Posted by: Kate | July 4, 2009

Seize the Day

Well, that’s one way to shake things up. As it were.

Today was the first day of our two-day garage sale. We’ve only been planning it for a week, but we had a TON of stuff to get rid of. Mostly kids’ clothing – I saved bins of clothes from both kids, from birth, and hung onto them because we were planning to have another baby. I’ve accepted that that’s not likely to happen, and if it does, I’ll go ahead and buy new clothes, or collect hand-me-downs from one of my more fertile friends.

Everything went fine for the first few hours, and I was taking mental notes so as to craft the blog entry. I wasn’t feeling great for it, but I wasn’t feeling horrible, either – just sort of off, a little spacey, dizzy and a smidge nauseous at times. I shrugged it off, because I had to; we have so much to do before the move, and this was a particularly key step.

At 11:30, I noticed that one of my birdfeeders was growing grass out of the bird-feeding holes… I thought that might be a sign that it wasn’t getting enough use and needed new seed. I started dumping it out, which required a few sticks and a skewer to try and pry loose the mess at the bottom, and was unsuccessful.

Then I had a seizure.

Yes, really. It was horrifying. I’ve never had one in my life, and I hope to never repeat the experience.

The seizure itself is completely lost to my memory. Everything is a complete blank from the birdfeeder to the ambulance crew loading me onto the stretcher, and things remain spotty for the next hour or so in the ER. I realized that I’ve never had true memory loss before; sure, I forget stuff, and I’ve overimbibed and lost chunks of evenings, but I do have scattered memories from those nights and when reminded I can remember even more. This? No, very different from that. Total black, no idea what went on, at all.

Willem was right next to me and watched it all happen. He held my head, and called 911, and attempted to shoo away the oblivious shoppers in our driveway. Both kids watched it happen, too – Emily was a few feet away from me outside, and Jacob was watching out the front window. Jacob had a friend over, and the friend believed I was dead. I’m really glad I was able to stand and walk to the stretcher, to at least prove that that wasn’t the case.

Willem tells me that in those first several minutes, half hour maybe, I had decompensated to the mental capacity of a very small child. I was apparently fascinated with the rocks in the garden, and was smiling and grunting at them, but had no speech. By the time the ambulance crew got there, I had words and was starting to string them together into complete sentences, but I still wasn’t right: I truly believed that the EMTs just happened to be in the neighborhood and stopped by the shop, and wasn’t it lucky that they were there when I needed them? On the ride to the hospital, I was able – with difficulty – to remember my name (THAT is a scary mental search to perform, let me tell you) but I didn’t know where I was and I had no idea of the date – “Late June, maybe?” By that point I was starting to encode memory again, so I can remember the absolute bafflement and confusion because I knew I was supposed to know the answers to these questions, and I simply could not find those answers. Scary, and reminds me that I’d prefer not to experience dementia, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, long story short – because my head still hurts too much to stay on the computer much longer – I was diagnosed with a grand mal seizure of unknown origin. I just read a list of symptoms, and, yes, I had a whole lot of those. I should have a full recovery; mentally, I believe I already have, though I haven’t tried anything more taxing than blogging yet. Physically, my right side is bruised up, because I was standing next to the house, in the garden, when I fell. We can’t figure out the logistics of that, because I was on my left side by the time Willem got there two seconds later. Every muscle in my body hurts like I had an all-day workout. My head throbs, and it’s worse if I try to bend down to pick something up. I was still nauseous and dizzy and sleepy for a while, but that has passed. And my tongue? Oh, my tongue. I’ll get Willem to take a picture: I understand why they used to say to shove something in a person’s mouth so they don’t bite their tongue. (Public Service Announcement: now, you’re not supposed to do that, because people were biting off chunks of whatever was shoved in their mouth and choking on it.)

They told me that they think it was caused by a combination of low potassium, dehydration, “sun poisoning” (which sounds much cooler than “sunstroke”) and stress. I shouldn’t expect it to ever happen again. The low potassium might be due to the dehydration, or might be due to a vitamin deficiency; I’ll eat more bananas and drink lots of Gatorade.

(Update: The “they” that pronounced this was an ER doctor, who later incorrectly coded the incident and generally screwed up a number of things.  After consultation with my PCP and neurologist, the new consensus is that the seizure was caused by the combination of Ultram and Zoloft, a pain medication and antidepressant which I had been prescribed for several months prior.  It’s a known complication of that combination, but apparently is a rare enough side effect that they were willing to risk it with me.  Whoops.)

So, yeah. Never a dull moment here. How was your Fourth of July?


  1. Kate, Kate, Kate. Having a grand mal siezure was most definitely NOT on my “How to Have a Successful Garage Sale” post.

    I’ve never seen a human have one, but my dear departed dog, Jonah, had them on and off for the last several years of his life. Horrible to watch, and now, from your description, I know how horrible it was for him to experience. He, too, was not himself for about 30-45 minutes afterwards. How weird that must feel!

    I very much hope that they are correct and that this was just a fluke. That potassium can cause some seriously weird stuff to happen. An with your amazing penchant for attracting the weird, I’d be sure to eat those bananas!!!

    I hope the most amazing event to happen tomorrow is that someone actually buys your back copies of “Knitters Bliss”!

  2. Oh my God, Kate! “Never a dull moment” doesn’t begin to cover your life! I pray this is the low point before things get a LOT better in Massachusetts!

  3. Oh.My.God…..

    How freakin scary. I’m glad you’re ok and hope that you’re feeling better tomorrow.


  4. This could only happen in your life, my friend.

    Seriously, I’m really glad you’re OK, and I hope they’re right about it not happening again.

  5. Good heavens! I’m glad you’re ok.

  6. I can completely relate to how Willem might have been feeling. I witnessed the aftermath of two seizures that my husband has had since I’ve known him (he had brain cancer as a teenager and has scar tissue from a partial lobectomy). It is truly frightening to look into the eyes of someone you love and just…not see them. Take it easy and rest lots.

  7. Oh My!!! I am glad that you are ok now, yes low potassium could have caused it, because that is one of the things that they have warned us about with Jerry’s potassium problems. Rest lots, I know not easy to do with the move coming, but still.

  8. Thank goodness you’re alright, not counting the bruising and tongue and headache and exhaustion and hospital visit and all.

    Here’s hoping tomorrow is an entirely uneventful day!

  9. oh my god, how scary for all of you!!! rest up and I hope you feel better today.

  10. Kate, I’m so sorry – you sure know how to add some excitement to things!! How are Emily & Jacob coping? A boy in my Gr. 7 French class had a Grand Mal seizure in front of me and I remember being freaked out for quite a long time. (Knowing Willem, I suspect he handled it with far more grace & calm than my French teacher did!)

    Oh, how I wish you were moving at a different time of year so I could hop in the van and come help you out! Love you (all)!

  11. Holy crap! You sure know how to keep things from getting too dull.

    Take care of yourself – and aim for uneventful, OK?

    Just wondering if any of your medications can cause potassium to tank that low?

  12. Scary! One of my classmates had a mild seizure when I was in high school – ironically, it was in health class, and we had an EMT in the class as a guest lecturer that day, so Providence, etc…

    Interestingly, the scariest seizure I ever experienced was my friend’s dog on New Year’s Eve one year.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better. Time to call ze doctor and check to see if your meds increase risk of seizure, I guess. I just wish I was closer to you so I could help more.

  13. That is too scary. I had a seizure once and it was horrible. My muscles froze up and I couldn’t talk. Scary stuff. Glad you are recovering. Hope that is your one and only. Take care.

  14. back before Lena during some seriously stressful crap, I started having seizures. They blow big time. 😦 I ended up staying in the hospital for a week (with no health ins..) to find out that I have stress conversion disorder which as far as I can tell is the new term for Neurosis.. blech stress can do some wicked crazy things to us huh? but srsly, I’m sorry you went through that, its a hard thing for everyone involved, hope it is a one time thing 🙂

  15. Oh, man! I am so glad you’re ok. I, too, wish we lived closer so I could come by and help out. Be well!

  16. scary stuff, Kate. I hope it doesn’t happen ever again for you!

  17. God almighty. I’m so glad you’re okay. So, so glad.

  18. I’m glad to hear you’re ok. Scary!!!

  19. Keep tabs on it Kate. My sister is an epileptic and there’s more to it than “Ok it probably wont happen again” Get it fully checked out.

  20. That entire STATE is making you SICK. Get thee to Massachusetts STAT!

  21. […] that garage sale happened, and I interrupted the flow of things by having a grand mal seizure in the middle of the front garden.  It took a while, and any number of tests and consultations, […]

  22. […] Down the Fo(u)rt(h) I spent a chunk of the last Fourth of July in the emergency room, having created a little fireworks display inside my head that […]

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