Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. It is a time for people to come together, eat as much food as they like, and to show our thanks to the friends and family that surround us. I tend to be very traditional as far as the meal goes, but our Thanksgiving meals have varied locations, and have been a mix of different parts of our family, friends, and even employees. We have celebrated with anywhere from 12 – 45 people, depending on the year, and depending on the group we shared it with. I thoroughly enjoy cooking, eating, and talking. This holiday is a day I am in my element!
One Thanksgiving Day, however, was not at all what I had planned. I believe Bella was three, maybe four years old (the years seriously run together as you get older). We had been having difficulty controlling her seizures since August of this year. A week or two before Thanksgiving, we tried a new medication for her. Tegratol was not a good fit for her, not a good fit at all. She started vomiting the first day she took it. Her neurologist wanted us to give it a few days. These medicines take time to reach therapeutic levels, and it takes time for your body to adjust to them.
After vomiting almost continually for a few days, the neurologist decided we ought to try something new. I do not recall which medication we added, nor what the exact protocol of adding a third and removing the Tegratol was that we followed. What I do remember is that Thanksgiving Day.
This year we had planned on meeting my parents and my sister and her family at a cabin we had in Arizona. It was a four-hour drive from our home in Las Vegas, and it was far from any good hospitals. I kept my hopes up that we would be able to regain control of her seizures. I just knew that if I thought of only positive things, it would all work out. I believe it was Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving that I caved, and I realized driving Bella to a small town was not in her best interest.
As it turned out, on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Bella was knocked out by her medications. The amount of nutrition and fluids she must have lost in the week prior to that day coupled with a new medication were just too much. She slept for all but one small hour that day.
My parents and sister and her family had Thanksgiving without us. They did not go to the cabin, and had a simple meal at my parent’s house. They had an okay day, but it was not the day they had planned.
My husband and I stayed home with Bella and our other three girls. That was the only Thanksgiving I can ever remember spending with just the six of us, no extended family or friends. I enjoy being “just us,” but with Bella asleep/passed out, I was beside myself.
I didn’t do much to prepare the meal. I don’t recall doing much of anything, but sitting next to her, watching her breathe. Her sisters, her dad, and I sat down to eat. As tradition, we go around the table and share something we are thankful for. I never have a hard time coming up with something. I am a positive person. I always have multiple things I am thankful for. That day, I burst into tears when it was my turn to speak. All I could see was that one empty chair at the table, and Bella sleeping on the couch where we could watch her. I could not be thankful of anything. I could not eat. I could only cry. I was not the strong mom my other daughters could lean on that day. I leaned on them.
That year, Bella’s seizures were not controlled from August through February. We learned to live with them. We spent a great amount of time with her neurologist, her pediatrician, and hospitals. Our life was interrupted on a regular basis. We managed. We continued moving forward until we found the right combination of medications to regain control once more. Those six months are a blur in my memories, but the feeling of sitting at that Thanksgiving table, helpless and sad, is still fresh in my mind. I was hopeless.
I am thankful today for the years since then. We have had many joyous and thankful Thanksgiving Days. That moment is one reminder of things to be thankful for. I am thankful for a strong family, for good health, that epilepsy is Bella’s only health concern, and that we are usually able to maintain control of her seizures. That day, that year, those six months were a lesson to me. No matter how much patience I have, it seems that sometimes I need to dig deep, and find more.
From our home to yours, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.