Baby I Can’t Drive My Car

With apologies to the Beatles, at least for those of you who are old enough to remember them 🙂

I’ve told you before about one of my first seizures while living alone. But it wasn’t my very first one. That was much scarier.

When I moved out of my parents’ house in 1993, I had a gray 1983 Chevy Cavalier that I was really proud of.

Like this one, only the hood actually closed.

It drove my brother and me from St. Louis to the Seattle area, and drove me back and forth to work a lot. A good car. The kind that you’d expect someone to name; but I never actually thought of doing that. (I probably would have named it Henry. Or Lucius.)

So my dad, the dentist, had recommended a dentist friend of his to look after my teeth, and after a while I decided I’d better go see him. The drive down wasn’t bad. Parking in downtown Seattle was unnerving—I wasn’t used to all those hills. (St. Louis isn’t completely flat. Only mostly.) The dental appointment itself was what you’d expect; funny smells and uncomfortable things in your mouth. But I was used to that. It was the drive back that I didn’t like.

Everett, where I was living, is about 25 miles north of Seattle, and you’d expect that the quickest way there would be I-5, which passed about a mile from my apartment and went straight through downtown. But having experienced traffic there, I decided to stay away from it and use State Highway 99, which was quieter. Man was that a good choice.

I must have been about halfway home when all of a sudden I felt the familiar tingling and numbness in my left arm and shoulder. I knew I was going to have a seizure, it was going to be the full-on tonic-clonic, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. And me driving fifty miles an hour down a major state highway.

Why, yes. Yes we are.

The last thing I remember even vaguely was slamming on the brake. I could still do that even though I couldn’t move my arms anymore. I didn’t have any idea of whether that would help, or what it would do, or even if I was actually just imagining it and not really doing anything. I just knew I needed to try and slow down. And then twitch, jerk, convulse, darkness.

Next thing I knew, I was in Group Health Lynnwood Medical Center. I don’t remember much about it. I was fine. Not even a Band-aid. Someone had managed (apparently) to get to my car, stop it, call an ambulance, extricate my wallet and see my medical ID, and get me AND MY CAR NO LESS to the hospital. And I was fine. I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing miracle. Or could I?

Once I began feeling better (I guess), I was worried about Henry. Or Lucius. Or whoever. After all, last I remembered I was flying down the highway and then jamming on the brakes. Surely something had happened.

But they said my car was in the parking garage. They even walked me out to it. Henry Lucius The car was completely fine. There was no scratch, no dent, no nothing. I was overjoyed! So who had done this for me? The people had left, they said. They had checked to make sure I’d be all right, and then they had left. I drove home, thankful, thoughtful, tired, scared, relieved.

I don’t remember a whole lot of details after that. I knew I couldn’t legally drive for a year. (That’s a long time, in case you feel inclined to try it.) I checked out bus routes, called my insurance company to let them know the car was being parked for the rest of the year, resolved that walking would do me good. Then relaxed and felt thankful that I wasn’t one of the 40 thousand or so who died that year of epilepsy and epilepsy-related accidents.

Most people don’t get a miracle. Not like that anyway. I was sad that I didn’t get to thank whoever it was that did this for me. I sometimes wonder about them. Who were they? Where were they going? Did they mind rescuing me? Do they ever say, “Hey, remember that guy we pulled out of the car?” I’ll probably never get a chance to thank them, but it’s not unlikely that I wouldn’t be here without them. That’s humbling.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US; I’ll be leaving work and going home shortly to enjoy the holiday. As I do, I’ll be remembering those of you who have stood by me in my epilepsy the last twenty-eight years, whether I know you or not. Whoever you are, whatever your reason—thank you. Thank you for everything.


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