A Christmas gift

Published: October 28 2022
Last updated: October 31 2022

One of my most memorable Christmases was in 2003. I was pregnant with my son at the time. I had had a few more seizures than normal and on Christmas Day, I really struggled to wake up enough to get up.

I agreed to go to hospital. That was the last thing I remember until waking up to some focal seizures in intensive care, having lost two days.

In those two days, I had gone into a prolonged seizure (status epilepticus) and had not responded to the epilepsy medicines I was given. I had needed to have more which would have affected my baby, so I had had a C-section and had then been placed in a medically induced coma while my brain recovered.

Everything that had happened was a huge shock to me. I had had my daughter Jasmine some years before, but I wasn’t expecting to meet my son until March the following year.

I found out that he had been transferred to another hospital equipped with everything a premature baby needed. I got transferred there as soon as possible, but it was Christmas and a lot of women had had babies, so beds were in short supply. It really felt like there was no room at the inn!


Tense and emotional

When I met my son, I couldn’t believe he was real at first – he was so small. I felt worried and guilty that I had been so ill he had to be born early, and I was quite scared to touch him because of his size.

It took time for us both to recover. There were hospital transfers, surgeries, improvements and setbacks. It was a very tense and emotional time. It was hard to bond with him with everything going on.

One day, he fixed his gaze on me, and that was it – I was in love. We named him Patrick, after his grandfathers, and his sister gave him his middle name Oliver. Holding Patrick for the first time was really emotional.

When he got up to 3lbs and had no tubes in, it was a big relief. In the last week he was in hospital (it was now March) he came back to our local hospital. We were greeted with ‘I remember you! I was just going home for Christmas when you came in.’ It was strange to be known by so many staff who we had never met. I feel we owe them so much!


Extra special Christmas

For me, my memory was jolted. Old memories were back and recent ones had gone. Some memories had gone for good, it was explained, but I don’t worry about that. Emotionally, my confidence had taken a knock and I had delayed shock. I was helped with all this, but it took time.

Though my health has declined in recent years, I recovered enough to be part of his life and see hm grow and tower over me. I’m proud of both of my children and their achievements. I would have preferred epilepsy not to get in the way so much. But both my children have gained something they may not have if things had been different – empathy, not just for epilepsy, but for other conditions that affect people around them.

Patrick’s birthday on boxing day is very special. We both went through a lot, individually and together, and have been lucky enough to come out the other side. I  see him as an unexpected Christmas present and it makes Christmas extra special.

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epilepsy today magazine cover December 2022