To epileptic hell and back
Suddenly being faced with the fact that their child has epilepsy was quite a dramatic experience for this family.
My husband, Craig, and I started to “relax” by doing what's called the Donkey Trail, which is a two-day hike into the "Hell", an isolated valley in the middle of the Swartberg Mountains near Oudtshoorn. Our two girls Ella, 4, and Mira, 2, were staying with the grandparents in George.

After our hike, we all left for our holiday in Prince Albert. Ella and Mira played themselves to a standstill every day, but then things took an unpleasant turn on our last morning there. I woke to the sound of Ella retching and within a short time she became disorientated and unable to communicate with us or stand. We put her down on the couch and she began slipping out of consciousness and twitching her hand.

We hadn't a clue what could've been wrong with her. I thought something may have bitten her. We also considered that she might have eaten something bad.

Rushing to the hospital

Craig put Ella in the car with the plan of finding the police station and asking for directions. Luckily, he was able to ask the first passer-by on the street. He raced her to the local hospital, by which time she was completely unconscious and very pale.

At the tiny state hospital the doctor thought she might have meningitis and told us to drive her to George (300km away) because it would take too long for an ambulance or helicopter to reach us.

Before we left, the doctor said that "time is of the essence". I've never felt so helpless. All I could do was sit and pray that Ella wouldn't get worse before we'd reached a hospital. The very kind doctor also told us that if anything went wrong on the way we must call him and he would advise us. That freaked me out even more.

She came to once or twice on the way but was still very drowsy. At the private clinic they ruled out meningitis pretty quickly, put her on a drip and scheduled a series of tests for the next day. By the following morning Ella was more or less herself again and she was a complete angel while they did an EEG and MRI scan.

The diagnosis

The outcome of all this is that Ella has been diagnosed with epilepsy. It was a nasty shock, obviously, but we are beginning to get to grips with the implications of this for her. The good news is that the MRI scan shows no injuries or other problems with her brain, which is the biggest concern in cases like this.

There's also a chance she will grow out of the condition. In the meantime, she's on medication that in 80% of cases will ensure no further seizures. So, for the moment, we live in hope. There is a possibility that the meds won't completely control the seizures and that she wont grow out of it, which would be a big burden for a little girl to carry, but we will deal with it if it turns out that way.

She is, for now, her old chatty self, which is hard to reconcile with the picture I have of her slumped in the car. But her personality itself is reason to hope for the best.

Does your child suffer from epilepsy? How have you and your family coped?

Read more about epilepsy by this mom in Getting my epilepsy facts straight.

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