Sunday, August 17, 2008

emma's saga

Epilepsy is an insidious disease. No wonder that throughout the ages it was believed to be the result of demons, and a reason to be burned at the stake.

Today, despite the fact that modern medicine recognizes the source to be within the workings of the brain, and while there are medications to treat the symptoms, we still do not have a cure. Once more, a treatment that may work today, could stop working tomorrow.

I can't begin to explain how stressful it is to watch a pet having a seizure. There's a level of helplessness that exceeds anything that I've ever experienced. Pretty soon, with the help of the shared knowledge on the Internet, I learned that with each seizure, Emma's brain was being trained for more. When she started having cluster seizures, I learned that this was the most dangerous - she would run the danger of going into status - that's a seizure that doesn't end, and could result in death without emergency treatment at the vet's.

I have done what countless other people in this situation are doing: I've adjusted my life in ways that I don't even think twice about.

I now clean without chemicals (countless chemicals, including bleach, can trigger or cause seizures). Emma knows my usual patterns - if I am gone away from home beyond the usual amount of time, this can trigger a seizure (she only began clustering when I started taking classes for five too-long weeks, in a city with very poor transportation - I ended up being away from home for many, many hours, something that is out-of-the norm for me.)

My bed is directly on the floor - not easy for this not-too-young gal. But her seizures nearly always occur at bedtime, and I can't even imagine how she'd injure herself if she fell from the bed during a seizure. I don't consider this to be much of a sacrifice (don't ask me first thing in the morning, though, when I need to climb up from the floor!)

Above all, our home is very peaceful. On the very unusual occasion when some discord broke the usual peace - that has triggered a seizure for my poor Emma. She is a very sensitive, gentle dog (although we changed her name when we adopted her, her original name told to us by the Human Society is still her nickname: Sweetie).

Which brings me to how much I am connected to those I love. Just as I can sense when something is wrong with one of my now-adult children, I can sense when Emma is going to have a seizure. It's a strange sensation - and a couple of times, even little Sammy gave me a warning when I wasn't paying attention (brings to mind the dogs that are trained to warn their owners of impending seizures).

I am fortunate, though. After months and months of trying to battle the invisible monster, Emma's seizures have been controlled with a very low dose of phenobarbital. She's had no seizures for almost three months - which, in epilepsy years, seems like forever.

Still, I'll jump when I hear a movement behind me as I sit at my computer. The fear of yet another seizure doesn't leave - it lessens, now that she hasn't had any seizures for awhile, but it doesn't go away.

For now, though, I'll accept the peace and celebrate the fact that my baby is seizure free!

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