silent spells

Yesterday, while on the phone with my brother, Calvin had his seventh of eight seizures. I was sitting on the lid of the toilet holding Calvin as he rattled the shutters on the window, something he has enjoyed thoroughly since he was two. With the phone squeezed in the crook of my neck I sensed something amiss so I peered around to see Calvin’s face, blotchy and flushed, his lips a dusky purple cast indicative of a seizure, a silent spell. I scooped him up and rushed to the couch, somehow managing not to lose the phone. I wanted to keep hearing my brother’s voice as some sort of emotional lifeline.

Calvin had as many seizures yesterday as he used to have in nearly a month. He’s been suffering from two ear infections and a cold, which can trigger seizures, but it was the antibiotic I was suspicious of. I looked up the drug online expecting to find seizures on the list of possible side effects, and I did. At high doses the antibiotic can cause seizures even in people without epilepsy. I checked the dose limits, worked some simple math, spoke with a pediatrician and decided to reduce his dose slightly. Then I crossed my fingers.

Forty-five minutes after we put Calvin to bed his blood-curdling seizure scream pierced the hissing white noise of the baby monitor. All day I had avoided giving him the potent rectal Valium hoping the silent spells would subside on their own. But, like in the old days, the cluster of seizures culminated into the kind of merciless convulsive tempest that we fear most. I grabbed the vial, cracked off the plastic lid, lubed up the syringe and delivered the foreign gel into my innocent boy’s body cavity. Within a minute the seizure had stopped, within ten Calvin was asleep.

Before this last seizure, as the setting sun filtered through a small stained-glass window, casting its warm glow onto Calvin’s pale face, I gazed closely and deeply into his eyes. He was lying on the couch recovering from the seventh seizure, his eyes unusually still, locked with mine, pupils large and glassy like a doll. A peaceful sadness soaked into me as I memorized his face for the millionth time. Sensing more seizures to come I wondered if he would survive the night or silently stop breathing and slip away. Calvin does not fear death, I thought, while at the same time he suffers much of life. I leaned in close and whispered, “if I have to let go of you, Calvin, I can. You’re my sweet, sweet boy, aren’t you?” and I kissed his cool smooth forehead as he wrapped his arms tightly around my neck.

photo by Michael Kolster

1 comment:

  1. Christy,

    More beautiful vividness of scene here. I love how you go back in time to complete the piece. Wonderful!