In The Blink Of An Eye

It had been hours since I first stood in the waiting area of that emergency room, texting the kids to let them know what happened, which immediately prompted phone calls for more details. I had been keeping them updated but we were waiting so long for the last couple of tests that the kids got worried when I was quiet, so they texted to see if I was still with you, and if you were ok. I snapped a photo of where we were: Together, on your gurney, still in the E.R., now waiting to have you admitted so they could do the last couple of tests that may not happen until morning.

Traumatic events seem to happen both simultaneously in the blink of an eye, and in slow-motion. Details are acute, while also a blur. I know it happened on August 5th, yet it somehow feels like it was years ago, not three months ago. I remind myself multiple times a day that you’re okay now, but the images of what happened will be burned in my memory forever.

We’ve long joked about how good I am in a crisis. When shit goes down, my practical brain kicks in to take care of whatever is about to fall apart. While good in the moment, it’s not so good on my emotions that are put on the back burner in order to get through it. In those moments before it happened on that summer day, you went from screaming in pain, to walking across our room in silence, and I briefly thought you were feeling better. But when I walked you back to bed and you said something that didn’t make sense, then crawled to the middle of our bed, flipped on your back, and had a massive, full-body seizure, I knew you were NOT feeling better and my practical brain flew into high gear as I raced to grab my phone. I know I gave the 911 operator the details of what was happening as I stood over you on our bed. I know I gave her our address and asked for an ambulance to come to our house immediately, but when your face turned so blue and the seizure wouldn’t stop, I threw the phone and held your sweat-drenched body propped up in my arms, watching blood-stained saliva drip out of the side of your mouth from biting your lip and tongue, hoping that somehow my love would be enough to help you. I don’t even remember hanging up on that call. My only thought was if you were about to die, it wasn’t going to be alone on our bed, it was going to be in my arms.

We arrived in the E.R. at the same time, you by the lights and sirens of a speeding ambulance, me by car, driving way faster than I probably should have. I was at the front desk trying to check you in and could hear you moaning in the hallway behind the wall of the receptionist area as the paramedics took you straight in for a CT scan to check you for a stroke or an aneurysm. The receptionist did her best to keep me calm, saying it was okay to take a seat and a nurse would come out to get more information on you. I turned to look at the lobby and was relieved to see so many empty seats. The lobby was split by “standard emergency” and “Covid patients.” It reminded me of the smoking and non-smoking sections on airplanes when I was a kid: completely pointless because we’re all in one closed space, breathing the same air. But when I saw there were only two Covid people, I was relieved because it meant there would be a bed available so we could get you the care you needed.

I sent a few texts and made a couple of quick phone calls to family members to let them know what happened, and left a voicemail with your manager, who would need to cancel your on-camera job the next day. I briefly looked up from my phone and out the window of the lobby area when a man with kind eyes, carrying a clipboard and a pen, came out from a side door by the receptionist area and sat down next to me. He spoke softly as he told me they recognized you and listed you as a private patient. I hadn’t even considered this getting out into press and how invasive and traumatic that would feel, but I remembered the wall of news vans lining the block for days at that hospital when Luke Perry was brought there after having a stroke, and I thanked him for doing that for us. I filled out the paper on the clipboard, handed it back to him, and he told me someone would come back out to get me as soon as you were back from the scan.

Within minutes, my name was called and I was escorted back to a room just as you were being wheeled in on a gurney. You were talking now, confused as to what happened and how you got there. It was that moment that I felt alone in this nightmare. Of course it made sense that you wouldn’t remember a seizure, but you didn’t remember at least an hour total that began before the seizure, or recalling the three paramedics showing up in our bedroom, with one asking me a bunch of health questions while two others worked to get you strapped into a device that looked like a furniture dolly with a seat and torso straps. You didn’t remember yelling about how bad your head hurt, or that I had to hold your hands as they took you to the ambulance so you wouldn’t undo the straps that were preventing you from falling off that contraption, and you didn’t remember the ambulance ride to the hospital or the CT scan you just had. I had to explain it all to you while you looked at me as if I was telling you a story about someone else’s life.

Seven hours and multiple tests later, the doctor came back in to let us know a bed was ready for you in the neurology wing. It was past visiting hours but since you had no memory of what happened, the doctor said I could go with you to help get you settled in your room and answer questions the nurses would be asking, and then I would have to go home for the night. When they finally came to get you and we headed out of your room in the E.R., I wanted to once again thank the doctor and all of the nursing staff for everything they did to help you, but you were being wheeled away so quickly that there just wasn’t time. I hoped the gratitude I expressed with each brief interaction throughout your time in that part of the hospital had been taken to heart.

Knowing I had to leave you there overnight was awful. Taking your wedding ring with me because you couldn’t wear it while getting an MRI made me feel like you were truly alone there, which was even worse. I felt like we were just getting you settled in to your new room when they came in to take you for the MRI they had originally said wouldn’t happen until morning. The nurses told me I needed to go home but to come back first thing in the morning so I could be there when the neurologist arrived. I watched them take you down the hallway, disappearing behind a set of double doors, before I walked myself down the quiet, dimly lit, empty corridors of the hospital and out into the warm night air to make the drive back to our house, alone.

I didn’t sleep that night while you were away. Every time I started to drift off, images of your blue face in my arms made my heart race and I was wide awake once again. I reached over to your side of the bed more times than I care to admit, and when you weren’t there, I’d rotate your wedding ring around my thumb, over and over. As sunlight slowly filled our bedroom the following morning, I jumped up and got myself ready to go walk in those hospital doors when visiting hours started at 8am. When the neurologist came to your room to tell us all of your tests were clear and the cause of your seizure was pinched nerves, a rapid onset migraine, and one of your anti-depressants creating the most unlikely trio of circumstances that can cause a seizure, but you would be just fine, I felt numb. I had spent the last 24 hours worrying that you had a brain tumor, or some sort of seizure disorder that we were somehow going to figure out how to navigate so you would be okay. The relief at knowing *you* were going to be okay sent a tidal wave of emotions at me that I had stuffed away in order to allow my “crisis brain” to get us through this. Once we got home, those emotions were so intense that just watching you climb into bed sent me into one of many panic attacks I would have over the weeks to come.

I’ve often heard that emotional trauma can trigger an injury somewhere on the body of the person that is affected by an experience. Some people call it a spiritual meaning, some describe it as a place where energy is stored. Whatever it is, it sounds a little woo-woo and probably not something that’s scientifically proven but knowing now what happened to me then, it does make sense. When your migraine lingered days after coming home from the hospital, I was so worried you would have another seizure. When we tried having a quiet dinner at home on my birthday, I found myself just looking at you from across our dining room table to see if the signs of a seizure were happening again. I spent nights with my hand on your arm while you slept next to me, and I would sit up and look at you with even the slightest twitch or movement you made. I was so terrified, and so exhausted, but I knew I needed to stay strong to get us through this. What I didn’t realize was just how much of a toll it was taking on me, physically.

For someone who believes that spirituality and health are connected, the low back is a significant area where emotions are stored. The L4 area of the spine is the seat of emotion, especially grief. It is also where one holds joy within their family. The lowest vertebrae, L5, represents one’s roots, their walk through life, and the relationship to their time on Earth. So when I launched out of bed in a complete panic on August 9th to the sounds of you vomiting in the kitchen sink from the migraine you still had (I thought you were having another seizure) it’s no wonder I herniated the disc in between L4 and L5. You are my heart, my soul, my partner in the life we have built together, my foundation, and in that moment, I thought you were possibly being ripped away from me forever.

While the road to my physical and emotional recovery has been slow, I know I am improving daily and will continue to do so when I focus on the future, and not on the circumstances of past. And with each passing day where I have to remind myself that all of your doctors have said this completely random series of events that caused your seizure is so unlikely to ever happen again, I still find myself checking on you in the middle of the night, or quietly panicking if I hear a loud noise coming from whatever room you’re in during the day, even though you’ve been fine. I hope I’ll get past it, but I’m not quite there yet. And while you still don’t remember the events of that day, I know neither of us will ever forget how much help our friends Bonnie, Stephanie, Donna, Steph, and Yesenia stepped up to help us out while you recovered from your seizure, and I recovered from my back surgery. I know now that in those first moments in the hospital when I thought I was alone in dealing with this, I wasn’t. The love and support was actually there all along.

92 thoughts on “In The Blink Of An Eye

  1. Holy crap, Love to you both and prayers to thank God that you both have each other. Your post cemented what i knew already, that you are both made for each other.

  2. Oh my goodness, Anne, I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve both been through. Much love from my side of the Pond. ❤️

  3. This has me sobbing and wishing I could hug you. I wish I could do something. Anything to help you in some way while you go through all of this. I’ve been through both scenarios like this before but not with the love of my life and while I did have to care for my former partner after seizures and surgeries… none of it felt as heavy as you conveyed feeling as you’ve gone through this with Wil.

    I love you my friend. Thank you for sharing this. Wil is incredibly lucky to have you in his corner. ❤️ I’m willing so much love your way. Heal and rest. Everything else is secondary.

  4. Holy Crap! I’m so glad you guys are both okay. I’m also glad that you have each other and such amazing friends in the area. Love and healing vibes to you both.

  5. How terrifying & totally understandable the lingering trauma to you as partner. I’m so glad things seem to be okay, or are on their way to being okay again.

  6. Crying reading this. Praying for you both. You are two remarkable people and your relationship is a wonderful example of love at work. Bless you both!

  7. Just weeping all over again over here, don’t mind me. I am so grateful for the support of your friends. Everyone benefits. Always sending you and Wil good mojo.

  8. I’m so sorry you have both been going through this. Much love and best wishes from an internet stranger who admires you both.

  9. Anne, this made me cry. I relate to you and how you react/deal with things. Thank you for sharing this. I am relieved that everyone is going to be okay.

  10. Sending light and love to you both. So scary for you all. Your strength is a blessing and a curse both. I’m glad you got the help you needed, but way to bury the lead. Sending gentle hugs from afar.

  11. ((HUGS)) Trauma from something like this is real. Please be gentle with yourself. Sending love and light (if desired).

  12. Thank you so much for writing this. The delayed onset of all those emotions related to trauma can be so confusing and enormous. I felt them for a full year and still feel them years later.

  13. I’m so very sorry this happened. I had something a bit similar last year – a spontaneous CSF leak in my head caused an intractable migraine that last 8 weeks. I now have migraines 25-30 days a month, including vestibular and hemiplegic.

    I only bring this up to say if Wil hasn’t had a chance yet to explore preventative options for migraine there’s so much out there now, especially for you guys in the US! There are CGRPs and gepants, which we don’t have yet up north. Botox is helping me, some, and triptans with an occasional hospital stay for IV meds. And dealing with all of this with a herniated disk must have been horrendous. Sending gentle, healing thoughts to you both. You are both incredibly strong.

    – from the lady who once shared a knitted gingerbread house with you on Twitter

  14. Sending love to you and Wil, Anne. That is the scariest thing to witness, and know all you can do is hold their hand, embrace them, and wait for medical professionals.

  15. My heart is with you right now. My 17 year old daughter passed out behind a closed locked door this past Monday morning and had an epileptic episode. I did not see it, but the sound of it through the door, while I was frantically trying to break it down will stick with me a lifetime. Following behind the ambulance, praying the lights didn’t go on which would mean something had happened again. The ER says that it was just a freak thing. But how do we move past these freak things, once everything is then ok. How do I stop standing outside the bathroom door when she goes in to simply brush her teeth. I am hugging you so tight, because I can so freshly feel what you felt that night. I am happy that Will was able to come home and into your arms and that he is better. And I pray that neither of us will ever have to experience that terror again.

  16. Oh my God! That’s horrible! I’m so glad that you both are doing better now. I don’t know you guys personally but I love you guys just the same.

  17. Oh my goodness! I am so thankful you are both okay. Be kind to yourself through this recovery, patient and kind. You and Wil are absolutely amazing together and the love is so seen at all times. Best of love and luck to you both in the coming months.

  18. My wife had a series of quick-onset migraines over the course of several days (with trips to the ER). It wasn’t until the third attack that the ER finally gave her the CT scan that showed she actually had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding between the brain and the external membrane ). And after transferring to a hospital that could deal with that, it became clear that she had polyarteritis nodosa (blood vessel inflammation) that caused the original bleeding. I hope that Wil is on the mend and doesn’t still have problems. I’m relating her whole story in case Wil’s symptoms haven’t abated as something for the doctors to consider.

    I know precisely what you went through because I did as well. I wish you and will health (you seem to be managing the happiness on your own).

  19. Sending you both all my Love!!! I wish I could help you both in some way. I’m so glad you have such good friends and support system.

  20. Wow I super relate to this. My brother had a seizurw when he was 16 and I was the one that said to call 911. After that I was afraid to be asleep in my bedroom cause I thought he’d have a seizure like he did then. Time will help and I hope you can rest and heal. So glad you’re both okay!

  21. My wife just sent me this link with no warning at all. Halfway through it I was sobbing. A few years ago my wife had an idiopathic brain hemerage. Everything you wrote felt so familiar. Some of it is didn’t even realize until I read your account. Thank you so much for writing this.

  22. OMG, Anne. I’m so glad both of you are doing better. That must have been so scary to go through. Big hugs from Austin, TX to you and Wil.

  23. Oh Anne, I am so sorry you & Wil had to go through this. I can relate a lot to your thoughts & emotions on this – I started crying while reading.
    Lots & lots of love to you guys and good vibes for your recovery <3
    All the best from across the pond, Anri

  24. Wow, how scary! I am so grateful everything worked out okay and will probably never happen again. Love to both of you! ❤️

  25. Wow this resonates. My husband is T1 diabetic and last year had a hypo combined with a night terror at 3am.
    It took 5 policemen to strap him down to get him to hospital and he trashed the house.
    He remembers nothing and is mortified but even now a year later I wake at his slightest movement petrified it’s happening again.
    I swear it’s a form of PTSD, if you can get some counselling for it I’d suggest it.
    I wish you both better health and healing.

  26. Having been on all sides of one of these scenarios I can relate to both you and Will. In some ways I feel as a woman we tend to take on more of the caretaker role even if our health is compromised. This has just been my experience with most of my friends. I finally had to tell my 20 year old son that I can’t always be the nurturing, happy and helpful parent all the time. I’m in to much pain, have too much stress and anxiety and he needs to understand that sometimes even Mom’s need help. I have multiple health issues and had to have three cervical vertebrae fused last July 2020 during a Covid-19 spike here in Austin,TX. That conversation, along with a lot of tears, was probably the best conversation we had ever had. A lot of people will suffer in silence and they don’t have. They seem to fear letting others in even family. I fear I don’t have anyone to share with or let in except my husband and son. Thank you so much for letting us into your life and sharing a glimpse of both of you.

  27. Oh my goodness! My heart goes out to you and to Wil. Trauma leaves a mark on our bodies. There is a wonderful book on the physical effects of trauma and how to heal from a scientific perspective called The Body Keeps the Score. I’ve found it helpful for myself. I am sending my hopes that you both experience full healing from this.❤️

  28. Holy holy – I related to this SO MUCH

    Zach, my partner, who is only 47, had a massive heart attack 4th of July weekend this year. Everything … EVERYTHING … you wrote is me, us, what happened. I’m the one who goes icy calm in the moment, handling everything, pushing all the emotions to the back. I called 911, held his hand and coached him to breathe through the pain, talked to the dispatcher, opened the front door and moved the living room furniture out of the way to prepare for the EMTS. I took notes and calmly provided his medication list. And on and on and on.

    3 days, 1 stent, and a cardio catheterization later we’ve been told it was a “fluke” – that the rest of his veins and arteries are “pristine” and that they have no idea why it happened, but it likely will never happen again. Still he takes handfuls of pills every morning just in case and we have revamped our diets and added in a mandatory 30 mins of cardio to our regular exercise routines. Just in case.

    He feels fine, we went on vacation and hiked and walked and everything was fine. And today I still check his breathing as he’s napping on the sofa, wake up in the middle of the night to put a hand on his chest “just to make sure”, panic if he hasn’t texted me in over 2 hours when we’re apart, and ask him “are you ok” often enough that it makes ME crazy.

    And about 3 weeks ago I was driving down the road and saw an ambulance with lights and siren coming the other direction and had to pull over I was crying so hard. Whoops – there’s that delayed emotional reaction coming at full speed.

    I’m so glad Wil is ok. I’m so glad Zach is ok. I think you and I will be ok – but it’s hard, isn’t it? The fear is there and I don’t think it will ever go away

  29. Medical emergencies and trauma from the experience for all involved is difficult – I, like many others here, have my own experience and I stand with you in empathy. I am so sorry you and Wil went through all of this – and are still going through pieces of it each day. Hugs from a fan who feels like a friend because you and Wil are so gracious to share your hearts with us. Sending all the positive energy I can. I hope all of those surrounding you and sharing experiences helps you feel seen and never alone.

  30. As I ready your experience, I found myself holding my breath like I did when I was at my dad’s bedside. It felt so familiar — listening, feeling, waiting for whatever comes next. Though my dad died in 2017 (from colon cancer; colonoscopies: 10/10, would recommend; listen to your gut and your butt!), I still find myself watching people (and pets) breathe in the hopes that another breath will follow. I’m very grateful for the positive outcome, but so sorry for your trauma. It’s a long recovery in so many ways.

  31. Just all my love to you both. I follow you both and that photo made me ill with worry for you both. My heart goes out to you as wife who loves their spouse.

  32. Wow. I felt so much familiarity from the opposite side of this and gained a deeper understanding of what my husband went through when I had a heart attack in 2017 and was in a coma for a week. It is amazing how much the people around you are affected when you’re the one going through the health crisis. I’m glad to hear you’re both ok.

  33. I am sending you the biggest, gentlest hug. I have to say I’ve been the one in the hospital more than the one waiting at home for visiting hours to start up again, so I can’t really imagine the sheer heart-numbing terror of that time for you. But I do know what it’s like to sit alone and wonder; nothing quite prepares you for when they don’t come back.

    I am so glad that you are both recovering and have been recovering and have support and love coming at you from all corners.

    I am wishing you and Wil just so much peace, and happiness, and that every day takes you farther from what happened.

  34. Anne this fucking made me cry. Wil is not the only writer in your family.
    I’ve just lost a childhood friend and this reenforced to me how important it is to love each other, to be good to each other, while there is still time. What a beautiful love you and Wil have. Thinking of you both with love and healing and strength.

  35. Anne this brought back very similar specific memories of the night my Hubster had his first heart attack. I’m that crisis mode I drove him to the ER myself. I asked calm questions. I drove home alone and cried for five minutes in a complete fog of worry. I didn’t sleep for days after he came home. Now the years and one more hospitalization later I still panic if he doesn’t answer the phone or text back right away. I’m sending you hugs. Wish Will and you continued recovery.

  36. The trauma is so real. My daughter developed a seizure disorder as a toddler and now, 3 years on, I still have nightmares about holding her blue in my arms. It took over a year to be able to sleep without her by my side waking with every sound or movement. It gets easier with time, I’m so glad his MRI was clear

  37. There is so much understanding in this post. So much silent yessss. I ache for the isolation and the pain. I am comforted and confused by the grace in sharing. You are the shadow hand resting on my shoulder. Wil is the brilliant eyesight, who suddenly loses retention but remembers remembering. Empathy and strength to you.

  38. Oh honeys. I am so sorry this all happened to the two of you. Sending all the healing vibes I can. My husband had a traumatic back injury in 2019 and it took me SO long for the pts to level out. Even now if he “hisses” I get anxious. I get it. Our spiritual limbs.

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