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. May Eir protect you both as she does with me I’ll add you both I’m my prayers and blessings to my gods tonight and on future nights !!!
    May Eir give you healing power’s ,Thor give you strength to fight and Odin the all father give you knowledge to understand why these events happen in our lives xx

    1. This is both lovely and absolutely heartbreaking. My husband went through health issues a few years ago that turned him into a staggering, elderly man whose every step was excruciating. He lost weight to the point of emaciation. He took every test. Answered every questionnaire. They thought AIDS. They thought cancer. They just didn’t know. A superbug from factory-farmed turkey that led to near sepsis followed by an extreme gut imbalance due to an OD of antibiotic treatment gave us some answers. He would wake in the night thinking he was having a heart attack, shaking uncontrollably as I held him, unable to get warm until he was able to eat a banana or fruit leather left me both wrung out and on edge. There was a shadow of dread that hung over me for the longest time – I watched him constantly and listened to him breathe at night and I’m just now putting it into a different part of my brain where I can not think about it for awhile and it’s very freeing.

      You and I met once very briefly when you were on your book tour and you were lovely and gracious and I am so sorry this happened to you and Wil. All the best to you both.

  2. Oh Anne. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t say anything other than I, too, am glad Wil is okay, that you’re recovering from your own trauma, and offer you both healing thoughts. It sounds so corny, but I hope that even sending a little positive thought your direction helps, somehow.

  3. Omg Anne. I’m glad Will is OK. This brought me to tears. Please know that a a person living with both migraines and a seizure disorder what youbdid for Will touched me very close. You’re a wonderful person. Please take it easy and recover.

  4. Sending so much love and healing to you both. Thank you for sharing such private moments. As the patient side of my marriage, I really appreciate your honesty. These desperate moments are not easily discussed between married couples and things really do get locked away as we push ourselves forward to better times. I’m great at the lock down and move on. Reading this makes me understand that my husband (and kids) probably can’t be in that place or do that so easily. Deepest gratitude Anne. Be well ❤️

  5. Your story was *so familiar* to me that I had to come out of lurk and comment. Twenty years ago, it was me telling this story. We weren’t 30 yet. We had two young children. My husband had been oddly unwell. Then, out of nowhere, as we lay in bed talking, he went quiet – and then had a grand mal seizure out of nowhere.

    And I was good in a crisis, and I kept it together as he woke up with a missing hour and a great confusion about why there’d been paramedics in our bedroom, and how he’d gotten to a hospital. I sat through tests and the grim, sympathetic faces of nurses. For him, it was a tiny brain tumor. (Benign. Perfectly placed for removal. Easily dealt with – he was discharged from ICU to home the day after brain surgery! Brains are weird.)

    Then I spent months staring at him, waiting for another seizure. I practiced what to do if he had one obsessively. The cat threw up in the hall, I was afraid it was him having a seizure, and bolted out of bed to check on him. (He was confused about what was wrong with me. The cat was a jerk.) A month later? I was in the ER at midnight because all that stress came out as a panic attack and I thought I was dying. I’ve never slept right since.

    All this to say – eventually, you do stop staring. You stop panicking at puking cats (or husbands). Strange sounds no longer freak you out. He can turn over in bed without you holding your breath and waiting for seizing. It gets better, I promise.

    Love and warmest thoughts to you both. Hang in there, lady.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I had a stroke a couple years back, and I can recognize my wife in your words. You are great partner and you are both lucky to have each other.

  7. Although tragic, a beautifully written story. I can’t imagine and I don’t want to. I’m so glad you’re both presumably healthy now. I can’t wait for the antics to begin again! Much love to you both! ❤️❤️ You, ma’am, are a rockstar! 💪🏻

  8. Just wow. Thank you for sharing, and your way with words that are feelings.
    Took me right back to my daughter having her first (and to date, 18 years later, only) seizure while I was burping her. The 911 call, the chest compressions, ambulance ride, and later, nights spent “sleeping” on the floor by her bed if she had a fever again.

  9. I can almost feel what you felt. My husband suffers from asthma and while he hasn’t been hospitalized since we became a couple, it’s always a possibility in the back of my head. I want to hug you or just squeeze your hand. Wil found exactly what his life needed when you both met. <3

  10. Oh wow! How this spoke to me! My husband had a seizure a few months after we married in 2008. It ended up being a weird series of meds that had radically dropped his seizure threshold.
    I caught him as he fell, lowering him to the ground, even though he outweighed me by over 100 pounds. I have vague recollections of calling 911 and the calling my mom so she could talk to his mom and then pick her up. I didn’t want her 73 year old self driving under such worry and stress.

    They took him for tests and eventually told us it was a rare event that would likely never happen again. But I spent the next months jumping at his turning over in bed, at any “off” sound and sometimes just pure jolts of fear. I slept touching him in some way for months.

    The fear and panic attacks slowly receded, but it’s always still there in the back of my head. Good luck in your healing and thank goodness for your chosen family. They make all the difference in the world.

  11. Thank you for sharing this, Anne. Many people do not realize how much even one traumatic event can resonate for days, months, years. For me it was the premature birth of my son. One day I was having a picture perfect pregnancy and the next I was contemplating the birth of a 3-month premature child. It has been 3 decades and the sense of insecurity and emotional freefall I felt when that happened has never left me. I have an ever present sense of the fragility of every part of my life and the feeling that it could all be snatched away in a moment. It has faded over time but is never completely gone.

  12. Hi Anne,

    I’m so very sorry to read what happened on August 5th. I find myself relating to a lot of what you describe. My mom had 3 seizures on August 18th (which is quite a lot of seizures considering she hasn’t had a single one that we know of in all her 62 years). They were characterized as Grand Mal seizures, and the next morning after her MRI I watched her sleep exactly how Will is sleeping in that photo of the two of you in this entry. She looked so peaceful and childlike. Such a contrast to the day before. She’s recovered and doing better everyday and I hope Will is doing well too. It breaks my heart to know you guys went through this. The whole ordeal has changed her life – but I’m just glad she’s still alive.

    Thank you for sharing. After reading your post this scary place inside my head that fears a “next time” is a little less scary – and lonely.

    Keeping you and yours in my thoughts and prayers. ❤

  13. I’m so grateful that you both are still here. Thank you for sharing this horrific and traumatic experience with us – you never had too and it was a very raw and brave thing to do.
    May the love you both share always be your super power.
    Sending you and Wil positive healing vibes.

  14. So glad that you’re both physically getting back to being okay.

    As someone who has had about 10 seizures in my life (thankfully, benign rolandic ones as a kid, and, grew out of them) I’m glad that this seems to be a series of horrible things working together in Wil’s case.

    Continued healing mentally and physically for both of you.

  15. My thoughts and my heart felt wishes to you both on a speedy recovery. You two are so blessed to have each other. Your story brought a tear to my eye as if I was there to and could feel your pain of almost loosing your soul mate in life. Please take care of each other

  16. This is so beautifully written and vulnerable, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I had to wade through the reporters outside that one hospital a few times when Luke Perry was there, it was awful. I’m really glad the doctors where you were made sure that didn’t happen, that was thoughtful of them.

  17. Holy CRAP! That was a shocking, upsetting read. Wow, Anne. WOW. I’m so sorry you had this experience. I’m so glad Wil is okay. Wow.

  18. Fates, even with the precursor of “Everything’s ok now”, I still leapt from my seat on reading ‘Seizure.’ Until you got to the reason, my fear too went to something in the brain, which made me think of dear Andrew and my internal monologue repeating “not again…”
    I’m so glad you’re both on the mend now. So glad you have awesome souls like Steph, Donna & Bonnie (I’ve not met Stephanie or Yesenia but am sure they’re awesome too) to help you get through this. Souls like that are rare gems, priceless.
    Please take care of yourself & Wil. Give bigs hugs to the trio of awesome above for us; Jess & I miss them dearly. And if you’d like more Tim Tam goodness, let Donna know, we’re long overdue for care packages.
    Thank you for sharing, I hope talking about it helps heal too, but like that doctor keenly acted on, privacy at right time is near compulsory.
    Love to you all from this side of the world.

  19. Best wishes to you both on your continued recoveries! What a difficult experience to go through! I can relate to some of it…seizures are just terrifying and trying to explain events to someone who’s forgotten them does make one feel awfully alone. <3

  20. I appreciate that you shared this story with the world. I would be devastated if similar happened to a loved one. Your control in the situation absolutely helped get the best care needed. I am relieved to read all is better. Thank you for being there and being strong.

  21. My father developed epilepsy after contracting chicken pox. There’s really nothing in the world to prepare a person for the reality of a seizure. My heart goes out to you both. You are not alone. I wish you both healing.

  22. Hugs to both of you. I am glad that you both are doing well and it stays that way. I am grateful that you share this on a post..for it will help you get through the ordeal and kick start your healing process too.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I had a grand mall seizure in October 2008. And my middle child, my son called the ambulance because my oldest was frozen. Or so I have been told. They don’t like to talk about it. But it was the only one I have ever had. And it was because I wasn’t eating enough food and taking antidepressants as prescribed. So basically unaware, over a few months the medication was building up to a bad level. My body could not handle it. I have not missed out on food from then on. One good thing about ‘rewiring’ my brain, I had let go of the emotional attachments of past bad relationships and could not remember much of that. I am still getting my childhood memories and my children’s raising memories. My son, the middle one, was frustrated and probably is still, that I have lost some memories of them when they are young. He is now 24.

  24. Thank you for posting your story, I’m so relieved you’re both doing well.

    I’ve been struggling with mental health issues, and often think about how much of a burden I am to my girlfriend. Reading your thoughts and feelings as you dealt with your partner in crisis gives me some insight into her perspective of it.

    Thank you, we love you both.

  25. I had a similar experience with my dad in 1998. Woke to my mom screaming because my dad was having a full body seizure. I can tell you that it takes a while to get enough of the feeling of safety back to essentially disregard it. But I can’t say it ever completely goes away. I know you don’t know me, but your post resonated on a personal level, and I wanted to give my support and let you know others with similar experience are sending support!

  26. I’m so glad that you and Wil are on the path to recovery from this awful experience. How terrifying it must have been. I’m so glad Wil had you to help him that first night and that your family of friends could help you both afterward. Take care of yourselves. Hugs.

  27. Sending love to you, Will, and your support team of amazing friends. How awesome and reassuring it must be to have them in your corner.

  28. Damn! That’s terrifying! I’m glad that Wil is OK, and you are getting there. PTSD is a beast. Please accept my heartfelt empathy- and my wishes for wellness for you both.

  29. I’ve been there, and I’m so sorry you have as well. Fortunately, the crises for me were all pre-Covid, so I was able to stay with my husband for his many hospital stays. As bad as it was, it would have been infinitely, immeasurably worse to have had to leave him there alone.

    I’m so glad Wil and you have both recovered. Stay well.

  30. OMG Anne! I am so glad you guys are ok. I met Wil a couple years ago on a Star Trek cruise and I was very impressed. I wish I could have interacted with him more. Hope to meet you guys again someday.

  31. Oh…. my first reaction here was to nearly drop my phone (I have narcolepsy and strong emotions make me lose control of my hands. This wasn’t just because of the shock of the information about Wil, who I have followed from afar, have a LOT in common with, and whose writing is a regular reason for me to smile and to think. I also have had to go through the life and death shocks with my spouse – she had a bowel rupture after chemo in 2011, and has had to be carried out incoherent and in a dangerous, life threatening condition several times since then because of complications after all her physical trauma from cancer.

    I think sometimes the sick partner in a marriage like this has it easier – they frequently don’t know, or can’t remember the worst parts of their stories. We as the caregiving spouses have it seared into our brains, and if Wil reacts anything like my partner, will occasionally bring it up, ask you to retell parts of it for their own clarity and peace of mind, and you will reel through it as quickly as you can and change the subject.

    Memories like this are often, for me, like reliving the worst day of my life over and over. I have undoubtedly developed some form of PTSD at this point, and I can’t even watch medical dramas without having a really bad reaction sometimes. I hope that your support system picks up where mine fell away, and that you and your beloved come out the other side whole, loved and feeling like you have crossed the valley of the shadow of death and are on the other side, safe and sound. I wish I could get to that point, too. I wish it for all of us that have almost lost, or thought we almost lost, the other halves of our hearts.

  32. Omg I just want to hug you both. Your storytelling is *so* visual that I can picture every part of this and feel how scared you were. I’m so so glad you are both ok. You’re a great pair auntie Anne & uncle Wil.

  33. So sorry to hear it, best wishes for swift and total recovery to both of you. Migraines are the worst all by themselves, and to combine them with seizures is truly terrifying.

  34. Thank god you had the “crisis mind” to get things rolling. I understand that – my dad was a first responder. He taught us “get it under control and THEN freak out”. Adding both of you to my prayers. And thanking the hospital staff in being mindful of your privacy.

  35. At 48, I had come down with encephalitis that was not diagnosed until I went into a seizure.
    Three years later, my fiancé still has a PTSD response if I don’t respond right away, or if I make a strange sound in the night. Please take care of yourself. Joining a support group for folks with seizure disorders or their caregivers helped tremendously.

  36. Oof. I hope Wils OK. I get a form of epilepsy, and two of my good friends have the full blown Grand Mal (The one that knocks you out cold on the floor. Mine just makes me go blank for a few seconds, lights on nobody home, and them I’m back), and its a *scary* thing to see.

    The good news is, as long as theres not a serious brain insult behind it (Tumor, injury, or dementia) even if its epilepsy, thats *very* controllable in 2021. And sometimes brains just do stupid stuff, ties itself in a knot and hits the reset switch. Can happen to anyone. And those little “whoops!” incidents rarely come back.

    Best of luc, lots of love, live long and prosper, to the big man and yourself.

    -Shayne.

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