ninety seconds

Blood pools on my son's pillow as he bites the side of his tongue. His feet shake. His wrists knock. His guts buckle. Ninety seconds, the seizure takes.

In bed next to him, I scoop him up. A pint-sized teenager, he's getting bigger. Must be over sixty pounds by now. The top of his auburn crown very nearly reaches my jaw. But crawling on the kitchen floor and splashing in the tub, he looks quite small. I can still sit him on my knee and cradle him in my arms.

What is lost in ninety seconds of seizing? Time? Brain cells? Emotional and physical elasticity? A year of life? Precious sleep? Dreams? The ability to block the path of the next seizure?

A friend described the making of neuropathways in the brain as centuries-old rivers etching ever deeper ravines into the landscape. I once was told this is what happens each time someone seizes. Neurons carving passages. Repeated patterns becoming habits. Electric currents snaking along paths of least resistance. Firing synapses conducting dreadful symphonies in the brain. Spasming sinews yanking muscle and bone.

What is lost in ninety seconds of seizing? Breaths? Heartbeats? Potential? Joy? Peace? A bit of memory? Sanity? Grace? Hope? Well-being?

What is lost from thousands of these seizures, each ninety seconds?

Photos by Michael Kolster, Christy Shake and Ann Anderson. Drawings by Peter Bruun.

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