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I looked around me and saw more people than I ever thought could fit into this room. There were four emergency workers and one policeman. My sister, Ana, and her husband, John, were standing near me, watching over what was happening. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to look away. A few minutes ago I had seen my mom thrashing about on her bed, her arms and legs moving uncontrollably. She was breathing heavily through her nose and her eyes were open but she wasn’t seeing anything. I flinched at the memory of the seizure and a new batch of tears sprung from my eyes.
Hesitantly, I looked towards my mom. She was now breathing regularly, I could hear that. She wasn’t twitching either, an EMT holding her steady, while another tried to raise her blood sugar. Things were looking better, that was clear. The only female worker in the room moved to the shelf against the wall, going to get a supply kit, but stopped to look at something else instead.
“Who here speaks French?”
I heard the words but they were thick and distant. It took time for me to process them. When I finally looked up, the woman asking me had moved on, dropping the French dictionary she was looking at, and went back to attending to my mom.
“I do,” I spoke cautiously, meekly, as if I didn’t believe I still had my voice.
The woman smiled at me. “I used to teach French for many years before I started working in the E.R.” I could see that she was trying to ease the tension in the room.
After answering, I tried to remember one single word of the foreign language. I felt like I was supposed to answer this question in French but nothing, not one word, came to mind. My mind couldn’t stay on one thing for more than a few moments. I was confused and dazed. I had to stare the possibility of death in the face.
My mom has always had health problems, diabetes being her main one. My sisters and I have had to cope with it our whole lives. It was always less serious stuff though, such as flare ups, arthritic and diabetic, infections, from high sugars, or bad flues, caused by being worn down or working too hard. It wasn’t until a week ago that all of that changed.
It was about four ten a.m. when I woke up, to go to the bathroom, to find my mom having a seizure. At first I didn’t know what was going on. This had never happened before. I was frozen, waiting for my mind to begin working again. Once I finally did snap out of it, all I could do was cry. I called her name again and again and when she didn’t respond, only continued to shake, I knew something was desperately wrong. Even after I had gone to get Ana and John, who are staying with us, and even after the ambulance had arrived I was in shambles.
I was terrified. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I was screaming on the inside. I wanted to help my mom myself but knew that I had no idea how. I had no idea what to do, say or think. All I could do was run around the house, trying to clear a path in case a gurney needed to be carried in, as I pack a bag for my mom. I was a mess, unable to do anything but say, “Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.” under my breath. Ana and John were totally calm. I envied them for that.
What truly surprised me about all of this was what I had running though my mind. I was thinking about homework I still had to finish, if I would be going to school the next day, whether or not I should call people, like my dad or my other sister who don’t live with us. When the rescue workers went by my room, I couldn’t help but think about how childish I thought it looked. All my big, bright music and movie posters, my unmade bed, the sheets falling off on one side as well as one of the blankets on the floor, and the clothes strewn about suddenly seemed ridiculous.
I always imagined that in a time of crisis, the minutes would move by achingly slow. In reality, that isn’t the case. Before I knew it, we were in the E.R. and it was five-thirty a.m. already. The doctors were telling us that nothing seemed to be wrong but that we should just keep an eye on my mom’s diabetes- keep her from having any lows. Then, suddenly, it was seven a.m. and we were driving home. It felt unreal. The adrenaline was wearing off and exhaustion took its place. Moments ago it seemed like we had just called 9-1-1.
When the same thing happened again five days later, everything was different. First of all, I was calm. I did not cry and I did not panic. I simply sprung into action. I called 9-1-1 this time and I got my mom’s bag together again. If possible, time went by even quicker than before. It worried me though, that I was so put together. Did I really want to be getting used to this sort of thing? No, I did not.
Despite what’s happened, some good has come out of it. My sisters have become closer than ever. This is something that we have dealt with our whole lives but for the first time we are the ones who are dealing with it first hand. My dad was always the one who helped my mom when she was sick. Now that my parents are no longer together, the roles have shifted.
Each of us helps one another out in different ways. Ana, the oldest, plans and is practical. She calls the doctors, makes charts, cleans up after everyone else and calls all the necessary people. Isabel, the middle, becomes maternal. She bakes and cooks, tells stories, plays music and sings, making everything lighter and happier. I, on the other hand, am the emotional and optimistic one. I cry enough for all of us but also try to keep the problem in perspective. John is the one who adds laughter and humor. It may be a small joke or anecdote but he also looks at the problem and finds the funniness in it. Even in a situation like this, it’s important to have just a little of that. It’s a balance we’ve all learned to accept. We take our roles effortlessly, expectantly, and don’t complain.
The idea that we saved our Mom is one that none of us can fully wrap our minds around. All our lives, she’s been the one who has helped us with our problems. In one way or another, she’s saved us too. She’s helped to lead us down certain paths that have made us the way we are now. Without that, we would all be very different. Now, having everything flip around completely is terrifying, exhausting and stressful. It’s not something I, Ana, Isabel or John, were ready for.