There have always been certain factors of my sister’s seizures that were more characteristic to partial possession than to a medical disorder. The situations she found herself having a seizure in always consisted of her at her most vulnerable state mentally and physically, always when she was alone. The impossible positions she ended up in, time lapses that would occur, seizures where she was standing or spinning in place. Doctors never could explain her behavior, just that the jerking and the muscle binding resembled a seizure.
The first seizure was one none of us would forget. It was the one seizure that led to another that led to another that led to the worse one. And there’s no way to prepare for that kind of impact on your sister’s life.
– Danny Raye
Cravings at ten pm were normal for a fifteen-year-old girl. Chocolate cake to soften the pressure of upholding the perfect appearance was typically a favorite. Evelyn was in the kitchen to quench a craving for heavily salted pickles, the kind of desire only a pregnant fifteen-year-old typically has.
Standing at the fridge door, feeling the rush of cool air against her arms, Evelyn shivered. She was in a long-sleeve shirt and fleece pajama pants, which already fought off most of the evening chill. The thousands of frozen spiders crawling up her spine was different. Something was wrong. She couldn’t seem to keep her balance now, and as she reached for the counter, she couldn’t find it. She just kept reaching and reaching and…
Deborah had known something was wrong when God cast her eyes open in the middle of the night. She had an early morning at work tomorrow, and had been set in this waking-up-at-three-am routine for fifteen years now. Why was she awake at ten pm? Because something was wrong.
Danny and Sara were safe in bed next to her. She checked on Sal, who was sleeping peacefully in the room he shared with Brandy. But where was the pregnant teen? Not in the bathroom either. Deborah began to panic. She didn’t know why, she just knew she needed to have that sense of urgency.
Snoring on the kitchen floor.
“Brandy! Oh my god.”
Deborah dropped next to her daughter who was lying face down on the unborn baby.
“Bran, oh! SAL!”
Deborah’s wails brought the fourteen-year-old boy down the hall. “What, Mom?”
Deborah struggled to turn her daughter over. “Sal, run down the street and get Dan.”
Dan Dan the Fireman would know what to do until the ambulance arrived.
Deborah checked the stature of Brandy’s belly. It was still firm, the water still in tact. There was saliva and blood from Brandy’s face on the floor, but no sign the baby had been harmed. That’s only an external examination, though. Only God knew the baby’s condition now.
Dan was over in a second. “What happened?” He rolled Brandy onto her side to open the airway. “She’s having a seizure,” he concluded when he received nothing but horrified silence from Deborah.
Deborah was beside herself. “Is the baby gonna be okay?” she was still screaming. “DAN!”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Deb, I don’t know. You have to get her to the hospital. Have you called an ambulance?”
Deborah had while he was on his way over. “Uh-huh. Dan, what do I do?”
“We just have to wait it out. You make sure she’s breathing, not choking on her tongue and whatever you do, never try to restrain her. Her muscles are clenched now and if you hold her limbs down, she could break something. Does she have a history of seizures?”
“What-what-why would she? No.”
Deborah stared at her daughter. Couldn’t even drive alone and she was nine months pregnant by a man who lost all interest in the baby when he found out it was a girl. Now she was having a seizure, had fallen face first onto the baby…
The ambulance arrived shortly. Deborah was no longer in her body when she watched the paramedics wheel her daughter out into the night. Deborah was already in heaven joining her little sister, Becky who had died of leukemia, her Uncle Johnny who had died in war, and was awaiting the arrival of her daughter and unborn granddaughter’s souls. That’s all she could seem to want to do. Drift from the real horror of death that was present here to the peace of being dead.
“Mommy? Is Brandy gonna be okay?”
Deborah didn’t have the option to die. Not now. Not when Brandy still had a pulse. Not when she had three other children to live for.
“Sal, get your sisters and get your stuff. We’re going to the hospital.”
“She’s gone into labor,” the nurse reported when Deborah arrived at the hospital.
Dan was there in the waiting room door. He greeted Sal, Danny and Sara who were all little bundles of confusion and fear. “Kids, come on in. They have hot chocolate. All you can drink.”
Sal was reluctant to leave his mother, but she was too distracted to notice his peril. He watched her run after the nurse down the hall and to the left where she disappeared.
“Sal?” Dan called.
Sal followed his little sisters into the waiting room. He worried that he had not been of much help this entire time. He was the man of the house and he had done nothing to protect his sister or his niece.
Deborah was no longer fretting her failures as a parent. All that mattered now were the two lives at risk in this delivery. She entered the room, washed up and was dressed in a gown, hat and shoes before she could approach her daughter’s bedside.
Brandy was in great despair. She was pushing, pushing with all her might for her daughter’s life. It had been an hour and a half since the seizure and she only looked half awake with these terrifying black circles beneath her eyes and the purplish bruises along her face. There were tears along her cheeks and a strain in her neck and cheeks as she fought all her own pain for the joy of hearing those tiny cries.
Deborah took her daughter’s hand. Brandy found her mother’s eyes just briefly between pushes. There was even a tug of a smile at Brandy’s lips now. Deborah could see only a glimpse of it through her tears.
“Keep pushing, Bran. You’re doing great.”
Brandy squeezed and pushed and breathed and repeated.
“Almost there!” the nurse was calling from between her legs. “Almost—”
God, please let them live. Let them both live through this. Give us a healthy, happy baby and let my daughter live, Deborah thought.
“It’s a girl!” the nurse hollered while cradling the infant soiled in amniotic fluid and blood.
Brandy let out a sighed giggle. Her head thudded back against the pillow. Deborah turned from her first grandchild to the daughter that had made such remarkable joy present in her life.
“Bran?” Deborah shook her hand. It had fallen limp, cold, chilling. “Brandy? Nurse—”
“She’s losing too much blood. I can’t get it to stop. Nurse!”
The doctor was panicking. The doctor. Deborah was going to collapse. She gripped the bed railing, brushing her daughter’s black hair from her face. Her ashen, paper white face. “Bran,” she cried. “Bran, stay awake. See your baby. Come on, Bran.”
Brandy was asleep. She wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be. This wasn’t going to be a give-a-life-and-take-a-life kind of trade. No. Deborah had prayed for this to be prevented. God wouldn’t let her down. Not now. Not after it all.
Deborah could hear the dripping of gelatin as the blood struck the white tile floor. Deborah jerked her eyes away, back to her daughter. “Bran, come on. Look at your daughter. She’s here, Bran.”
The wails of little Ari were echoing in the room. They were the angelic voice of life, the sensory of peace that sustained the little hope inside of Deborah. The hope that Brandy, wherever she was, would be drawn to the sound of her daughter calling for her. That she would return to her body to be the mother God designed her to be.
And so it was.
After the surgery, the doctor returned Brandy to the delivery room.
“You’re very lucky,” the doctor said to Deborah. “Most of the time we can’t locate the break in time. Most patients die. Your daughter lived today. We managed to stitch her up before she could bleed out. How’s the baby?”
“She’s healthy,” the nurse said, carrying her over. “Would you like to hold your granddaughter?”
Deborah cradled baby Ari. A bundle of cries in need of soothing. A bundle of life that had yet to be discovered. A bundle of love that erased all guilt of her conception. A bundle of a baby girl that was warm and ever so tiny in Deborah’s arms. She had nearly forgotten what it was like to cradle a newborn. How so very fragile they are.
“Will my daughter be all right?”
“After a long while of rest. She lost a lot of blood, but she’s stabilized,” the doctor said.
Deborah held Ari near her sleeping mother. “Here’s your mama, Ari.”
“Unfortunately, we have no explanation for the seizure. We performed MRI’s, CAT scans, x-rays. We believe it to be what’s called a ‘grandma seizure’, which means things like flashing lights won’t trigger one. It could be have been a one-time incident, but in case it wasn’t, I want to run through some emergency protocols should another occur.”
The doctor flipped open the pamphlet. The points were simple: watch for signs of dizziness or shakiness, get her close to the floor, tip her on her side to keep the airway clear of her tongue. When the doctor asked if she had any questions, Deborah didn’t ask the one on her mind: how could a baby and a possible seizure disorder be my fifteen-year-old daughter’s life?
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