The phone rang at 4:40 a.m. on Saturday morning. It’s never a good thing when the phone rings that early. I picked it up and didn’t recognize the voice but understood the words she was saying.
“Mrs. Berna? I woke up to find Meredith having a seizure. We held her down until it was over but she’s not responsive now. We called the ambulance. I thought you’d want to know.”
My 20 year old had flown to NY on Friday. By the time I got the call she’d only been on the East coast for six or seven hours. She had looked forward to the trip for months, as she’s missed the friends she left behind when she moved to Colorado with us in December.
“Who is this?”, I asked.
“It’s Amber…” was the reply.
Amber is Meredith’s best friend. She’s a child I know well. She spent a lot of time at our house when we lived in NY and has been my daughter’s best friend for years. I realized later that I didn’t recognize her voice because she was so calm and in charge. She stepped up to the plate and did what needed to be done, in the order it needed to be done. Her maturity helped me stay sane as the day unfolded, knowing my girl was in good hands, flanked by her best friend as she made her way through the chaos of the emergency room.
As soon as I got off the phone I told Jeff exactly what I’d been told. We sat up in the dark of our bedroom, trying to figure out what to do next. Our daughter was two thousand miles away, in an ambulance, and we had no idea why she’d had such a big seizure.
“Who do we call?”, we asked each other.
We have many friends in New York. Many friends who would do anything to help us in an emergency situation. But most of them have little kids. If at all possible, we wanted to pick someone who would be the least disrupted by our early morning call.
Then her name popped into my head. Marion.
She was one of my best friends at work in New York and she was the exact person I wanted to be in charge of this situation. She is compassionate and intelligent, and would know exactly what to do for my girl.
I called her number, which I’d plugged into my phone on the day we drove away from New York for the last time. She picked up on the third ring and before I could say much more than, “Marion? It’s Judy…” I fell apart. I couldn’t stop the tears, so I handed the phone to Jeff.
He explained the situation to her and gave her our numbers, and Amber’s number, so we could all stay in touch. He briefly told her Meredith’s medical history (healthy girl, no known allergies, no history of seizures) and gave her permission to make medical decisions for our daughter.
Then he hung up and the waiting started. By then it was almost five a.m. I was due to be at work at six thirty. I was the only one who went in that early, it was up to me to open the doors of the Rec Center by seven.
I showered, just in case I couldn’t find someone to cover for me at work. It’s been a long time since I’ve sobbed in the shower. It was a common occurrence after my mom died, and then again when we almost lost our son to an undiagnosed medical disorder.
Anyone who’s gone through grief can tell you how therapeutic it is to weep in the shower, where the tears mix with the warm water that flows over your body, trying its best to wash away the pain. I let the water run and let the tears fall, until I finally felt calm and ready to face the next step.
By the time six thirty came we knew which hospital Meredith was in and we knew Marion was there, watching over her. Amber’s mom had also arrived and was doing all the right mom things to make Meredith comfortable. Just before the ambulance had arrived, Meredith had regained consciousness and was alert, although a bit confused. She became more coherent as they continued to run tests to try to figure out where the seizure had come from.
I went in to work, since there was not much to be done on our end, and we tend to be short staffed on weekends. I knew being distracted at work while the NY drama played out might be the best thing for me. I knew Jeff was at home, right by the phone, and would let me know of any updates or changes.
By mid day Meredith was discharged and sent home under Amber’s mom’s watchful eye. The CAT scan and blood work had come back clean. The ER doctors recommended she do follow up testing with her family doctor. Instead of going back to Amber’s apartment, they decided to stay at Amber’s mom’s house, just to have more help in case another seizure hit.
Meredith was very tired on Saturday, which I’ve found on my Google searches is common for the days after a big seizure. She slept a lot of the day on Saturday and then took a long nap after the Easter dinner at Amber’s house on Sunday. She checked in with us every few hours, letting us know she was okay, just recovering.
On Sunday night I got a disturbing text from her, saying she was ‘still in pain’. I had not been aware that she was in any pain at all, so I called her to find out what was going on. She told me that since the seizure she had a lot of pain, only in the right side of her body, and it made simple things like walking very painful and difficult. She said she felt like she’d worked out for twelve hours straight, she was that wiped out, but only on her right side. She also couldn’t seem to get enough sleep and was tired all the time.
Mixed in with that was frustration. She had a very limited time to see all of her friends, including some of her babysitting kids, and she’d already spent half her time in the hospital or sleeping. I assured her that we just needed to get her WELL, and once we got her feeling better we could always fly her back out, to finish her visiting.
First thing Monday morning I was on the phone with our family doctor here, and our family doctor back in NY. Our doctor in NY, who knows Meredith’s history inside and out, was due to come back from vacation on Tuesday. I grabbed Meredith a slot for the middle of the day.
Our family doctor here in Colorado hesitated to make any guesses as to what happened until he had seen her himself, so she has an appointment to see him on Friday, the day after she flies back home.
At this moment I am waiting for another phone call. In just a few hours our family doctor, who I deeply respect and trust, will be done examining my girl, and her emergency room records. She will tell us if it’s safe for Meredith to fly home this week. She’ll tell us which parts of this thing worry her the most and which parts don’t. She’ll tell us which tests we need to have done, even if we do them back here in CO, and what answers we need to find.
Then our priority will be getting my girl on that plane and getting her home. She continues to be exhausted and frustrated, as the exhaustion gets in the way of her visiting with friends. I keep reminding her that there will be time to see friends, after she’s well again. I know Amber is doing her best to keep Meredith at peace and help her make responsible decisions about her health.
It’s been a tough weekend, trying to enjoy the Easter holiday with the boys, always having our daughter in the back of our mind.
Every night we go to bed anxious, wondering if we’ll be getting another call in the night, if the seizures decide to come back when she sleeps again.
Every morning we wake up relieved, but immediately text her, asking, “How are you feeling?..”
Her answer is always ‘tired’.
We didn’t want to upset anyone’s holiday so we kept this information from family and friends until today. There wasn’t much to report besides, “We don’t know anything yet”.
But it’s been four days since it happened and we felt like we eventually needed to get the basic word out there. I’ll post any follow up information we get and let you know when she’s back on CO soil and in our house again (scheduled to fly tomorrow, getting home late in the day). Watch my Facebook status updates, it’s easiest to post things there.
For now we’re back to real life. The boys are back in school. Michael is back to running trails during the day and helping me with errands. Jeff is back to work, getting as much done as he can while always having his daughter in the back of his mind.
We would appreciate your prayers and good thoughts as we go through the frustrating process of getting more medical tests done and figuring out what this means to Meredith’s future.
The poor girl has had a couple of days of bad luck, after weeks and weeks of pretty good stuff unfolding for her. The day before she flew to NY (24 hours before her seizure) she was attacked by a dog at Red Rocks amphitheater while she ran the stairs for exercise. The dog was technically on a leash, but a very long one, and tripped her, causing her to scrape up her palms and knees pretty badly, as well as shattering her ipod. She didn’t hit her head and didn’t get a dog bite, so we don’t think the two events are related…only a frustrating pair of circumstances that are not fun for my girl.
Keep her, and her medical health, as well as mental health, in your thoughts and prayers.
Until there’s more news to report…I'm off to throw in some more laundry.