City Bus Adventures

I am not sure why I haven’t written about one of my most embarrassing moments ever until now, but my family insists this is one of the funniest things that ever happened to me, so I’m going to roll with it.

During my 2 year stint off the road I depended largely upon the CATS Village Rider system. It was always on time (which I have yet to figure out given the traffic around here) and more importantly, it could get me to and fro independently. Independence was something I treasured. I got a manicure every other week in a neighboring town, and boarded the bus outside my neighborhood and grabbed the bus home near a grocery store. Because of drop off time and pick up time, I always had a bit of free time before my manicure as well as after.

With beautifully polished nails, noticing a sunny afternoon, I sported my sunglasses and I headed to the grocery to grab some lunch to go. I perched myself on the roadside bench to eat my sandwich and wait for my ride home. In general, people don’t really talk at the stop nor on the bus. We usually have headphones in, riders are reading, texting or whatever we pretend to do so no one will engage us in uncomfortable conversation. Occasionally a rider talks on their phone but everyone stares since we can hear everything the rider is saying and that is just weird. Over the years of riding the city bus I have seen it all and I don’t think much about why the person is using city transit. I don’t assume they can’t afford a car, can’t afford insurance, don’t have a license, blah  blah blah. You get it. I had a family, a car and insurance but my health didn’t allow me to drive so I didn’t judge others…usually. I’m normal, or as close to it as possible, so I would never expect others to look at me. I thought there was an unwritten rule about riding the bus.

This day felt different from the minute I pulled out my sandwich at the bus stop. I tried to mind my own business, but somehow I felt like people were watching me. I have a problem. My face tells my innermost thoughts. My eyes tell it all. When I saw people looking at me strangely, my instinct was to roll my eyes, eat my lunch or catch up on Facebook. We boarded the bus and I sat close to the front. Still in my own world of focusing on the road and letting time pass, I couldn’t help but notice people were looking at me for an extended length of time. I glanced back, likely for longer than I should have, but I remained sheltered by my sunglasses that hid my insecurity. The bus neared my stop, I grabbed the wire to signal the stop and got of the bus as quickly as possible. I walked home, threw my keys and sunglasses in my pocketbook and life was great.

A couple of days later I headed back out into the sunshine. I reached into my pocketbook to get my sunglasses. Holy moly! One entire lens had come out of my sunglasses! My mind shot back to the bus stop and strange ride home. Glory, glory! I sat at the bus stop eating my lunch and then proceeded to ride the bus home in sunglasses with only one lens! OH MY WORD! The entire day replayed in my mind! I was responding to the strange looks I was getting thinking I was normal, but everyone else was right thinking I was crazy! I tested the lens to make sure I had not lost it completely! How could I spend half a day wearing only one lens? Much to my dismay, I realized it was doable. OH MY! Yep, I sat at a very public bus stop with half a sunglass, is that even a phrase? I road the bus for at least 30 mins making eye expressions with everyone glaring at me. I thought they were crazy and they were staring at ME because it was clear I was crazy! OH MY WORD!

If you see me out and my eyes are red, it is likely because I have been driving and poking myself in the eyes to be sure both eyes are uncovered. When I put on my sunglasses now, I almost always touch both lens to be sure I am as normal as the rest of you. HAHAHA! Don’t laugh at me, just laugh with me. We all have issues, some are just more visible than others.

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Copyright ©  Gatewood Campbell, February 2017

 

 

 

 

Well Dang

Some things seem too familiar, or maybe not. It has been over a year since my last seizure and perhaps I wasn’t quick enough to recognize the aura.

Several weeks ago I headed into the store for a quick pickup of ingredients to make chili. As I got to the back of the store something felt wrong. In my circus head I thought I would crush my phone in my back pocket if I went down. I placed my phone in my pocketbook and moved on. The sensation continued and I realized I had my glasses on so I placed those in the hard case and put them in my pocketbook too. I got to the sour cream and it was shaking everywhere. Determined, I tried yoga breathing. The shaking subsided and I grabbed the fat free sour cream. Feeling like I had this, I pushed my cart to the cheese section. Problem was that I could not walk steadily. So in my constant attempts to “do it my own self” (something I told my grandparents when I was about 5 years old) I bent over the buggy and threw my head into the basket. Self said to me “this is highly embarrassing so get up and walk.” I stood up and grabbed the handles again. Nope, not steady. I sat down on top of the cheese. Yes, on top of the cheese. I realized I needed to take an emergency seizure pill. As I sat ON the cheese I could see bottled water and thought I could dash over and grab a bottle, open it and pay for it when I left. I stood up. Then I doubled over inside the basket again. Well dang. Walking was out. I sat back down on the cheese. I threw the pill as far back in my throat as I could and gobbled it down. AHHH DANG! This is not good. I looked around for someone to call to. All I heard was spanish.

“You are ok. We are taking care of you. You had a seizure and you are going to be ok.”

I looked past the man speaking to me and into the bright round lights shining down on me. I realized I was strapped to a gurney and prepped to be moved to the ambulance. Well dang, really?? I just wanted to make chili. My mind wandered to my buggy with ground turkey, tomatoes, sour cream and oh yea, no cheese. I never picked that up. Ouch, my head hurt no matter which way I moved and my legs were barking!

“Hey I know that truck.” I was in the ambulance and I recognized my husband’s truck pulling into the lot. I told the medics my husband was here. I was overwhelmed with beeping and voices. What I wanted was to go home! Johnny came running to the back of the ambulance and told them I had epilepsy and he would take care of me.

Fortunately, I did not bust my head open and the medics released me into the loving care of my husband and our youngest son. Apparently he was in the backseat of the truck. I don’t remember. Some wonderful friends happened to be nearby and went back to pick up my van and get some more Tylenol. The smallest things mean the most.

It is what it is. Maybe I felt safe. I am safe, when I am careful and when I don’t overload myself. Epilepsy is a silent disorder. It is invisible. It strikes when we think it may and also when we least expect it, or when it is least convenient. I can not believe the stoic manner in which my husband is always able to cope with this. My children do not fear seizures but they are all too aware. Our youngest was in a class when he saw his dad come around the corner before class was over. Later he told me he figured something had happened to his mom. He wasn’t worried. He is always confident that someone will be there.

Turns out care was at my side within seconds. A friend witnessed the event but because I was already on the ground she didn’t realize it was me. I am thankful that she asked shoppers to move along and comforted to know that she saw the employees had called 911 before she had the chance.

You know what? This too shall pass. I have spent the last 11 years fighting this and I have no reason to think that it will ever beat me. Yes, I am dealing with reality that I wish I were not, but it certainly could be worse. Can you help? YES! Learn how to aid someone having a seizure.

The most important thing I need after a seizure is to know someone is in control and cares.  If you can be that person who looks into the eyes of someone coming out of a seizure and communicate love and care, you are a hero.

I am fortunate. I am a survivor. There is still no cure for epilepsy but millions of us fight it with the help of loving care around us. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Please take a few minutes to read, re-read and share first aid for seizures information. Knowledge is power and power saves lives.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, November 2016

Where Did the Year Go?

Sitting here in my quiet house watching with my sweet yorkie by my side, watching my son’s new puppy chew on a bone and my mind wanders. For two years I was in this house alone, kids at school, somewhat limited by my inability to drive and a quiet house was common. This last year has been crazy busy. Now though, it is not so common to be in a quiet space and it feels uncomfortable. It is a change I didn’t anticipate.

Exactly one year ago, I was admitted to Duke Hospital in the seizure monitoring unit. My meds were stopped and I was hooked up to video EEG and a heart monitor. We were there to wait for a seizure. I can still smell the chemicals they used to glue the 30 some odd leads to my head. YUCK! I carried around a battery pack for the heart monitor and the leads from my head were gathered into a gauze wrapped ponytail permanently attached to an electrical panel in the wall. When I say permanent, I mean permanent. I could not leave the room for the entire stay. I could go to the bathroom in privacy but someone had to be with me at all times waiting for and documenting any seizure like activity. I played games with the video camera and moved around the room to see if it followed me. Usually it did. At night they were a little slower. I think they were napping. I was a pretty low key patient. The nurses only did vitals every four hours because we were just there to wait for a seizure. And wait we did. After nine days in the world’s smallest hospital room I learned some things. Generic ginger ale is pretty good if served over ice, hospital food needs lots of salt and pepper, always place your meal order early, hospital wifi is spotty, you can fry an iPad if you put it on a heart monitor battery pack, EEG readings are messed up if you hold a charging iPad or iPhone, Netflix is the bomb, Big Brother and Below Deck are fantastic time passers, showers are NOT overrated, glue in your hair is nasty, my marriage is solid because survived 9 days in one room, nurses are too loud at night and keep patients awake, I can actually stay awake for 24 straight hours and then only take a brief nap all in the name of bringing on a seizure, bed side manner is everything when it comes to loving a nurse, never ever pass up friends who offer to bring you food from the outside world and I don’t ever want to go through any of that again. I also have an amazing mother who came and lived with my sons while my husband stayed with me. Friends provided daily meals for two straight weeks while I was gone and after we came home. Though the tests were somewhat inconclusive, we learned what the right meds are and they have served me well for the last year.

At the beginning of February, I got my wheels back! After two years off the road, I jumped back in with both feet. My father in law had undergone surgery for a total knee replacement in early January. Unfortunately the surgery had to be stopped because his heart stopped. Doctors worked quickly and God jump started his heart but it began a long journey with new and unexpected trials. He was away from home, in and out of hospitals and rehab centers for 2 months after having to undergo a second surgery to finish the knee replacement. That man is a fighter and his wife is the toughest gal on the block. His healing continues each day and we have all been adapting to a new normal. He has mostly good days now. Never take good health for granted. We never know what may be next. And I would add, I can be a serious force to be reckoned with when it comes to healthcare for my father in law.

Life changes so quickly and it can happen in so many ways. This spring my mom decided it was time to complete her retirement plan and move to the mountains permanently. This meant selling her home. It wasn’t just her home though, it was the home her parents built  in 1957. It was the family home. Sorting, trashing, keeping, selling, packing, hauling, shipping…yep we did it all. Some days I was on task and some days I tearfully sorted and tried to fight off my tendency to hold onto things for sentimental reasons. I reminded myself that my treasure box of memories is in my head and that never leaves me. We had a yard sale and I laughed each time someone picked something up and my mom told them the story behind it. Mom traveled all over the world for about 25 years. She has millions of things from her trips, not really but sometimes it felt like it. When she tried explaining the Spirit House that she bought and carried all over Taipei, or the walking  stick handle she got in Afghanistan, people looked at her like she had just jumped off the moon. I don’t think one person believed any of the crazy origins she spilled. The funniest part is that everything was true. When Johnny and I loaded the last box to take to donate he spotted something and asked if I was sure I wanted to let it go. I said “I have touched every single one of these things at least five times so if it got here I’m not changing my mind.” I guess that is how moves should go. My mind needed to come to the realization that it was time to let go of a structure and the things that were in it. Those walls surrounded love and now it will be the foundation for a new family to build memories and perhaps hang some artifacts from their own travels. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, the thing we will all miss the most is the prime parking spot!

College. Say it ain’t so! The time came much faster than I ever knew it could. My son packed up totes, snacks, mattress egg crate and off he went. Boys are so easy! It only took us two loads and he was in his 10’x15′ corner room. I think I over prepared because I didn’t cry until about a week after he left, and that was one ugly cry. Maybe I was in shock. It is SO quiet in the afternoons at home because there is no drumming! The laundry loads are much smaller and I have not quite figured out how much food to make when I am not feeding an 18 year old man. It took me about a week of glancing into his room to not feel overwhelmed with his absence. Partially because I can text him anytime I want, but maybe because much like letting go of my mom’s house, his walls surrounded love and talent that can be passed on. Watching him venture off to a new place with new experiences is like sharing a house with another family and letting them have the gift of a solid foundation. We hope Justin has the foundation to successfully bloom into whatever he is passionate about. He was home this weekend and we were walking through a store and I spotted a toy he had when he was little. He immediately remembered it and continued talking about all the different things he made with it. My heart was so full because I felt final peace that we are all right where we are supposed to be. He holds the same memories and they bring him joy. He is living out each moment, as we all are, to the best that we know, by faith, trusting that the decisions we make are guided by what God knows will be best for us.

As I think back on this past year it makes sense that it went by so quickly. We were going through a lot of motions and a lot of emotions. I have been relearning how to be active and mobile again. I giggle when I read my blog title “Embracing Change” because it seems like I’m always being forced to do that. Truly, I’m so fortunate, so very very fortunate.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, September 2016

Ready, Not Ready

Like millions of mothers and fathers all over the world, I find myself totally elated and completely overwhelmed by a swollen heart and tear-filled eyes as I think about my son, a college freshman, getting ready to leave home. I am so ready and so not ready for this.

Seriously, can you ever actually be ready to loosen your grip on your child and let them start the next chapter? I’m feeling like it may only be possible to be ready after you have already let go. I think it should not come naturally. All his days, weeks and years are the foundation for the next step. We can’t be beside him this time. Instead we are behind him, hopeful, prayerful and mindful that he is smart and we trust him to be wise. Oh, the places you will go. OH, THE PLACES YOU WILL GO! Yes, he is a high school graduate, he can vote and he can be drafted but he will always be my son. No, he is not a baby and certainly does not want nor need to be spoon fed anything, but when my mind wanders to what our home will be like in a month…sigh. When our youngest was a baby and started walking we used to knock him down. True story. Oh yes, we were excited parents and we were proud, but we knew once they start walking they keep going and growing up so fast! Just like so many other areas of life, we work hard to get to a certain point and when we are on the verge of that cliff the last step can be the toughest.

He is ready and I know that. This is his time and I am the same excited and proud parent ready to see what his future holds. But golly I’m not ready for his empty room, his silent drums nor his brother missing the wrestling matches, front yard baseball games and pick up basketball.

I think ready, not ready is right where I should be. We do all that we can to prepare them for this time, but there are certainly no how to books for watching them go. As I remind him frequently, no matter how old he is, he will always be my son. Ready or not, I can hang on to that grip forever. So I guess it is time to say “Ready, Set, Go!” and then I can hide my eyes and dry my tears once more.

Copyright Gatewood Campbell, July 2016

Changing Clothes

Yep, it is that time of the year! Graduation! My son said recently he thought the year would go by very slowly and he could not believe how fast it went! I have held my emotions in check pretty well, remaining so thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate this occasion. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude that Justin has the chance to get a first class education, close to home and complete high school. We are thrilled that he will start college this fall. We are incredibly fortunate to have a son who has worked hard to get to this point.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove past the high school and many kids had dismissed after exams. Hundreds of kids flooded the sidewalks. As I looked at them chatting, texting, checking their phones for goodness knows what… the floodgates opened. I realized my son would not be on the sidewalk next year because the time has come for him to move on. Holy moly! Where have I been the last 13 years? I thought back to his “Star Student” day in Kindergarten when he wrote a book about himself and I got to come share class time with him. I remembered his beloved first grade teacher, Ms. Loeffler, and going to read a book he had chosen for his class. It was a Tuesday morning. That afternoon I fell in Target. After that our family reevaluated what was important in life and soon after I became a stay at home mom. I will never forget the complete joy Justin had the first day he got off the bus at home and not at after school care. This, yes this, these times helped to mold and shape him into the young man he is today.

I remember so well finding out I was pregnant with Justin. Like all new parents, we set up the nursery with carefully chosen furniture, colors and bedding. We had waited so so long for this beautiful child. I lost a baby before Justin and we prayed for a very long time that God would give us another. We did not find out whether I was having a boy or girl and we kept our name selections a secret too. I will never regret the joy my husband experienced surprising everyone in the waiting room after 11pm with news that our boy had been born. We passed him off to my grandmother as the first to hold him. She deserved it having blown off a bridge game to be at the hospital when her first great grandchild arrived. We announced his name, Justin, because we liked it and middle name Willis after his paternal great grandfather. I could not wait to put this precious soul into his carefully selected going home outfit, with cap and socks of course. Someone probably should have told me a mid July baby won’t have issues retaining body temp, but the outfit had to be complete, right? You must have a cap and socks to match! The clothes mattered so much!

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I don’t want to belabor the point that this chapter has come to a close. I want to celebrate this victory and the next chapter that he begins. Like so many of you, we are remembering with joyful tears the years that have passed and are ready (not ready) to move on to the next chapter. I am in my living room now listening to my son drum. In a few months his room  will not be so loud and we will miss that. We are also incredibly thankful that a plan is unfolding for his next steps. In the meantime, his drums, oh how his drums beginning in the 6th grade emerged as his passion. Blame it on me I reckon. I insisted he take band to learn to read music. Now he is writing music and playing in two bands and touring to different venues in NC to play. He was the baby for which we prayed, the child for which we prayed and now the young man for which we prayed. Last fall he sweated bullets as he diligently worked on college applications. Apply early folks! It will save you so much agony during Christmas and keep you out of the general application pool! We anxiously awaited letters in February. Mom brag moment…he was 3 for 3 on college apps! He was thrilled to accept the invite from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte as his first choice. Dorm life awaits, and mom made scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast do not. (Giggle giggle)

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We traded in the carefully chosen baby clothes for an equally prayed over and carefully selected cap and gown (not really… Herff Jones still owns the rights to all graduation gear. That is the only thing the same since I graduated back in the ice age.) My tears flow because I am thankful that my son is experiencing this precious step in his life. I am proud of him. I am proud that he loves his brother unconditionally and his mom and dad unconditionally. I am proud that he took care of me so many times when I could not. I am proud that he took care of his brother when I could not. I am proud that he has successfully held down a job to pay for his own expenses from the time he could drive. I am proud he has kept school as a priority and maintained good grades. I am proud because he just knows what he needs to do and will step in and do it. As life took detours, I am proud that he used his life experiences and dedicated his senior exit project to the need for more epilepsy awareness and government funding. I am proud that he has discovered his passion through music and has found a way to share himself with the world! Above all else, I am proud that he has Jesus front and center in his life and is not ashamed to share his faith in Jesus Christ.

We will miss him next year in ways I can not begin to fathom. Support meetings may be necessary. I am as proud as the day he was born. God gave us this child and this child has given us so much more than we ever could have imagined.

To my son…You were so little when you were born and your sweet yellow outfit was way too big for you. Your clothes have changed since the day you were born and we are just as thankful today to see you in your cap and gown that you earned. Yes, the cap does indeed matter, even if in the heat of mid June, you need the cap! Your cap and very long gown await your 6’3″ body. My heart is so full because I am so excited for the world to get to meet the person we know as our son. The time has come to open the doors to your world and share you. This isn’t closing a chapter. It is just the beginning and I am honored that you call me Mom…

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2016