In April, 1998, I was the proud mother of four perfectly healthy young girls. My youngest daughter, Gabriella (Bella) was a healthy, happy nine month old baby. She was adored and spoiled by her three older sisters. My eight year old, Mallorie took gymnastics and horseback riding lessons. My five year old, Angelina took gymnastics and dance lessons. My always smiling, extremely energetic two year old, Cassandra had just earned herself a few stitches and a scar under her left eye when she ran full speed ahead into a stone table. That was the scariest day of my life as a mom, until April 21.
I was visiting my parents in Arizona with all of my daughters. On Tuesday morning, as I was preparing Bella’s breakfast, Mallorie was holding her on her lap. Mal suddenly said, “Mom. There’s something wrong with the baby.” I am not one to panic, nor was Mal. I could hear the seriousness in my eight year old daughter’s voice. I rushed to see what was wrong, and as I took Bella from her arms, I could see her wide open eyes looking as far to the left as they would go. Her head was turned so far left that her chin was over her left shoulder, and her left arm was stiff and reaching to the left. Her eyes were open, but she would not respond to me. She was unresponsive, a term that I am now all too familiar with.
I had never seen a seizure before. I had no idea what was happening, but I knew it was far from normal. My mother is the one that recognized this as a seizure. My sister called 911, and off to the emergency room we went.
My mom and I stayed in the emergency room with my sweet little nine month old sleeping, thanks to medication, waiting for CT scan results. My husband made his way to meet us in Arizona. A few hours later, when medications wore off, Bella had seven more seizures.
I knew nothing about seizures, epilepsy, anti-seizure medications, or the road that I was about to embark. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t concerned about my other daughters (I knew my husband, my parents, and my sisters were filling in for me). I became consumed with learning everything that was going on with Bella.
The elephant entered our lives with a large boom. Bella continued to have two to three seizures a day for a month. We spent one week in a hospital in Phoenix, and another week in a hospital back home, in Las Vegas. She endured multiple tests: MRIs, spinal taps, EEGs, so much blood work. Everything showed up negative. Finally, after 30 days of me barely being able to breathe, high doses of phenobarbital and Dilantin started to control Bella’s seizures.
I had never had any desire to learn anything about the medical field, but now I found myself reading anything and everything about seizures, their side effects, and side effects of the medications my daughter was taking. I stayed focused on being the best mom I could for all of my girls. I spoke openly and honestly with them about their sister. In hindsight, I see the effects all of this has had on their lives.
My two year old, Cass had been sleeping in her own bed with no struggles, but she suddenly needed to sleep in my bed. I couldn’t possibly say no. My king size bed shrunk as it now held my husband, my two year old, and my nine month old. Joey and I laid awake watching Bella for fear she would have a seizure in her sleep. It seems that many nights Mal and Ang made their way into our room, as well. The elephant came into our home, and settled in; and we all became closer because of it.