Before last year, I had never witnessed anyone having a seizure. Despite that fact, I had an unsettling feeling that I knew what I was happening to my daughter the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Nothing had seemed out of the ordinary that day, or during that night's bedtime routine. Go potty. Brush teeth. Put on pajamas. Book, prayer, and the usual round of bedtime songs, then a goodnight hug, kiss, uggamugga (shout out to Daniel Tiger!) and then it's off to sleep. Ian and I engaged in our usual "child-free, post-bedtime goofing off". At least, until Penny woke up crying about an hour later.
We hurried through the house to her bedroom, where we found her coughing hard and running a fever. The symptoms seemed to have come on suddenly, but it could be that she was feeling bad all day - some of you parents can attest that it's sometimes hard to tell with a 3-year-old. In the hallway, Penny went into a coughing fit that resulted in her throwing up a little bit - mostly mucus - but it was definitely enough to cause concern. She was crying hard and wasn't using her words, and seemed to be pretty out of it. She also seemed to be shaking somewhat. At the time, I subconsciously attributed all of these symptoms to her being half-asleep and feeling like crap.
Since she was in such a bad state, we decided to bring her into the family room where she and Ian snuggled on the couch with a show - Penny was able to nod yes to the suggestion of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Go figure.
I brought her some water and took her temperature - around 101, which isn't dangerously high, but definitely running a fever. While trying to calm her down on the couch, I noticed that there was something strange about the way she was shivering - that her body was shaking in a regular pattern. I looked more closely, and it seemed that her head was favoring one side as she shook, and when I again held her close, I could feel that the shaking was more like a twitch, especially in her neck.
Strangely, and probably out of denial, I remember pushing the possibility of her having had a seizure to the back of my mind, especially once Penny started to come out of it and become more responsive. I knew that people can go into seizure if they have very high-grade fevers, but again I tried to dismiss the idea. After deliberating for a few minutes, we decided to have her checked out right away. And so, for the second time that year we headed down the road to Parkview Hospital on Randallia.
Once we were called back to a room at the hospital, the doctors there performed their usual battery of tests, which included the ever-popular nose swab, much to Penelope's dismay. The doctor concluded that it wasn't the flu, strep, or anything bacterial, and so must just be "some kind" of virus. When we asked about her shaking and lack of responsiveness, the doctor didn't seem to want to speculate. We went home that night with what seemed to be more questions than answers.
We canceled a few holiday plans on account of Penny's illness. Despite having a cough and runny nose, she was in a good mood the rest of the week. Thankfully, the virus worked its way out of her system quickly, and we were able to make our usual trip from Fort Wayne to South Bend on Thanksgiving Day to spend the day with family. We all had a great time, and Penelope was in good health and in a good spirits throughout the trip. Everything seemed back to normal. That is, until Sunday afternoon.
We heard the sounds of Penny waking up from afternoon nap over the baby monitor, and so Ian went to her room to get her up and help her go to the bathroom. I was also heading that way, when I heard an anxious tone in Ian's voice as he tried to engage her in conversation. When I looked in to see what was going on, I saw it again - that same blank stare on Penelope's face. Perhaps it was more noticeable this time because she wasn't in hysterics, but I could definitely tell that she wasn't herself. She was gradually coming to, but initially was not verbally responsive, as if she was having trouble forming words. We once again took her to the comfort of the family room sofa, where she soon was back to normal. It was as if nothing had happened, but Ian and I both knew that something definitely had.
A few days later, I had a 4-month prenatal doctor's appointment, as I was at the time pregnant with our second daughter, Gwendolyn. While there, I asked our family doctor what she thought about what had happened with Penelope. "I don't like what I'm hearing," she replied. It sounded like our suspicions that Penny had had some kind of epileptic events were true, but more information would be needed to determine if it was somehow related to her having been sick, or if it could be something else. An appointment was made with our local pediatric neurologist, Dr. Atiya Khan, to begin assessing the situation. She was booked all the way out to the first week of February, so we would have to sit with the unknown for some time. We took it in stride, as we had plenty to do already, with all of the usual Christmas activities looming only a few weeks away. Little did we know, we would be getting quite a bit more than we had bargained for over the next several months.
But that's a story for another time.
Until then, thanks for reading, and thank you for your support of the Brave Bambino Clothing Company!
Leslie (aka Mom)