Five years ago yesterday we almost lost our boy.

We had been barbecuing at a friend’s house on the clear hot day. With no real warning Calvin started seizing. We called 911 and an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. His seizure abated but then resumed in the emergency room and showed no signs of stopping. We were petrified. The first two courses of emergency medication had no effect. Two nurses tried in vain to put in an I.V. so they could administer a bolus of Phenobarbital. A pediatrician arrived to take over the difficult task of inserting the I.V. needle into our low-tone boy who had already been convulsing for over ten minutes.

I sat close to Calvin who was lying on his side, under bright lights and a thin cotton blanket, wearing only a diaper. His face was pale and his lips and fingertips tinged blue. His body jerked rhythmically, his eyes wide and vacant between every cramping squint of his lids. I stroked his thick hair, put my face next to his. Michael leaned in close with us, his strong hand on Calvin’s hip. We spoke soothingly, reassuringly to him, told him everything was going to be okay even though we knew his mind was in oblivion.

After what seemed like an eternity the doc eventually struck a vein and pushed the syringe-full of powerful anticonvulsant drug through the clear plastic tubing into Calvin’s bloodstream. The convulsions continued. It had been twenty-five minutes. I remembered reading that the longer seizures burn uncontrolled the harder they are to stop, that seizures can cause brain damage after only five to ten minutes. After thirty minutes they can be lethal, shutting down the vital organs that support life.

When forty minutes had passed the seizure still showed no signs of releasing its chokehold on our precious, two-year-old boy. I began realizing that we were losing him with each passing minute—that his next minute might be his last. The only thing I could do was to cover him with kisses. I nuzzled my face into his neck, just like he loved me to do, and kissed him with reckless abandon. I was aware of nothing else but my love for this child of ours who was fading away right before our eyes.

And then suddenly he stopped jerking. His body calmed and melted into the firm bed, the color came back into his face and he began to breath normally again. He had dodged a bullet, but little did we know he would remain a target for hundreds more to come.

photo by Michael Kolster

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