19 February 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
I left off after my last entry on 28 Jan with quite a cliff-hanger. I was scheduled to see Dr Sadhana to kick-start the frozen cycle in March – and was really excited about my upcoming appointment on 7 Feb at KKH.
Then, the (very) unexpected occurred.
At about 6.30 am on 7 Feb, I suffered a seizure in my sleep. I lost consciousness for 10 minutes and woke to the blurry vision of ambulance doors closing in on me.
At the A&E, Dan related his account of the seizure to the duty doctor:
He had been startled by a loud gasp and had woken to see my limbs stiffening. Thinking that I was having a cramp, he lovingly leaned over to massage my stiffened limbs, only to see that my eyeballs were rolling upwards in different directions. Recognising the uncontrollable convulsions as signs of a fit, he turned me onto my side and held me there until I relaxed and blacked out a minute later – eyes wide open. He nervously checked for my pulse and was most relieved to locate it. He scooped up a sleeping Coco and handed her over to my mum so that the girls wouldn’t wake each other, then dialled 995 for an ambulance. The SCDF arrived 10 minutes later, moved me onto a stretcher and sped us to the A&E.
This was definitely not how I was expecting to kick off the Year of the Horse – by riding in an ambulance to the horse-pital (credit for the joke goes to the funny husband. Even in times of emergency, he couldn’t help but crack it!)
Throughout the traumatic episode, I was neither aware that I had suffered a seizure, nor could I recall anything that happened.
After spending almost 12 hours under observation and a slew of scans and blood tests later, I was released from the A&E, and gratefully climbed into the car and headed home.
When we were growing up, I would often read aloud the sign placed at the lift lobby of our apartment block – without really comprehending its meaning: IN CASE OF FIRE, DO NOT USE LIFT. My parents would patiently explain that in the event a fire broke out, the emergency procedure would be for all residents to evacuate the building via the stairs (never mind that we stayed on the 19th floor) and not the lift.
At that time, my childish brain could not fathom the severity of such an emergency and the importance of having a plan in place to cope in the event of one.
30 years later, it hits me that what we were missing from our daily routine was a back-up arrangement in the event of a family emergency – especially now that we have 2 little ones who are completely dependent on us for their every need.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, WHO CAN YOU COUNT ON?
Thankfully, we were fortunate that everything fell into place. Dan accompanied me to the hospital then worked from home, stopping midway to pick Coco from school and bring her to the A&E to say a quick ‘hello’. My brother took leave from work to watch over my (very distraught) mother. My dad, sister, brother-in-law and helper all pitched in to look after Coco and Claire. My mother-in-law quickly contacted a neurology specialist at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) to schedule a health review as soon as possible.
Talk about strong family support there.
Needless to say, I had to reschedule my appointment with Dr S to 11 Feb, which was in turn postponed to 17 Feb as she had to take urgent medical leave on the earlier date. It almost seemed like I wasn’t fated to see her so soon.
On 10 Feb, I underwent an electroencephalogram (EEG) at NNI to record the electrical activity in my brain under certain simulated conditions. I did not react to any of the activities designed to provoke epileptic seizures. The x-ray pictures produced by the computer tomography (CT) scan done earlier at the A&E also did not reveal any structural abnormalities that could have caused the seizure.
Dr Loh, the neurology specialist, put it down to sleep deprivation, which in turn could have been caused by physical exertion and mental stress from trying to do the whole work-life balance / Full Time Working (Super)Mum thing. We ruled out the other 3 key triggers of seizures – over-consumption of alcohol, playing computer games for long durations and fever / flu.
As to why the seizure occurred in my sleep rather than when I was awake, it was probably due to the fact that I had been very busy at work over December and January (it is cruel irony that the sports-themed event that I was involved in organising had the slogan ‘Fit for Fun’… no, please do NOT have a fit for fun!) Coupled with the chain of celebrations over the Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year festive seasons, I was exhausted from rushing from activity to activity, day after day. My brain was probably not accustomed to the sudden lull after the hecticness of the preceding months and went into over-drive while I was sleeping. Plus, my weight had been dropping non-stop ever since Claire was born. I had put on 11 kg during my 2nd pregnancy – and lost 17 kg.
The seizure was a timely reminder that drove home the point that:
(a) I’m not Superwoman (even though some mums may come across as such – my own mother included, but then, she has almost 35 years of mothering experience under her belt) There is no need to hold myself to such golden standards – nobody’s judging, especially not a 2-year old toddler and 10-month old infant.
(b) It’s really important to have back-up logistics in place in case any caregiver is suddenly taken severely unwell, arising in a family emergency.
We are fortunate that all is well and while there is a 30% chance of a seizure relapse, it’s not considered a major cause for worry. With the exception of driving, swimming alone and climbing, I’ve been cleared to continue life as per normal without the need for any epileptic medication.
But does ‘life as per normal’ include gunning for another round of IVF in March – barely a month after the seizure – and getting pregnant?
Stay tuned for the next entry where I’ll update on my visit (finally!) with Dr S.