would be a helluva lot harder to come to terms with than my lack of vehicular mobility.

And if I take the anti-seizure medication it means that I’ll need to limit my alcohol intake to one, max two, drinks an evening. Which frankly sucks, as I enjoy drinking. Wine with mid-week dinners. G&T’s on the weekends. Margaritas on patios on hot summer days…sigh.

Probably the craziest part, at most infuriating to my friends and family, is that I’m still deciding about the medication. I don’t believe that just because something’s wrong, it means you should start popping pills. Before my tonic-clonic seizure, I had absolutely no intentions of taking medication for my partial seizures; they happened so infrequently. Is that a reason to spend the rest of my life on medication? And in the research (Googling) I’ve done about this, shows that you’re more prone to seizures after taking the medication. Even after all of this, I believe my tonic-clonic seizure was a one-off based on a perfect storm situation of weakened health and a taxed mental state. It’s almost like I’m waiting for one more tonic-clonic seizure to confirm that my partial seizures have escalated (which I’m sure makes my loved ones feel terrified), before I’ll accept my new diagnosis and start taking pills.

So I guess I’m still digesting everything that has happened and what this means for me, and you know I’ll be blogging along the way. I wanted to share this information with people so that in the very unlikely chance I have another grand-mal seizure while I’m out, you’ll know about it.

One final thing I have to talk about is G. He has been absolutely incredible this entire time. From staying calm while I described what happened, forcing me to go to the hospital, staying with me until 3 a.m., spending the night with my freaked out cats, coming back to the hospital early, bringing me coffee from transcend, taking time off work to be with me, letting me move in with him, helping me run errands now that I can’t drive…he’s been so wonderful and amazing, I hardly feel like I deserve him. I’m just so grateful for him in my life.

My ever-changing, multi-coloured bruised eye...this got me some good "just leave him, honey" looks at the mall on Sunday...

(My blog titles are song titles. This one is “The Pills WON’T Help You Now” by the Chemical Brothers, I just tweaked the title slightly to make it fit.)


16 Replies to “The Pills [Will] Help You Now…”

  1. I hope that this journey becomes easier for you as you figure out what to do for you – just remember that your health is important and sometimes that means accepting pills. And remember loads of people care for you and want to see you happy and well! 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry to hear it, Hilary – that must have been such a terrifying experience. I’m glad to hear you’re OK though, and that you didn’t get more seriously hurt! That burn looks pretty painful 😦

    My best friend actually suffers from the same thing, and I believe they are called mini seizures. In fact, we’ve travelled together when she’s experienced these seizures, and it’s scared the crap out of me! Basically, she loses all mobility and regular functioning of her brain.

    At the moment, I don’t think she’s taking any medication, but at times, I wish she would – only for the reason that I don’t want her to one day cause harm to herself or others. For instance, if she were driving and had experienced a mini seizure, that could be a huge danger and liability.

    I can’t imagine what you’re going through though, and I wish you all the best in your treatment (whatever you choose to do). I don’t have seizures, but I do have a chronic illness, so I can certainly relate to the frustration of pill-popping. I’ve taken so many medications in the past five years that I feel triple my age 😉

  3. You rock. Kind of you to share your challenges with everyone. And I never did tell you, but I was thinning about your delicious white mac and cheese. I hope you haven’t lost your desire for that delicious treat.


  4. Wow Hilary! I am so glad you have made what happened to you something to be discussed and not hidden. Far too many people who suffer from seizures hide the fact as they feel a sense of shame – which is ridiculous as there is no shame.

    A deliberate moratorium on driving for six months is so responsible and courageous especially in Edmonton which is such a car obsessed town.

    I’ve had too many black eyes to remember but your shiner is a beauty! Hope you are well on the road to recovery and make the decision on pills (to take or not) based on what YOU feel is right for your body as no one knows it better than you.

    Debra Ward

  5. Sorry to hear about your close call. Glad you weren’t seriously hurt! Good on ya for being and informed patient and making the time to research the options of your own care. IMO the best medicine will be camping… 🙂

  6. That’s an awful story Hilary, but on the bright side it’s awfully well written. Good for you for sharing the information. If everyone did that, we would have a better and much much cheaper health care system.

    As you weigh your options for meds vs no meds I’d strongly suggest asking around for anyone you know who might be on them. A clinical list of side effects is often quite a different thing from the real life experience. I’ve been on an anti-seizure medication called Lyrica for about nine months now as it works as a very effective, low side effect, pain killer. (Long story…) It’s been great and much much easier on the body than the kilogram of Tylenol I took last time around. (Longer story…) Just pay careful attention when they warn you not to quit abruptly – they CAN mess with your head which would be adding insult to injury.

    Get better soon.

  7. Glad to hear you were not seriously injured in what could have been much worse for you and your home. Taking a few pills a day or a load is not pleasant but beats the alternatives. However, it is important for you to weigh out your own circumstances. I learned I was diabetic about 13 years ago and the game plan was to manage things through exercise and diet. I wasn’t successful at that and now take three different medications for diabetes, along with others for cholesterol and high blood pressure. While I now have enjoyed varying degrees of success and it’s a constant battle, I will always remember what the doctor told me a couple of years ago … before you can have wealth, you need health.

  8. Hi there, I was “diagnosed with simple partial seizures” 18 mos. ago, but have been having them almost 20 years. In the process, I had a pacemaker put in when my heart would stop after an “episode,” with your symptoms. I know now the “episode” is the reason my heart stopped. I am on Keppra and it has controlled them pretty well. I could not drive for six months after the “recorded” seizure. Yesterday, I had a breakthrough seizure…I was enjoying the sense of deja vu. After I told my husband what happened, I was overcome with exhaustion and slept for two hours. That part was a first. Anyway, good luck! I am a nurse practitioner which makes everything worse IMO:)

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