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The Greatest Daredevil
May 24th 2009: It’s eleven fifteen at night. I’m just settling in for the night. My brain is still processing the day’s events when I hear the sound that I dread -the sound of my brother, Seth, getting out of bed with heavy pounding footsteps as he hurries to Mom and Dad’s room. The sound hardly ever fails to wake me as his room is next to mine. There’s one word on my mind as I jump up and throw open my door, not three steps behind Seth: seizure.
Seth first started having seizures when he was twelve. I was six. I remember a few episodes from that summer, one of them when it was just Mom and me home. I was sleeping with her in her bed when Seth burst into her room and pulled at her feet before collapsing to the ground. I had no idea what was happening at the time. It wasn’t until later that Mom told me that was what everybody had been talking about.
Some doctors thought it was an iron deficiency, so they put Seth on Dialatin and iron pills. The seizures slowly but surely went away. For some reason, we switched neurologists, and they took him off the iron pills, saying that they didn’t have any effects. The one thing everyone agreed on though, was this: the reason for Seth’s epilepsy was completely unknown. He just had it.
Seth’s on the floor now, by Mom and Dad’s door, his head almost hitting the counter as my father holds him. Mom is still just getting up; she’s deaf and doesn’t know what’s up until the light from the kitchen hits her in the face. I stand there momentarily, until Dad yells at me to get a facecloth.
I run as fast as I can manage to the bathroom, spinning out in places. The back part of my mind thinks that it is somewhat comical, spinning out like something from The Flintstones. I’m in the bathroom now and grab a couple facecloths before turning around and rushing back to the kitchen. I step over Seth and Dad and dose one of them under cold water, wringing it out before getting it to my dad. How many times have I done this over the years?
The one thing that had stumped the doctors the most was the fact that he only had them between three and five in the morning. If we could get through the early morning hours, then everything would be fine. I don’t think that the doctors necessarily believed us when we said that he only had them when he was sleeping. It’s a mystery, but he was properly medicated, and we went through a few years without him having any at all.
Mom’s almost crying now, she always cries. I’m kneeling down besides my father and Seth, wiping the salvia as it comes out of his mouth. He almost looks rabid. Dad’s using the wet facecloth by running it up and down his back and then putting it on his forehead. Before long we’re both muttering things to him under our breath. “Beat it back, Seth.”
“C’mon Bobo, come outta it.”
The medication kept the seizures back, but didn’t help his mood any. He wasn’t happy-go-lucky anymore. He was a moody teenager now, everything made worse by the medication. “Oh, it’s just a side effect of the medication,” they told us. Seth was the equivalent to a football player on steroids, just start to irritate him and he was down your throat, ripping you a new one.
“He’s never had one this early.” It’s my mom, she’s kneeling down beside us now, still beating back the tears, but they’re there. Seth’s body is rigid and convulsing, he’s not breathing now. I glance up at the clock, almost five minutes has passed.
“Dad, it’s been almost five minutes, anything after seven’s brain damage territory.” I breathe shakily to my father. Dad’s almost gray looking. He glances up at me before nodding. As he moves to get up and to the phone, Seth makes a gasping sound, air filling his lungs but not coming out.
“His eyes were black and they looked like something out of Resident Evil.” My cousin Kevin was standing in my camper, talking to my mom. Seth was thirteen, he’d been having seizures for a whole year now. He apparently had had one at Kevin’s the night before. Seth was sitting across from us, nodding. The other thing that was weird about Seth’s seizures was that he remembered everything that happened in them the next day.
Every little thing we said to him in hopes of comforting him.
I’m terrified now. I’m convinced that my brother’s life is slipping out of my hands, as he lay on the floor in my house. My mind tries to comprehend a future without him, it’s unfathomable, there’s nothing without Seth. I shake my head. “I love you Seth, come on.”
In the same breath I’m also getting mad, mad that this has to happen to Seth, one of the most honest hardworking guys I know.
“My son suffers from epilepsy, he’s having a seizure. It’s been almost seven minutes now.” says Dad, talking to the person at the 9-1-1 dispatch.
When Seth was about seventeen, eighteen, he started having these facial spells. We’d be talking to him, or he’d be watching TV and a song would play, and abracadabra, look the amazing frozen boy. He’d hear us and want to answer but couldn’t. Come to find out, these were mini-seizures. A few months after he started having these, he started having seizures again. But the doctor was able to up his dosage and they stopped.
I hear my dad giving them our address now. Seth’s still breathing in gasps. Mom and I look at each other, tears in both of our eyes. His body is still stiff; it’s what every flyer in cheering wants to accomplish but never does. I’m still wiping away the drool as it comes out of his mouth.
“He’s never had one this early.” It’s like a mantra. It runs through my head, like a song that’s stuck.
I’ve always had trouble with the first stage of grief: denial. My math teacher in sixth grade died on April’s Fools day. I’d been out with a friend all weekend and when I got home it was close to ten o’clock. Seth was the one to tell me: “Your math teacher was named Charlie Fitzsimmons
right?” I nodded, not catching the past tense.
“Yeah, well he died today from a heart attack.” I refused to believe him, called him a liar and went to take my shower. It wasn’t until later that it actually sunk in.
“Come on,” I spit out, and as I do, the seizure breaks. His body relaxes and his breath is coming in sighs now.
I kiss his forehead, “I love ya’ Seth.” I say to him. Dad’s still on the phone with the dispatcher. All and all the seizure lasted a good fifteen minutes, him not breathing for five of it.
I’m feeling sick now, from the nerves, but after making sure Mom has him, I get up and rush to my bedroom and start getting dressed. If the ambulance is coming, I want to be sure I’m ready to go out the door. Seth’s up and stumbling around now like he’s had a fifth of rum or more. He grabs Mom up into a bear hug, mumbling “I love you” to her, before stumbling around the kitchen table. I squeeze by him and push in the chairs so he won’t trip.
Seth being disoriented like this is normal afterwards. He totters to the bathroom, Dad following him. He almost pees in the dirty clothes hamper. It’s only when Dad tells him to use the toilet does he realize what he’s doing. That done, he stumbles back out the door, and towards his room. With a firm hand, Dad guides Seth away from his room and into my parents room. We have all the lights turned on now, the storm door thrown open. I’m pulling on my shoes, waiting for the ambulance to come.
There’s someone at the door now, and it’s the first EMT on the scene. I point him into Mom and Dad’s room. I watch the ambulance cruise by my house, lights flashing. Typical Cellar Savers, I think shaking my head. They finally get the house right, and they’re standing in my doorway, leering over the scene. The first EMT gets done taking his blood pressure, before talking with Seth. Seth’s still halfway out of it, but manages to slur that he’s fine and doesn’t need to go to the hospital. The EMT nods, and after confirming this with Dad, he has Seth sign off, and they leave.
I go into my parent’s room and watch my now sleeping brother. All the times we’d fought flash through my mind, but all the times we had fun together and laughed linger. A smile of relief breaks out on my face. I go back to bed after checking with Mom and Dad, and as I’m lying there, waiting to go to sleep, I start to cry.
Whether they’re tears of relief or anger that I couldn’t do anything for him, I’m not sure.
It’s been five months now. This past summer has been one of the worst for him since when he first started having them. One morning I watched him walk up my gravel driveway, disoriented from a seizure, barefooted like it was carpeting.
I’m positive though that death was looming over us that night. It helped me realize that death happens to anyone, that it springs up at people when they least suspect it. But my big brother, he defies death every time he has a seizure. He’s the greatest daredevil I know.