I serialized this story in November, 2017, mostly because it’s really long, but I thought that some readers would enjoy seeing it all on one page.
Part 1: Background
I’ve been actively taking first responder training for my whole life. I was in first-aid classes as a child. in my adult life, I’ve taken classes in CPR, AED, etc… For that matter, I know how to properly apply a tourniquet or chest seal. I’ve been taught how to respond to someone having a seizure. Jennifer and I have had opportunity to respond to other individuals seizing on two separate occasions. Thinking back, we could have responded better, but to my knowledge, both individuals made through it just fine. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right? So, I’ve seen seizures, but I had no idea what recovery was like.
Also, I’ve been healthy my entire life. I’m 39. I once had a baby tooth extracted, but I’ve never had surgery. I had a greenstick fracture in a finger as a small child, when my finger got slammed in the back side of a door at church, but I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve had cuts and scrapes, but I’ve never had stitches. I’m not on any medications, and I have no significant allergies. Any time I’ve filled out a medical screening, it’s been “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….”
I’m redacting and/or changing names here, as I’ve asked no permissions, with the exception of my lovely wife, with whom I’ve been discussing this post for quite some time. Also, I won’t swear that any of this is perfectly accurate, but my memory and perception of events.
About four years ago, our teenage son asked about “vintage or retro video games, you know, the old ones…” So, Jennifer and I dug through our parents’ attics and got out our Atari 2600s, her original Nintendo NES, my original XBOX, and whatever other goodies we could find. The three of us got to playing the oldies. I went on a mission to the junk shops and garage sales, and wound up expanding the collection of stuff. It was good times. Jennifer forwarded me an email from work, in which they mentioned Super! BitCon, an upstart, local video game convention. Ticket prices were cheap, and they advertised an emphasis on older video games. We had to go. We spent entirely too much money. If memory serves me correctly, the first SNES game I ever purchased was “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” in 2014. It was wonderful. After the event, I did a little social digging and we wound up involved with the Okc chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society (which is the original chapter, IIRC).
By the second year of Super! BitCon, Jennifer and I were the official leads of the Photography Team for the convention. That first (second) year, I didn’t have my own DSLR, so I borrowed my Dad’s first or second generation Canon Rebel with its kit lenses. The building was dark, and I felt totally outclassed, watching other photographers with their bleeding-edge Nikon and Canon gear. Regardless, I worked the aging gear and captured some beautiful and compelling images. There was already a spark telling me that I needed to pursue professional imagery work. This pretty well ignited the fire that pushed me down that rabbit hole.
So, for the last three years of Super! BitCon, we have been not only Photography Lead, but regular, workhorse volunteers for the convention. Fast forward to Saturday, April 22, 2017. We attended the final preparation meeting for the con. We had assembled our photography team. We were pensively ready. I was confident in the members of our team, but we were rag-tag. There were people that I wanted to get for the (fully volunteer) team that couldn’t make it, and one or two that I hadn’t initially counted on that jumped into the fray. We were good to go, though. As the other volunteers were shuffling out of the conference room to enjoy what was left of their Saturday, one of the club’s founding members caught my attention.
“What are you doing at six in the morning on Friday?” he asked me.
I laughed, “sleeping. That was my plan, anyway. Why? What do you have in mind?”
He tipped his head and said, “I wouldn’t not want you to be at the storage unit to help load the truck.”
“Hmmm…” I sighed, “I think we can probably work that out.”
Part 2: That Morning
Fast forward through the week. On Thursday, April 27, Jennifer and I intended to get to bed early, as we were planning to get up entirely earlier than we ever do, unless we intend to harvest venison. We didn’t get to bed early. I don’t even remember why. But, one way or another, shiny happened, and we stayed up later than intended. So, Friday morning, on April 28, 2017, the alarm went off at 4:30 or some God-awful time that I didn’t know they even made an “a.m.” for. We zombied our way out of bed, dressed our corpses, made coffee, and motored over to the storage unit. I’m pretty sure we got there at 5:30. Nobody else was there. So, we sat in the car with the windows down, enjoying the cool breeze, still trying to wake up, waiting for our young compatriots to join us. When 6:00 rolled around, we were still the only ones there. I started making phone calls and social media messages. I got a message back from the other RGS founding member.
“Um, the storage place doesn’t even open until 7:00. You might go grab breakfast,” his message read.
Well, crap. There was a McDonald’s about a half-mile down the street. When we got to the drive-through, Jennifer requested her regular Egg McMuffin with hash browns and coffee. I ordered a large Coke.
Jennifer asked, “you aren’t going to order food?”
“My stomach isn’t awake this early,” I answered, “I need more caffeine.”
So, Jennifer started munching on her food, and I started sipping on my drink, “my taste buds must not be awake either; this Coke tastes funny.” But, I kept drinking it.
By 7:00, other volunteers started rolling in, along with the rental truck. When I say “rental truck,” I don’t mean the half-ton you can get by the hour at Home Depot, or even the full-size box truck you can rent from Uhaul. I’m talking about a commercial Isuzu NPR. I don’t know what size engine it had, but I’m pretty sure it was the 5.2L. Big. Truck. As the sun rose, we loaded the truck with arcade cabinets, display cases, shelves, rubber balls, and miscellaneous stuff. I took some time lapse video of us loading the truck. I was starting to feel a little more awake; less numb, less tired. It actually felt good to get the door closed and latched on the truck. The first aforementioned founding RGS member approached me again.
“So,” he said, “all of us came in cars individually.”
“uhuh,” I said. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.
“So, I wondered,” he requested, “if you could drive the truck to the Fairgrounds… Because you’re the only ones who came in a car as a group…”
Crap. That’s where I thought this was going. I’d never driven anything as big as that stupid truck. For a time, I drove a one-ton diesel box truck a hundred miles, twice a day. I got cut off by Mini Coopers in that thing. They were nearly crushed like bugs. When I was a teenager, I drove a 1978 Lincoln Mark V. 6500-lbs, 18-ft long, 6.5-ft wide, 460 V8. I put SEVEN THOUSAND MILES on a Ford E350 Super Duty in TWO WEEKS. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not at all unfamiliar with large vehicles. But, that NPR was notably bigger than anything I’d been behind the wheel of. I was uncomfortable.
“I don’t really want to…” I looked at Jennifer.
She threw her hands in the air, “don’t look at me!” she said.
He said, “we really need you do do this.”
I was still sleepy enough that I couldn’t think of any good excuses, or simply say something to the effect of, “eff no.”
“You lead in the car,” I told Jennifer, “take the interstate, but stick to the right lane, and let’s not top 45mph. Please.”
Part 3: The Truck
So, I drove the stupid truck. The weather sucked. It wasn’t exactly raining so much as misting. It was like Peru rain; just enough to run the wipers and make the road slick. In a truck that I was unfamiliar with that weighs like a million pounds. With an uneven load in it. Because the guys who loaded it don’t move stuff for a living (not a slam, God love them), but are a bunch of retail employees, accountants, and bankers. And, it was really windy. In a box truck. With the aerodynamics of a sail boat. I kept sipping on my Coke, trying to stay relaxed, despite feeling the load settling, and the wind rocking the NPR like a pirate’s ship in a storm on the high seas. With Jennifer leading the way, many-a-car cut between us to mash their brakes and hit an exit ramp, as though they wanted to get squashed by tons of video games. Despite my efforts, I white-knuckled that steering wheel all the way to our destination. Pulling into the gate at the Fairgrounds felt like the greatest accomplishment in the world. But, the trip wasn’t over yet.
I had never noticed how narrow the roads are at the Fairgrounds, but then, I’d always driven there in an imported compact car or compact truck, not the freaking Technodrome. I was doing okay until I went through this one intersection. I stopped at the stop sign, turned on the signal to turn right, and pulled out. Apparently, I didn’t swing out enough. I didn’t so much hit the stop sign, as scrape it. Incidentally, that stop sign was exactly at the same height as the rivets on the truck’s box, so, they strummed that stop sign like a guitar all the way down the box. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop… Of course, from my perspective, it was more like, “pop *fuck* pop *fuck* pop *God, please make this stop!* pop *ooh fuck*, etc., et al. Some of our aforementioned millennials in the party were trailing, and I could hear them snickering in my mind.
By the time we got to the venue, I had to pull the seat cushion out of my butt crack and pry my fingers out of the grooves that I’d crushed into the steering wheel. Backing the freaking building on wheels into the State Fair building was no big deal as compared to dealing with traffic with it on the highway. We got the thing unloaded, and I threw the keys at someone, disavowing it for eternity. Through the morning, I found myself irritable, drowsy, nauseated, and foul. I continued to sip at my Coke until it was empty. I helped set up display cases, arcade cabinets, tables, and stuff in general. I drank some coffee. I took pictures, and some time lapse video. Someone brought in a couple bags from McDonald’s filled with sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers. I still had no appetite, but I felt like I should eat.
I picked out a cheeseburger and took a couple nibbles. It was hard to swallow. I was drinking a lot of water because I knew that dehydration was a real risk. The place looked great! There were a couple of cars that got staged in the building; a DeLorean, the actual yellow and blue Jeep pickup from the movie Twister, a Jeep done up in Jurassic Park theme. We continued to set up exhibitor tables with table cloths and everything we’d need for the weekend. Between setting up fixtures, and unloading gear, and taking pictures, I’d make my way back to that same cheeseburger and nibbled at it a little more, force it down. I’d developed a cough. I assumed that it was allergies from the dust stirred up from the tables and table cloths and storage contents. Jennifer asked the Twister truck owner if we could set a camera in the bed, and he assured us that there was no way we could hurt it. My cough kept getting worse. I’d kind of gag at the end of the cough. Nasty allergies!
Part 4: The Event
We had set up a table in the volunteer break room specifically for the photo team. There were tables all around the room, prepped for the convention. We had a floor map taped to the wall so we could physically check off which artists and vendors we had taken pictures of. Snacks and drinks sprawled across two tables for the volunteers. Jennifer had already told me several times that I didn’t look right and I should sit down and take it easy, but I’d have none of that. Work through it, you know?
Several years ago, there was another con that was an absolute disaster; not our con, mind you. The attendance was pathetic and a feature they had was a “ball pit,” which consisted of a small kiddy pool with the plastic balls in it. Their few exhibitors were understandably dissatisfied, so the con offered them “complimentary time in the ball pit” as consolation. It was so funny to us that our people set up a small ball pit in our volunteer room. Ours was an inflatable unit with net walls, big enough for two adults to lay down in, or several children to play in.
This is when my memory starts to get a little spotty. A lot of the central event memories only came back to me later, for what that’s worth. It was weird to have the memories start filling out in the weeks after. But, I’m two-thousand words into this already, and I’m only just now getting to the point, so I should digress. What I’ll give you next is the complete memory as it is now, rather than feed it I perceived it flowing back to me. If that makes any sense at all.
I was in the break room at about 2:00 p.m., helping another volunteer set up the aforementioned ball pit. The fixture itself is packaged in a nylon bag like a camping tent. We spread it out on the floor, and there was an air pump to keep it inflated like a bouncy house. I remember spreading it out, and either he or I attached the air pump. Then, I remember leaning over to straighten out some of the material as it inflated, and things went black. Do you know what it feels like when you stand up too fast and you see stars or sometimes black? That’s what it felt like, but I didn’t get up from it. It felt like being sick, and then nothing.
Part 5: The Awakening
I was laying on my back on the floor. There were people in the room; other volunteers. Jennifer was on one side of my head, with my arm in her arms. One of our dear friends was cradling my head in her lap. She was kissing me on the forehead and chanting in a shushing tone something along the lines of, “it’s going to be okay,” or “please be okay,” or “you’re going to be okay,” or maybe simply, “you’re okay.” I haven’t yet had the opportunity to ask her about this, and it’s obviously spotty for me at this point. She’s been in nursing school for a while. Between her and Jennifer, I was already in good hands.
When you have a seizure, your brain has a hard reboot. There is no consciousness in the event. Neurons fire at random. I understand that mine was quite a bit more violent than what I’ve witnessed in the past. They used to call this a “grand mal seizure,” but now it’s called a “tonic clonic seizure.” As it turns out, I just discovered a great new cocktail: rocks glass, ice cubes, pour in bitters and tonic water, SHAKE VIOLENTLY and bite your tongue!
After Jenni and our friend coaxing me into consciousness, the next thing I remember are the EMTs. Disclaimer: this is where memory gets really scrambled, so although I won’t claim anyone had tentacles, I’m probably not describing people or events accurately. A man and a woman whom I did not recognize were standing over me, big smiles and anime eyes.
“Who are these guys?” I asked. That floor felt so comfortable. It was a good nap, apparently. Everything was kind of numb like I’d just had a really deep sleep. I recognized my friends, but not these two strangers. The man looked latino and had a goatee. I can’t describe the woman with him, but they were both sweet.
“We’re here to take you to the Emergency Room,” big smiles.
I slowly shook my head, “Why would you do that?
Still big smiles, “because you just had a seizure.”
“No,” I protested, “I didn’t have any seizure.” After the fact, Jennifer has said that I had an attitude like “nah, you’ve got the wrong guy.” LOL!
“Yeah, you did,” said Jennifer.
“Can you try to sit up…”
So, I popped up off the floor and crossed my legs, ‘Indian-style.’
“…slowly? Okay, then….”
“Can you tell me your name?”
“Evyl. Evyl Robot.”
“Do you know what year it is?”
“Um… Ummmm…. Wait, I’ve got this.”
I still didn’t want to go to the ER, and said so.
“Can you tell me who the president is?”
The second-mentioned founding RGS member looked at me, concern in his eyes, “I really think you should go to the hospital.”
I looked to Jennifer who agreed. “Do I have to ride in the ambulance?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” she said, “I’M not driving you.”
They coached me to climb onto the stretcher to whisk me away for medical treatment. *growl.*
Part 6: Ambulance Ride
So, the nice EMTs strapped me down to their gurney, which sucked. And then, they clamped said gurney into the back of the ambulance, which sucked more. And then, we got out into traffic, which sucked even more than that. Have you ever noticed how a-holes in traffic will bulldog you and then whip around you if you’re not going fast enough for them? Have you ever seen how they’ll do that even worse to emergency vehicles? When they have you immobilized in the back of that big white taxi, you are facing the back of the rig, right through the big window in that back door, so you get a close-and-personal view of said a-holes. And, I couldn’t even move around. It was horrible. At least Jennifer rode in the ambulance with me. The EMTs were really nice, even if they did laugh at my vocal protestations on the other idiots on the road. Goatee dude was driving. The gal stuck needles in my arm. I’m not sure whether I was being medicated, blood drawn, checked for glucose, or what.
“How are you doing back there?” asked the driver.
“Do you really have to ask?”
The EMTs laughed. They were seriously awesome. I felt like I was being laughed at, but I was not offended.
He asked, “what’s your name?”
“Do you know what year it is?”
This time I knew, “2017.”
“Do you know who the president is?”
*deep sigh* “Donald JAAAAAYYYY Trump!”
There was more laughter. That can’t be an easy job. It’s nice to see people who enjoy the work, in whatever industry. That was actually what I was thinking when I finally got distracted from the other idiots on the road. Thanks be on High, the ride to the hospital went fairly quickly. But, that’s when the next exciting batch of funs started.
Part 7: Emergency Room
The EMTs wheeled me through the ER, down the hall, past all the rooms, to a strange little room in the very back. The room had white tile on the floor, and the walls were tiled to the ceiling. There was a second door that looked like it went straight outdoors. It looked like it might have been an operating room for the ER? Yikes! Please don’t cut me open today.
They unstrapped me from the stretcher, which was faint relief, and I was instructed to strip down and put on the hospital gown. Interesting. I’ve never had to wear one of these before. As I said in the beginning, I’d never really been admitted to a hospital. Like the EMTs, the ER staff people were all awesome. The doctor was a little Filipino man. He spoke to me deliberately and slowly. There was a nurse with a Latin accent who took my vitals and info. She was really sweet. Somebody put one of those flexible plastic needles in my arm and took blood, and pumped me full of Ativan and who knows what. That’s when things got interesting.
I was needing to use the restroom already. I’d been eyeing the restroom attached to the treatment room, but I was in the bed, in nothing but my backwards cape, and I didn’t want anyone to yell at me for trying to climb out of bed with a crapton of Ativan flowing through my veins. So, when the nurse brought me a bottle and asked me to pee in it, all I could manage to say was, “thank God, yes! I need to go!” They stole some of my blood. Then, this young dude with a northern-ish midwest accent came in with an X-Ray machine. Like everyone else, this tech was very pleasant and likable. The machine looked like freaking Glados from Portal 2 on wheels. Dude introduced himself and started adjusting Glados, snapping her joints into position, each detent clicking loudly into its lock. The drugs were doing a number on my perception by this point, and the lens head on the machine looked like Oleg Volk in a fever nightmare. They had shewed Jennifer out of the room by this point. Because radiation, doncha know.
He draped a lead blanket over my hips, from navel to knees, and commented, “that’s to protect your boys from the radiation.”
“Hey, I appreciate that,” me, not knowing what else to say. But, “I appreciate that?” Really?
So, he snapped a few shots of the inside of my chest, took back his testicle blanket, collapsed Glados, and wheeled her away, just like that.
Next, they wheeled me to the CT scan. “Computed tomography,” for those of you who might not already know. I’ve been told after the fact that you’re not supposed to look into those things. They either didn’t tell me at the time or I was so high on the ER goofballs that I didn’t understand. But, I watched those red lights with fascination. That was COOL! I’ve also been told after the fact that the red lights don’t exactly move so much. But, I swear, they were spinning clear around my head. Or, that’s what I saw, anyway. They told me that they were going to give me an injection of contrast fluid for a second round with the CT scan.
“Is this the stuff that makes you feel funny?” I asked with as much vagueness as should be expected from the sedatives.
“Um, yes,” the nurse/tech said, with great patience, “some people say it feels like you need to pee.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ve heard of that,” I mumbled.
So, she took this CAULK TUBE! I swear, this tube of contrast fluid was a good inch and a half in diameter and at least six inches long! And, when she injected it through the needle that was still hanging out of my arm, it felt thick going in. If the blood in your veins has a viscosity like watch oil, this stuff was like 80-weight gear grease. It only took a second before I felt it through my body. It didn’t make me feel like I needed to pee so much, but I get why people say that. It was more like everything got warm all of a sudden; not like going into a warm room, but from the inside. Suffice it to say, it was weird. They stuck my head back in the CT scanner for yet another dose of radiation, and spinning red lights, that aren’t really spinning, that you aren’t supposed to look at anyway. For a huge chunk of this time, they’d wired me for sound and had me hooked up to the EKG. I watched that for a while and tried to consciously change my vitals to freak out some pros. I’d been able to do this before, but it wasn’t working for me that particular day, for some strange reason.
Doc told me that I couldn’t drive. Initially, I thought this was medical advice. I wasn’t about to try after all that medication. But, in Oklahoma you can’t legally drive for six months after a seizure. Without looking up the actual code, it reads something to the effect of “losing consciousness involuntarily,” which is kind of stupid. So, if Party 1 puts a sleeper hold on Party 2, then Party 2 can’t drive for six months? That just doesn’t seem right. Doc also told me that I needed to see a neurologist. The EMTs and nurses had pre-warned me about this, and also warned me that it could take up to six months to get an appointment with a neurologist, and I’d probably have a similar wait for a subsequent MRI. Doc recommended a couple of names to see for a neurologist. As it turns out, we personally know one of the neurologists he recommended! I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.
Jennifer asked Doc, “We are scheduled to work a convention at the Fairgrounds over the weekend. Is he okay to do that?”
Doc paused, “Um… Yes, as long as he feels up to that, it should be okay. But, only if he feels up to it.”
“I will…” I don’t think anyone actually heard me.
At some point in all of this, I called my parents. I vaguely remember talking to them. I was high as a kite. I told them that I’d had a major seizure, but I was okay. I’m in the ER, but I think they’re going to let me go, so they don’t need to come or anything, I just wanted to let them know what was going on. No biggie, right? They were right there before I knew it, of course. At the beginning of the year, we switched our medical insurance from a PPO (I think) to an HSA. The deductible is a lot higher on the HSA, but the hook is that it will totally pay off in the long run if you don’t need to use the major medical anytime soon. Like, yeah. It’s way worth it just as long as you don’t have to have an expensive ER visit because your stupid brain decides to reboot all of a sudden. Because when you’ve been paying into your HSA for long enough, nothing comes out of pocket anymore. The deductible, co-pays, everything comes out of your Health Savings Account, as long as you’ve paid into it. But, if you only started a few months ago, and your head freaking blue-screens on you, you’re up a creek. Fortunately, the cute little Latina nurse gave us paperwork for an application for an interest-free loan. I was in no position to sign off on it, but Jennifer’s signature was good enough, apparently. As long as we pay it off in seven years, it should be good. We weren’t on the hook for nearly as much as I was afraid, and we can pay the loan pre-tax. I can think of a whole bunch of stuff I’d rather spend that kind of money on, but it will be alright. *Humph.* So, since my parents were still at the hospital when they discharged me, and our car was still at the Fairgrounds, they gave us a ride home. I slept the sleep of the gods that night.
Part 8: The Weekend
Before it was even bright and early, on Saturday, April 29, 2017, we loaded up our photo gear in a friend’s pickup. He drove us as well as one of our neighbors, whom we’d drafted to the team, and we all headed out to the fairgrounds. A tornado had hit the venue overnight. Trees were torn asunder. There was an arch that was a miniaturized version of the famous one in St. Louis. Was. For half a century that thing was a landmark there. Nature decided to flatten it. There are pics. The building had quite a bit of water in it, and an overhead door next to our main stage had been blown off its tracks. We had no power. Vendors and exhibitors had set up the day before, but they wandered around in the dark and hovered over their wares, guarding against looters in the dark; not a bad idea, but we didn’t have looters present. Local law enforcement was blocking con-goers from the grounds. It took some doing, some creative detouring for even we, officials, to get in. We got some interesting pics in the dark arena.
When I crossed paths with our friend, she kissed me on the cheek, squeezed me and said, “loves you!”
I hugged her in return, “loves you!”
The con on Sunday was awesome, if also trying. The crowd of attendees was amazing. The vendors were out in full-force and having a great time. I admit that I purchased some really wonderful items, as did Jennifer. I didn’t get the quantity nor quality of photos that I wanted to, but I’ll fairly give myself a pass there. As you can imagine, I was feeling slightly less than perfectly steady. Playing ‘make up for lost time’ went well. I’d patched together a camera tripod dolly out of an old lady walker and some random hardware store parts that I broke out for a little while for some time lapse work. It did feel good to finally be shooting with a camera setup that I was confident with, Jennifer with her twin to mine, and our son with his upgraded DSLR as well. I put my hands in there. As with years previous, I visually documented, but I also got in and did the labor required of the volunteer group. Every time I bumped into the ball pit kid, who was there when I went down, he looked like he was looking at a ghost. At some point over the weekend, Jennifer told me that she had to wipe blood and bile off my face and ear before I came to, and that it was like I was trying to hit myself. Later, there was a nasty, blue and green bruise that blossomed on the inside of my right thigh shaped like knuckles. Yeah.
It had been a lot worse than I had realized.
Over the weekend, I didn’t feel that bad, but I felt like someone had beat me up. It wasn’t just a feeling. I had beat me up. My tongue hurt where I’d bitten it. Nobody would have blamed me for sitting out the weekend, but it was important for me to be there. For one, these friends of mine needed to see that it didn’t take me down. For two, I wasn’t going to miss out on the weekend. I have no regrets. I had a fight with my brain. And, I won.
Part 9: More G******n Doctors
I called the neurologist’s office. The receptionist was *ahem* unwelcoming.
“We don’t take referrals from the ER,” she huffed.
I replied, “I’m personal friends with the doctor. We went to church together and were in the same Sunday School class for quite a few years.”
“Well,” she said, “I’ll just have to ask him about that.”
She took my information. I received a call back from her a couple hours later, and her tone was significantly more positive, “yes, Mr. Robot? We can work you in on Thursday.”
My test results were trickling in. It seemed slow at first, but it was probably a lot quicker than I think, in all fairness. Everything happened so fast, but the want for answers makes everything grind to a perceptive crawl. My blood pressure had been high in the ER (135/96), which is odd, because my BP has always been low. ER Doc had said that my chest X-Ray “looks beautiful. My CT scans were clean, and my urinalysis was good. There were a couple of blips in my blood work, but nothing too worrisome. In a word, they couldn’t really find anything that might have caused a seizure. Jennifer took off work and took me to see the neurologist.
Doc Neuro had a stern, sincerely concerned look on his face. He greeted me and shook my hand. He had me walk around the examination room. “The sobriety test?” I asked.” (BTW, I’ve never had do do one of those roadsides, FWIW.)
He chuckled uncomfortably, “pretty much.”
I sat on the table. He whacked my knees with the little mallet. It tickled and it was so funny to watch my reflexes working. I actually tried to resist, but it didn’t help. This made me giggle. Doc Neuro said that he wanted an EEG, which they could do right there in the office, and that he wanted to see an MRI. I was a little surprised that the CT with contrast wasn’t good enough. “It can be a little tough to get in for an MRI, but I can get you a referral,” he said.
I countered, “my aunt owns an imaging clinic here in the city. I’m pretty sure I can get in there.”
The common, going MRI runs on a 1.5-Tesla magnet. When my aunt set up shop, she sprung for the 3.0-Tesla machine, which produces far higher resolution images.
“Tell her to not bother,” said Doc Neuro, “the higher resolution can be nice, but sometimes that level of clarity muddies the issue. 1.5 is fine.” But, that’s what my aunt has. He offered to prescribe an anti-convulsive, but I was hesitant. He said that if I changed my mind, he’s go ahead and write a prescription after the fact. After looking up possible side effects, I decided that I didn’t really want to do that unless I really felt like I was going to have another seizure.
While I was putting my socks and shoes on to gather up and leave, Doc Neuro stormed back in and shoved a half a piece of notebook paper at me with, “154/94” scrawled on it. “That’s too high,” he declared. I knew my blood pressure was too high. For the last couple of weeks my blood was boiling. I could freaking feel my pulse at any given time. My veins have always stood out on my arms ever since my teens, but at this time, I could look at my arm and watch my pulse. I knew it was too high. That seizure. Of course my BP was up. My jaw was popping and I don’t know that I didn’t crack a tooth in there. When your brain goes haywire for a few minutes and tells every muscle cell in your body to go into high mode, your bones and teeth grind, and your BP goes nuts too. For what it’s worth, my blood pressure has gone back to normal by now.
Doc Neuro ordered another blood work. Great. More needles. I hate needles. We went to the lab for the blood work. They got me right in. The phleb who stuck me was really good, but she did make fun of me for how I reacted to the needle. Come on, lady! I’ve got track marks now! You people are making my right arm into a pin cushion! I half expected her to give me a lollipop for my bravery.
Part 10: MRI
I called my aunt’s clinic and identified myself. The receptionist said, “I’ve been expecting your call,” and put me on hold. When I spoke with my aunt, she explained that she was really busy and that she was going to put me on with her scheduler. Her scheduler said they could work me in that afternoon at five.
“After close?” I asked.
“Well, yeah,” she said, “but it’s okay.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t want to keep a rad tech late on my account. They should get home to their families, and I want their A-game for my health.”
So, I got an appointment later that week. At the imaging clinic, they have changing rooms. The magnet that powers an MRI is powerful enough that you can’t have anything metallic in the room. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t rip black ink out of your tattoo or tear the braces off a kid’s teeth, but metallic objects will affect imaging negatively. Put something ferrous enough in the vicinity and it will move stuff. I’ve heard rumored anecdotes of poorly planned MRI rooms that were sucking cars from parking spaces in basement parking and pulling oxygen bottles through walls. I don’t know how true any of that is, but we’re talking major magnetic power. So, I stripped down, put on their one-size-fits-all-and-so-fits-none-scrubs, left my jewelry and everything, and went in to get my MRI. The tech put a pillow around my head to keep me still and a Hannibal Lecter cage over my face.
“Are you claustrophobic?” she asked me.
I answered, “only extremely.”
Then she asked, “should I give you a Valium?”
“No, thank you,” I said, “no drugs, please.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very,” I said, “I’ll tough it out. I’ll be okay.”
She stuffed some ear plugs in my ears and cranked me into the scanner. They tell you to lay still in an MRI. I always thought that meant that you had to keep the part of your body that you are getting scanned still. Not so! Apparently, any movement in the room can screw up the imaging process. When scanning my head, I couldn’t wiggle my toes or it was messing up the scan. Who knew?!? She explained to me over the intercom that they were doing a battery of scans that would each be up to twenty minutes long, and asked if it would help if she told me when we were between scans.
“Yes! Good grief, yes! I’m a wiggly, squirmy dude. If I can have a break to stretch out between scans, we can make this easier for both of us!”
I understand that even a 1.5-Tesla machine is loud. The 3.0 is downright deafening. It sounds like this: “UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click VEEEEEEEOOOOOOOHHHHHH UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH” So on, and so forth. Finally, she used the winch to pull me back out of the machine. While I was still strapped in, Hannibal-style, she said she needed to give me the contrast fluid for round two.
“If you feel up to it,” she said.
“Um,” I said, “do I have a choice?” strapped down, at her mercy.
“Of course you do,” she said.
“I just had a CT scan with contrast. They dumped a Home Depot caulk gun of silicone into me for that.”
“Oh,” she exclaimed, “yeah, that takes a lot! This is different.”
From under my Hannibal mask, I raised an eyebrow, “how much?”
“What do you weigh?” she asked.
I could see her doing the math in her head. I was thinking that I could pretty easily bust through the restraints and make a run for the door. Yeah, I’d miss my jewelry, and those are pretty nice jeans I left in the changing room, but you know, I’m getting tired of all of this. When she told me what the dosage was it was like 5cc or less. I don’t remember the exact number.
“Let’s do this thing,” I said.
She pulled the syringe and drew the contrast fluid. That didn’t look so bad.
“you know,” I commented, trying to keep it conversational, “not only am I claustrophobic, and I hate to be still, but I also have a deep hatred for needles.”
She was sweet. She offered, “we can stop if you want.”
“I’ve come this far,” I said, “I may as well see it through.”
So, I turned my head, as best as I could within the restraints, and got a needle in the arm again. For the record, the scarring has healed and I no longer look like a heroin addict. She pushed the button and conveyor-belted me into the belly of the giant magnet again. “UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH chick chock chick chock UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH” It occurred to me that I have some really comfy pajama pants at home; not the used-a-million-times-by-strangers scrubs in a size XX-huge, but they have a drawstring, but Oakly-branded fuzzy pants that fit nicely. But, I was about done, so moot point. Side note: I’m also sensitive to magnetic fields. I know that the point was to align the molecules in my head so they could capture a 3D image of my brain, but that much focused magnetic field screws with my head. But anyway, round two was only like fifteen minutes, to my great joy!
“You made it!” she said as she reeled me out of my prison and started removing my restraints, “I’m so proud of you!”
I smiled at her and said, “that was the worst Nine Inch Nails concert I’ve ever been to!”
The look on her face told me she didn’t get the joke. Damn. Not only was that a good one, but when will I ever get a chance to deliver it again?
She asked when I was to see Doc Neuro again, “do I need to make sure he gets the scans, or can I just burn a disk for you to take with you?”
Jennifer and I looked at each other conspiratorially and said in unison, “burn a disk.”
Part 11: Don’t Look at Your Own Head Scan Without a Pro
So obviously, when we got home with the disk, we threw it in a laptop drive to see what we could see, like The Bear that Went Over the Mountain. The software to read the scan files was on the disk along with all of the scan files. Convenient. So, we looked at my brain. It looked like a brain. But, paranoia drew my eyes to the asymmetry.
“There’s this cavity on both sides of my brain, but it’s slightly larger on the left than the right! What does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?”
“…” Jennifer, “maybe it means your brain is broken and you’re insane.”
“That’s not really up for question, though, is it?”
When Jennifer drove me in for my EEG, I was obviously getting tired of tests, but trying to be a good sport and find the entertainment value. They’d told me that I had to get up at 6:00, no coffee, fast, and go in with clean hair, because they were going to stick a bunch of probes on my head. I did them one better and shaved my head the night before. The waiting room was small. Everything felt small. I felt small. There was another couple in the waiting room. He had one of those old lady walkers with the seat, and he was on an oxygen bottle. There was also a plant in the waiting room. I’m pretty sure there were magazines, but nothing that I wanted to read. After what seemed like an eternity waiting, I got called in. The tech/nurse/professional (I don’t even know what to call these people anymore) was a cute little black gal. She led the two of us to the testing room and directed me to a chair. Before she started wiring me up, she told Jennifer that she’d have to go back to the waiting room.
She started attaching the little sticky probe pads to my head, “clean shaved, making my day!”
“Well,” I said, “I usually keep it shaved. I was getting a little fuzzy, and I thought this might make your job easier.”
I knew that they’d put probes on my head. I do have Google, after all. But, I was thinking like six to eight probes. It took her a good twenty minutes to wire me up, because she stuck no fewer than a bajillion of those little sticker probes all over my head, my face, my neck, my chest… Why are you probing my nipples to scan my brain? the first part of the test was clearly to get me relaxed. She turned the lights off and told me to close my eyes. Get your brain out of the gutter. She did NOT light candles NOR put on romantic music. Next, I was instructed to hyperventilate. This also made sense. Brain, sleep deprived, no caffeine, relaxing, oxygenated. Sure, if they’re going to induce a seizure-like state so they can scan my brainwaves through my nipples, then all else they’d need is flashing lights, right? Oh. So, that was the next step. She had me close my eyes again and there was a strobe in my face that went at various intervals. The pattern got to the point that I knew what interval was coming next. Although my eyes were closed, the strobe was intense enough to see through my eyelids. Once the test was finally done, Jennifer drove me home.
I talked to Doc Neuro. He had The Disk in his computer in the examination room. We may or may not have copied said disk. Hey, we paid a lot of money for that disk! Spinning his mouse wheel, he noted, “yeah, your brain looks normal. It looks fine. And, these images are sharp! I can see you’ve got some sinus congestion, but you live in Oklahoma, and most of us have sinus congestion this time of year. I can prescribe something for that, if you’d like.”
Part 12: Fallout
Doc Neuro also offered to prescribe an anti-convulsive. I looked them up on Google, by name, naturally. They all have possible side effects. They don’t negatively affect everyone. For those whom they work, they seem to work really well. For others, they have some nasty side effects, usually mentally and emotionally. Weighing risks, it was a gamble one way or another.
Jennifer had told our tribe over the internet about my situation. Shortly thereafter, we decided it was time to take a trip to Texas to visit some of them. The town we visit, we meet up with LawDog, Phlegmmy, Peter, Miss D., and Old NFO. It’s a Branch Dividian type setup. The only reason that I say that, though, is that I’m just jealous that I don’t have a house on their block. It was a cathartic trip. LawDog hugged me tight and proclaimed, “Evyl, you had me so scared!” All weekend, he kept citing the statistic, “one in twenty people will have a random seizure, at some point in their live.”
Later, I was standing in front of Old NFO’s house, enjoying tobacco, and he interjected, “you has us all scared.”
To which I responded, “You think YOU were scared? Nobody was more scared than me!” *Insert laughter, puff tobacco.*
*Statically, as I understand it, a full five percent of the population will have a seizure at one time or another. There are ages when this is likely: early childhood, mid-life, and then elderly. It seems that I’m in that mid-life category. So, instead of getting a hot, young girlfriend and a new sports car, I got a seizure! Yay, me!
*Once you have a seizure, you have a 50/50 chance of having another one in the next six months. This is why you can’t legally drive for six months in Oklahoma (and many other states). For those six months, you’re a seizure risk. While I was not driving, I was cycling, and I pretty much stuck to sidewalks that had grass between them and the road. The last thing I wanted was to convulsively eject myself into traffic in front of a speeding truck. And, since I had my son with me most of the time, that would serve the added bonus of scarring him for life for seeing my demise played out as such.
*Two years is the home plate. Statistically, by the time you hit two years, your chances of having another seizure have gone down to 10%. Granted, that’s twice as likely as the general population’s 5%, but it’s odds that sound good enough that I’ll take and call it normal. A couple weeks after the event, my mom messaged me and asked me when I “would be clear” so she “could stop worrying.” Heh. I told her that she may as well stop worrying now, because “in the clear” is going to be in two years, and that’s relative, even then.
As I wrote before, that weekend I felt beat up, but I was functional. It was in the next few weeks that the weird stuff started up. I was tired all the time; downright exhausted. Two or three days a week, I could nap during the day. I’ve never been a ‘nap person.’ But, I’d get tired and put in six to eight hours of sleep during the day. And then, I’d still sleep all night. One day, Jennifer got home from work and I didn’t hear her arrive. I didn’t wake up until she came into our bedroom.
I said, “oh, did you get off work early?”
And, she said, “Um, no. It’s 6:30.”
“In the morning?”
“What day is this?”
I’ve heard from other people who have had seizures that this is not at all uncommon. At this point, I feel like I could sleep much like that, but I don’t feel like I need to anymore, which is a relief. Jennifer told me that if I need to sleep like that, please do, but also please give her a heads-up, so she’s prepared and doesn’t have an excuse to assume worse. Fair enough.
The word from Doc Neuro was that my brain looks normal. EEG, EKG, MRI, MRI with contrast, CT, CT with contrast all came out great. Don’t spend all your money in one place, right?
Part 13: Possible causes? And, The End
Some days, I’ve felt exhausted. Some days, I feel that “nauseated but not nauseated.” On rare occasion, I’ve had that nasty cough with the gag at the end of it. Do you know what that sounds like though? Asphyxia. Lack of oxygen to the brain can be a seizure trigger (because, of course it can). I’ve had an awful habit of holding my breath under stress. I wrote at the beginning of this that I’d had a tooth pulled. My dad’s cousin was my orthodontist. He kept reminding me to breath the nitrous oxide, because I’d stop breathing and my mouth would hurt. On those days that I start feeling that ‘aura,’ it helps immensely if I will simply control my breathing.
A few days after the event, Jennifer reminded me that I’d said my McDonald’s Coke ‘tasted funny.’ True. She suggested to me the possibility that they’d mistakenly filled my order with a Diet Coke. When she was younger, she was diagnosed with migraines. When we started dating, she’d have a debilitating migraine weekly. When I was younger, I often had debilitating headaches that I now have reason to suspect were undiagnosed migraines. We had not been married very long when Jennifer cut all aspartame out of our life; gum, toothpaste, drinks. Things got frustrating for a while. But, the headaches went away. Her weekly migraines went down to annual, and then dried up from there. I stopped getting headaches as well. The only time my head hurts anymore is if I’m actually sick, or I have sinus congestion, that apparently my neurologist can help with, because my aunt’s MRI is too powerful, because the world is weird. But, I digress. Again. A freaking stick of gum can give me a migraine. If I drank a 32oz Diet Coke on an empty stomach, sleep deprived, I don’t know how that would NOT cause a seizure.
It was scary and totally unexpected. Nobody really knows why I had a seizure. But, it’s been over six months now, and I’m driving again. As I wrote earlier, I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but the six-month mark is a hugely important milestone. More towards the beginning of recovery, I’d count down the days.
People would ask, “so, when do you get to drive again?”
“October 28,” I’d quickly answer without a moment’s hesitation.
Earlier, I mentioned the bicycle that my dad gave me. It’s a 20-year-old Schwinn 21-speed. I ordered a cargo rack for the back of it. That felt so freeing, and I’ve been able to make quite a few critical around-town grocery trips. You know that phrase, “it’s just like riding a bicycle?” LIES! When I first got on that thing, I was wobbling all over the place. In fairness, it only took a little practice for me to start getting comfortable with the Schwinn. We’ve had some good times, strapping a bluetooth speaker to the cargo rack, clamping my phone into the handlebar mount I got for it, and pedaling around town with the music going. Some days, the bike is even more pleasant than the car or truck.
Honestly, I was a little unsure whether I could legally drive on the day of the six-month mark, or after that. Just to play it safe, I put it off until the 29th. This was the longest I’d gone without driving since I got my license when I was sixteen. I was honestly a little concerned as to whether I would be a little rusty, kind of like with the bicycle. But, we got in the truck, I fired her up, and we drove around town. It felt awesome. I took the long way around, hitting several detours in our route. I actually stalled the truck right out of the driveway, but beyond that one ‘oopsie’ I was like a fish in water.
My sleep schedule has become far more normal. My sense of balance is actually better than I was before. Another surprise is that I hear music more fully than I ever did before. I’ve always had an ear for music, but I’m hearing more fullness in the actual complexity to it now. Through several changes like that, I’m feeling phoenix-like, like I’ve emerged from the fire as a new creature. So, anyway, that’s where I am now. One day at a time.
The whole thing has been a nearly spiritual experience one I would advise avoiding, but spiritual no less. I have more firm belief now than ever before that my body is not me, and my brain is not my mind. My brain was doing its own thing during the event, and I had no part in the matter. Regaining my sense of balance, my vocabulary, my strength; that’s been through determination and a fight against the flesh. My spirit and mind may be attached to my body and brain, but this has driven home the point for me that your body and your brain are not who you are. I don’t want to be known as ‘the guy who had a seizure,’ but I do feel like a there’s a lot that other people could get out of the story, so that’s why I chose to share it.
*edited for formatting error*