It all started with a bizarre episode of speech arrest. I was nearing the end of a meeting with two of my co-workers at Medibank, Mike and Diana, and suddenly I started stumbling over the same word. It had been a casual Friday kind of meeting and I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed. But when I started having trouble speaking I panicked. I had no idea what was happening, I actually thought I was having a stroke. I was already sitting down but I sort of slumped back in my seat and just kept stammering over the same word. This went on for a couple of minutes. I have a vague memory of Diana and Mike looking horrified. Diana eventually got me to stand up and go outside onto the balcony. The rush of cold air on my face seemed to bring me out of my stupor and I started to return to normal.
To be safe an ambulance was called and I was taken to St Vincent’s where they ran some tests. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. In fact, I was told I had a resting heart beat close to that of an athlete. The best they could diagnose was a ‘near faint’ and they sent me home. I went to see my GP on the Monday and she was concerned but didn’t see the need to order an MRI or any other tests. She said we should just keep an eye on it.
Eventually I managed to forget about the experience and get on with my life. I really wish I hadn’t. Fast forward three months and I’m walking to my car after work, about to get in and drive myself and my friend Fernando to his place. We’re walking and talking and the speech thing starts to happen again. All I remember thinking is ‘Fuck’ as I sit in the driver’s seat and start stumbling over my words again. That’s all I remember but Fernando witnesses me having a seizure seated in the driver’s seat. He says it goes on for a few minutes, my eyes are rolling back in my head and I’m frothing at the mouth. I have absolutely no memory of this part of the experience. The first vague memory I have is standing in the carpark with Ferny and my other friend Laura who he has called and they’re telling me that they’re taking me up to the food court to get some sugar into me. It’s all still a bit hazy and next thing I know is they’ve also called another friend / workmate Chris who has said he can drive me home in my car, or to the hospital.
At first I just want to go home, I think I must be in shock, but as Chris is driving me the speech thing happens again and we decide I should go to the hospital. We let Laura know who says she’ll meet us there. Once I present myself at emergency they tell me to take a seat and that it’s a busy night and I might be waiting a while, but that if I start to feel any different to let them know. We call my aunty and she heads in to the hospital. Chris and Laura insist on staying but eventually we send them home. Lee calls my friend Rhian (the GP) for advice. We’re about two and a half hours in now and I am incredibly exhausted from the seizure, hungry and desperate to lie down. Rhian says that what I need now is an MRI but all they’ll be able to do at the hospital is refer me for one, so if I’m feeling okay I should go home with my aunty and see my GP ASAP to get the MRI organised.
In the meantime, my aunty and I are talking about what I might have and we’re thinking adult epilepsy. This is a pretty hard concept to come to terms with and is completely freaking me out … little did I know the actual diagnosis would be so much worse.
(That’s me on the left in the photo…one of the last ones taken with my full head of hair!).