We were walking through a store when I heard a loud, thumping noise. I glanced to my right and noticed Zach’s communication device rhythmically drumming against a large, cardboard bin filled with area rugs. It seemed strange. He never banged his device against anything.
“Hey, Zach, don’t -“
I barely got three words out when his body also thumped against the bin. I glanced down, and his feet were pointed inward. I looked at his fluttering eyes and put my arms around his torso to steady him. Adrenaline surged.
His fixed eyes and now convulsing body told me a seizure had begun. If I didn’t get him to that nearby sofa or down to the floor safely, he would fall. Inches from the sofa, his legs buckled, and we both headed toward the hard floor.
All I could think of was his head. I used all my might to counteract gravity and somehow ease him to the floor. I think I was shouting something, but I can't recall what it was.
“Do you need help, ma’am?” A woman’s voice was behind me.
“Yes! Get an employee!” She took off to find someone while I went into crisis mode.
My purse tumbled, and his device skidded. I removed his noise-reducing headphones from his ears and ripped off the mask he so dutifully wore. My flip-flops came off, and I realized we were both sprawled on the floor.
"I am here. I am right here with you." I said, in hopes he could hear me.
Suddenly, about 10 people were standing behind the nearby sofa, lined up like fenceposts. Where had they come from so quickly??
Picture Credit: Media from Wix
It is heart-wrenching and stress-inducing to witness a seizure, and it is difficult to remember everything one should do in such circumstances. Flashes of information from first-aid training popped into my mind like soap bubbles. I was sweating.
“Relax…over there…you here me? Listen - tell him to relax his body!” A tall man called to me. Next to him, I saw a younger man with a name tag. He held a phone. I focused on him.
“How old is he? He calmly asked me.
I knew he called paramedics. I was watching for the rising and falling of Zach's chest. I was checking the color of his face and lips. Through my own heavy breathing, I spoke: I am here with you. I am taking care of you. You will be okay. I kept repeating that aloud.
All I wanted was to stop that from happening to him (which you can’t) and to cradle him in my arms (which you shouldn’t). It is quite a helpless feeling, witnessing a seizure, and I imagine it is a thousand times more intense for him.
“He’s coming out of it!” offered the older man. Indeed, Zach’s muscles began relaxing.
Check his pulse Call my husband Where did my phone go My knee hurts Take a deep breath
My shaking hands poked around the phone uncooperatively. Siri was of no use. I grabbed two pillows from the gray sofa near us and propped them under Zach. He had opened his eyes and was looking at me, bewildered.
“You are okay. We are in a store, and you had a seizure.” I stroked his face.
“911 wants to know if they should come,” said the young employee. I took a pulse. Whatever I reported to the employee, he reported to the 911 operator. I was impressed with his capability.
The rude fluorescent lights overhead made it seem like spotlights were on us. I told to the crowd that gathered that he was okay now…we were just going to sit there awhile. No ambulance. My fingers found their way, finally, to the right number, and my husband answered the call.
Within minutes he was there. I had gathered up the items that scattered in all directions. I became aware, again, of my knee. It was red and scraped, just like a child's knee after a fall from a bicycle.
Even though he’s 21, Zach is my child. I gazed at him, lying there on the white floor in the furniture section. When he was smaller, I could carry him, cradle him, scoop him up in my arms and hold him close. Now, he could carry me. I have to stand on tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
There he was, bolstered by pillows, helpless and recovering from a frightening episode of neurological chaos. His body turns against him in the literal blink of an eye. Seizures strike any time, any place, and there is no predicting them. No telling how long they will last. They are, for me, perpetual monsters under the bed which cannot be banished by the light of a table lamp.
The beloved Fred Rogers, reflecting on scary events everyone faces at some point, once said, “…my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”
The employee stood nearby and offered to bring us water. I was much obliged. The tall man walked by in the distance and waved to me. An elderly woman slowly approached the sofa, touched the back of it, and smiled and nodded in a gentle, subtle way. Another woman brought a wheelchair over in case we needed it.
There they were. The helpers. Even the people watching; I'd like to think they would have assisted if it was needed. Maybe their mere presence contributed support.
Everyone faces frightening moments, and it does not matter what age we are or what setting we are in when they occur. No telling, really, how long such moments will last, nor what their outcomes will be. But I think with some determination, some presence of mind, positive thinking, and support, anyone can pull through a scary situation.
Keri Horon is a writer, educator, and special needs parent. She joined Vest in 2019 as a Vest Success Manager.
She is also a Vest subscriber where she uses Vest to plan for the ongoing and future care of her precious son.