To be human is to experience — infrequently and unexpectedly — a crisis which makes you think your world is coming to an end. Most of the time, it turns out to be no big deal.
I was 26 weeks pregnant with my 4th child. The 2nd trimester had been good to me: increased energy, better appetite, minimal discomfort. Surprisingly, though, I’d had more round ligament pains (those sharp, stabbing lower abdominal pains that can occur on either side) than I’d had in previous pregnancies.
On this particular morning I woke up, drank some diluted juice, and sat down at the computer to do some bookkeeping before the kids woke up. Slowly a round ligament pain started growing & building on my right lower abdomen. Usually mild and short-lived, I was surprised when this one kept building in intensity. I found myself gritting my teeth, breathing deeply, trying to work through the pain, waiting for it to lessen and stop. At one point the pain became so severe that I started seeing wavy black lines and thought that I might pass out.
When my vision cleared, I decided to try standing to see if I could stretch out the pain. Not being able to, I walked (doubled over) to my husband’s office, just a couple of rooms away. [Mistake #1] (I didn’t want to call for him; I might wake the children.) I made it to a chair in his office & told him what was going on. The pain lessened a bit but continued. I started hearing pouring rain & told my husband I thought I would pass out. He asked me if he could move me to the floor, but I didn’t want to move. [Mistake #2] Out I went.
I was vaguely aware of my eyes darting around…feeling my bladder relax but not needing to urinate…dreaming about something…who is this face looking at me?…he seems familiar….saying “Oh my goodness”…sleeping…
When I came to, I could tell by my husband’s face that something unusual had happened.
After asking a few questions and making sure I was okay, he told me more about my episode. I had tilted to one side of the chair. My body had become rigid. (Even though I am a small woman, he had had to work to get my head in a better position so that it would be better supported by the chair.) I had clenched my teeth, my lips pulled tightly. I had lifted my arms and waved them around. At one point I had stared at him in the face, then my eyes went back to darting about. Finally my body relaxed, and I slept for a few minutes before waking.
Could it have been … a siezure??
It was a frightening development and, to us, seemed to be connected to the pregnancy. He called my midwife who called to consult with the physician who works closely with her. While we waited to hear their recommendations, my husband searched the web about seizures. Thank God for the Internet! It saved us a lot of heartache & money.
We learned that non-epileptic seizures can be caused by several factors including low-blood sugar (I had not eaten yet that morning), fainting, pain, psychological stress. Many people have a seizure, never to have one again. Some people experience seizure-like motions after fainting.
We learned that to diagnose a non-epileptic seizure, an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test used to record the electrical activities of the brain, would be needed. Unfortunately, this test would tell them nothing unless I had another seizure while attached to the electrodes. Furthermore, there is no treatment for non-epileptic seizures.
Obviously, I didn’t want to have the test.
My midwife got back to me with her & the physician’s recommendation: I should get an EEG. My husband listened and politely told her why we didn’t want to do that at this time. (If it were to happen again, we’d reconsider….) She understood our preferences completely and said that as a health care provider, she had to protect herself by making the “appropriate” recommendations – which was not necessarily what she would choose for herself in a similar circumstance.
Thankfully, my midwife was able to stop by house later that day to confirm that things were fine with me and the baby. Besides being worn out from the episode and the emotional turmoil of it all, I felt stable and fine the remainder of the day.
The next day, I received a follow-up call from my midwife. She told me that she had spoken with a physician in her church about my seizure-like episode. He, too, understood our decision, stating, “Everyone is allowed one seizure.” He told my midwife that he wouldn’t push for testing at this point either.
I received another word of encouragement from a friend who had a similar first-time-seizure-like experience in the presence of an E.R. doctor. Upon waking from her “seizure,” she heard her mother asking the doctor, “Why did she have a seizure? She’s never done that before!”
His answer was that she had not had a true seizure, but that she had completely passed out. He claimed that there were degrees of passing out/fainting. Most people do not experience total black-outs – that is, where they are completely unaware of their surroundings, unable to hear background noises. Such blackouts are often accompanied by seizure like motions. This doctor who witnessed her episode ordered no testing, and, years later, she has never experienced another “seizure.”
Since my seizure-like episode, I’ve recreated the morning in my mind several times. I could have taken precautionary measures by doing the following:
- eating (not just drinking) after waking
- not attempting to stand or walk
- laying down as soon as I felt faint
Exactly 2 weeks later, the same scenario began again. A pain began on one side. Once it persisted and increased in intensity, I laid on the floor. The stabbing pain continued for about 10 minutes. I just waited it out on the floor and got up when it was over. No further problems.
We are unfortunate to live in a time of frivalous lawsuits. Medical doctors and other professionals have to cover themselves by recommending all sorts of expensive, sometimes painful & invasive testing even when they are not necessarily warranted. We are fortunate, however, to live in the computer/information age, where, with some sleuthing and digging, we can often find the answers we need for ourselves. Keep your eyes and ears out for the “official CYA line” (and CYA testing) that you’ll hear from medical professionals. With probbing, pushing, and digging in your heels when the logic doesn’t make sense, you can often find the truth. But it’s work.
That being said…if you have a medical professional in your life who will – at least, in the end – shoot straight with you, you have a treasure indeed. (But you must remain vigilant!)
I’m sharing this because the similar experience shared by my friend was such needed encouragment to me. If you were recently frightened by a seizure, I hope that my post brings you similar ease. – Milkmaid