1966: A Very Bad Year

Family Photo: After the flood but before my seizure.  Dad is sitting due to his broken leg.

Sometimes Grand Mal - or as they are more commonly referred to now, Tonic-Clonic - seizures can be isolated. Thankfully mine was. At the time, my parents were fostering a classmate of mine. I was the youngest of three girls, my two older sisters being significantly older than me.  Since I had never had a sibling near my age, there was a learning curve on how to get along, and even how not to and then make up and go on.  One night at bed time, we were not settling down and Mom separated us. I felt angry that I was the one that had to leave 'my' bedroom. In my big sister's room, I purposely held my breath over and over, increasing the length of time I held each breath. At the same time I tightened my facial muscles until I felt my head was about to explode.  Then, it did.

It was 1966 and I was only 7 years old.  During the seizure - except when I came to for a few seconds where I was being carried and remember seeing the old telephone cubby between the kitchen and living room - I was unconscious.  I asked my sister Betty to share whatever she could remember...
I was at play practice - it was my Junior year in high school. When I got home, you were laying on Dad's bed downstairs.  They had a bed set up for him after he broke his leg. Mom was on the phone frantically getting ahold of Wim Surface to come help. You were starting to turn blue. I had just had CPR training in school and began giving you mouth to mouth.  Mom had carried you down stairs. Mom said: that every night her and Dad played cards and listened to music; but for some strange reason they DID NOT turn the music on that night. Mom said, she heard something and told Dad that is a weird sound coming through the ceiling vent. She ran upstairs and saw you in a Grand Mal seizure and carried you downstairs crying. Dad couldn't move off the bed. I can't imagine how he must have felt. Before we knew it, Wim was there. He carried you to the car and us three sat in the back, praying you would not die. Wim drove like 100 miles an hour. The ambulance meet us on this side of Humboldt. We were instructed to blink our lights at every car to know it was the ambulance. Mom went with you in the ambulance. Wim and I went to the hospital and I don't remember anything about that part, except they took you by ambulance to Grand Forks, and Wim took me home.
There are many reasons someone may have a seizure.  The only logical trigger of the many I've read about, in the case of my isolated event, is stress.  It had been a very stressful year for my entire family, including me.  My oldest sister had graduated high school, and in the fall had boarded a passenger train at the depot my father worked at, and the rest of us waved tearfully goodbye to her.  In the meantime, I had had more kidney and bladder infections involving many tests and procedures to try and determine what was going on.  It rattled me badly every time I had to go through them, plus nightly I was wetting the bed.  During the early spring, my father had been removing storm windows on the second story of our home when the old wooden ladder suddenly dropped from under him with no warning.  He fell straight down, his one leg compound-fracturing upon impact with the ground.  He was in a cast for months, and was still at the time of my seizure.  That same spring, we had one of the worst floods ever of the Red River of the North, after a historic blizzard.  Our town didn't have a dike yet, so much of the town flooded, including our home and outbuildings.  We had to move everything possible upstairs, only the piano staying downstairs up on bricks.  That still wasn't enough to keep it entirely out of the water.  In the fall, my parents felt led to bring a classmate of mine needing a foster home, into our home.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it may have led to a level of stress that my mind and body just couldn't cope with...