medical emergency

When getting into my car to take a road trip, no matter what the distance, I’ve never thought about what I’d do if I had a highway emergency. That changed on a sunny December day in 2012.

Near the start of a two hour trip to visit my niece, my cousin had a tonic clonic seizure.  She had no prior history, so neither of us had any reason to expect anything like this to happen.

Luckily, I was the driver.  This could have been a completely different story if that had not been the case, and she was driving.

From the front passenger seat, my cousin abruptly turned in my direction and let out a strange wailing sound.  Her eyes were wide, and she began to jerk about.  At first, I thought she was trying to do something funny to amuse me.  After a few seconds — and I’m certain only seconds passed — I realized this was not the case.  Something was wrong.  She wasn’t the kind of person who cuts up in the car, or at all really.  I don’t even think I’ve ever heard her joke about anything.

I had never seen anyone have a seizure before.  In a flurry of thoughts I considered different courses of action I could take.  I asked myself, “Should I turn around and take her home?”  I dismissed that as a possibility almost immediately.  I switched into a sort of autopilot mode, and calmly pulled off the road at the next intersection.  I called 911 and reported that I was with someone who was having a seizure and asked for EMS.

What I didn’t do was look at the road sign when I turned off of the main highway.  The dispatcher asked me where I was.  I didn’t know.  I had to run back to the corner to be able to read the sign, so I could give them my location.

I hurried back to my car to check on my cousin.  I left her strapped into the seat belt so there’d be no way she could move out of her seat and possibly be injured.  There was some considerable jerking, and I was afraid she’d somehow get hurt if I released the seatbelt.

The first people to respond were volunteer firefighters in their personal vehicles.  They waited with me until the ambulance arrived.  By then, the seizure had stopped, but my cousin was not conscious. Later, I learned that it’s not uncommon for someone to appear to be sleeping right after the seizure.

She awoke when the EMTs were moving her from the car to the ambulance.  She asked where she was. She says she doesn’t remember anything that happened until the point at which she was riding in the ambulance on the way back to our home town.

If I had it to do over again, I would be sure to look at the sign on the highway so I’d have known where I was.  I wouldn’t have had to leave my cousin in the car alone, if I’d done that.  I’d have also made note of times, so I could have been more helpful to the Emergency Department doctor.  I’d have known when it started, and how long the seizure lasted.

I hope there’s not a next time.  But, I’ll keep the experience in mind should another event like this happen in the future.  Plus, I think I’ll give some thought to what I would have done had my cousin been driving when she was struck by the tonic clonic seizure.

My cousin is fine now, and is on medication to prevent future seizures.  She has been free of seizures for a few years now.

If you’re interested in seeing what this type of seizure looks like, please search YouTube for tonic clonic seizure.  There are several videos.

Stay safe and healthy!