As this portion of the story opens, Tarica had been in the hospital for two days. We had not yet heard the results of the MRI and spinal tap. She was still seizing.
* * *
Thursday morning dawned, two days, two weeks, two years since we found Tarica unconscious. What is time when your child is in the hospital? It’s merely the intervals between discovering another piece of the puzzle.
Our pastor Jason and his wife Christine arrived mid-morning, accompanied by Linford and Jenica. We had decided to pull Jenica out of school for a day so the girls could see each other and so we could briefly be together again as a family. Tarica was happy to see Jenica, who brought a stack of cards from her classmates, and the gift and balloon from Jason’s. But she drew her greatest joy from the smallest visitor. Jason and Christine had brought their infant son along, and Tarica begged to hold Trent. Christine helped Tarica cradle him for a little, and she briefly glowed with her old joy. This had not changed. She still loved babies.
Not long after the visitors arrived, Dr. Rajan, one of the neurologists seeing Tarica, stopped in with the MRI results. It was odd, to sit beside my daughter waiting for the verdict, knowing that what is going to come out of the doctor’s mouth will change our lives. To think: I should be horrified and shaking, but I’m calm and resolute. Perhaps anything, even a terrible diagnosis, was better than not knowing.
With the ease of practice, Dr. Rajan laid out the facts. “The spinal tap came back clear. No sign of any infection causing the seizures. Good news.” We nodded. Yes. Good news. “The MRI, it looked good—except one tiny speck of abnormality, so small you almost have to imagine you see it, on the right side of her brain, near the division between the two halves.” The doctor touched the top of her head. “We don’t know why it’s abnormal. It could be caused by the seizures, or it could be causing the seizures. Perhaps she had it from birth. We don’t know.”
“What does this mean?” Was it Linford or I who asked the question?
* * *
In eight letters, we entered a new world. It wasn’t so very different from the one we left behind, but for a profusion of strange words—complex partial seizures, status epilepticus, tonic-clonic—and a boatload of new fears for our daughter. Epilepsy is, despite the medical knowledge and technology of the twenty-first century, a disorder with many unknowns.
With the diagnosis, the hospital staff began focusing on managing the seizures with the right combination of medication, as well as educating the patient’s parents. So much information—my head felt like it would split.
I drew great comfort from one fact: Dr. Rajan reassured us that the seizures had caused no brain damage. During that endless first night in the hospital, I feared a brain tumor and I feared brain damage. I thanked God over and over that neither existed.
After several hours, Jason and Christine left, taking Cassondra and Jenica with them.
The night did not go well. Tarica was restless with frequent seizures, but it was easier to face an enemy that had a name.
* * *
A quick update on the arm: Tarica has a fractured elbow.
When the doctor asked her what color cast she wanted, she eyed him narrowly. “What colors do you have?” she asked.
“Well, we have red and blue and green. Oh, and purple.”
She frowned. “But do you have pink?”
He did, and she is now wearing a neon pink cast. She could stop traffic and indigestion with it.
Which we will undoubtedly be grateful for when we get the bill.
* * *
Read more in part six.