A neighbor phoned me. “Tara, my wife just called. She thought she was going to have a seizure. I called the ambulance. Can you go up there and check? I am on my way home.”
This family is not new to epilepsy, but it is still concerning when seizures occur. I ran up there as quickly as I could. The ambulance had already arrived. By the time I reached the front door, paramedics had started their assessment. The stretcher was slightly inclined facing away from me. As they turned her, I could see her eyes were closed. It appeared she was peacefully resting. Except, it was obvious the questions these paramedics were asking were not getting through to her. Saliva had run down the side of her face. I was assured she was okay other than being postictal (the last period of a seizure when the brain is recovering). As she was being rolled out, I heard these young men say to her, “Tell us your name. Do you know where you are at?”
I told her, “Don’t worry about answering these questions. You are safe. You’re going to be okay. These guys are going to get you looked over. You had a seizure, but you are going to be fine.” Then I turned towards the paramedics and quickly said, “Those are scary questions to wake up to. Start by addressing her by name, and then tell her where she is now and where you are taking her. Don’t expect her to know. She is not aware of anything right now. Please, don’t scare her. Help by comforting her and then ask your questions after you can see she is awake. The way you are asking is very, very intimidating and makes it harder to adjust to the frightening situation she will wake to find.” These men must have thought I was speaking out of turn. They quickly asked me to go home and wait. They said they had to take her now and get her checked. At that, they slammed the ambulance door and stayed parked for another five minutes. I knew they were just doing their jobs and following the procedures they had been taught. Unfortunately, I also knew this peppering of questions is the scariest way to wake when you lose track of time and find yourself surrounded by an unfamiliar environment. I was not speaking out of turn; rather, I was speaking as a patient who woke up too often on that cold, terrifying stretcher.
Then I was left to wait. My neighbor who asked for help is a police officer. That is how he was able to dispatch the ambulance so quickly. He is lucky; his workforce takes care of each other. Soon after the ambulance doors closed I saw emergency lights coming down the street. A second police car quickly turned our corner. Then another one arrived. Three doors opened. Three frantic men stepped out each wearing a tan uniform with a hat. These three men gathered near the front door anxiously looking up the street, then at the ambulance and then at each other over and over again. I could not tell if they were waiting for the husband or if he was one of the anxious officers looking around. With prosopagnosia leaving me with no ability to recognize a face, this situation became a lot more intimidating. Do I just limp up towards them and ask, “Do one of you live here?” Do I ask, “Which one of you just called me?” Do I say, “I walked up here and she looked peaceful. Have you seen her yet?” Possibly the husband familiar to me was not here yet. Maybe I should wait.
I had been fearful of needing to speak with cops since face blindness became a part of my life. I never expected it in this context though. Normally my worry is developed from thoughts of having to identify someone or recall specific details of a person after a crime. I never thought of the cop being someone I knew. I never expected the situation not to be about a crime but about a bad seizure. I had to watch someone suffering just as other people previously had to watch me. I waited for one officer to approach me and speak first. He said thank you, and through his voice I knew this was the man who called me only minutes before.
My neighbor was okay and returned home later that day sore and tired. Concern left my heart and awe filled my mind. The seizure: Once again I realized truth in these words, “A seizure is much more painful for the bystander observing it than to be the one experiencing it.” The cop: Luckily, he identified me. There was no need for me to notice specific details…this time. It is still an intimidating feeling and thought though. Prosopagnosia: It is not a disorder that only shows itself every now and then. Rather, it is a lingering condition that I notice every time a person walks by me.