It was 2:58 PM on a Wednesday afternoon in March. I stared at the classroom clock, impatiently waiting for the final bell to ring that would dismiss all students from Holy Spirit Prep School. Third grade at HSPS was not a year of gold stars. It was a time where I did not know who I was; a time where the students there either bullied or ignored me. It was a time when I was not happy.
Every day that bell rang, I was the first in my class to leave. I would run out to the parking lot where my mom would be waving and smiling at me, front and center, below the concrete steps. She would always know if I’d had a good day or a bad day at school by the expression on my face. Unfortunately, most days were bad days. However, my mom’s smile and hug helped me forget about them for a while.
This Wednesday in March is a day that I will never forget. Although it seemed like a typical day, it was far from it. When I got home, I talked to my parents, played with my dog and did my homework. I can even remember what my mom cooked for dinner: meatloaf, one of my favorites. After the usual nighttime activities, I made myself an ice cream sundae and sat on the floor with my dog to watch TV. My mom and I have always watched TV together, and when we do, we talk! We started our normal, silly conversations and did not stop for awhile. All of a sudden, I felt this tremor overcome my body. I tried to drink some water but I could not open my mouth. My fingers became numb and I could not eat or utter a word. My mom realized that I had stopped talking and asked if I was alright. I could not reply. Just seconds later, she realized that my face and lips were twitching. My dog, Annie, started barking. My dad called 911 while my mom tried to comfort me. Oddly, I was able to speak and move approximately 3 minutes after I first became paralyzed. The ambulance arrived after I had regained control of my body. Everything felt back to normal. They checked my vitals and said that I looked fine. However, not wanting to leave my health to chance, my parents drove me to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where I was checked out. I can only remember feeling uneasy at the hospital and my parents were seemingly more anxious than I was.
The doctors said that our description of the event sounded like I had experienced a seizure. A seizure, as I know it, is a sudden attack or spasm. The doctors claimed that it could be triggered by stress, puberty, or even just an infection. One or all of these things could cause sudden disorganized and electrical activity in the brain, producing the episode that I had experienced. At such a young age, these words flew past my head. At first, I did not understand how serious seizures could be. Before leaving the hospital, the doctors referred my parents to a Pediatric Neurology Center, where I would later be assessed to determine my brain’s condition and if I would be able to grow out of the seizures. Although I had only experienced one, there were greater odds of it happening again.
The months that followed were not easy. After visiting the Pediatric Neurology Center and meeting Dr. Schub, I was put on medication to keep my brain’s activities controlled. He found heavy activity in my brain that could cause more serious seizures in the future. Fortunately, by studying my brain, Dr. Schub concluded that I would grow out of this condition when puberty started. In girls ages 9-12, short episodes like the one I had experienced are more common because the body has begun to mature. Keeping track of the condition would mean that I would have to undergo many tests, including EEGs (electroencephalography), that would hopefully record normal brain activity. That was when I started my long journey.
To my relief, I did not go back to Holy Spirit Prep School. Instead, for the next few months, my teachers sent me my homework and my mom taught me the lessons. I caught up very quickly and realized that this in-home environment of learning was right for me. The following year, I made the switch from Holy Spirit Prep to Laurel Springs School. In doing this, I made the switch from being unhappy and stressed to becoming happy, energetic, and excited to learn. This change also gave me the time to realize what I loved to do: music and theatre. I begged my parents to give me a guitar and lessons; I sang constantly; I even got cast as Gabriella in High School Musical. This time for me and my health not only made me a happy individual, but have me a confidence that I never had before. The performing arts gave me an outlet to express my feelings, and without them, I would not be the same individual today, writing this reflective essay in my 11th-Grade year at Laurel Springs School.
After three years of medication and excessive tests, Dr. Schub’s conclusions were proven right: I had grown out of the condition and would never experience another episode after that first one in the third grade. The activity in my brain had slowed down and got back to normal. He gave me a sticker that read “Congrats!” and a green plush frog. These symbolized the struggles that both my family and I overcame. To this day, I have remained healthy and happy.
Looking back on my experiences, I cannot help but wonder how I was as brave as I was when it happened. How did I overcome the worst of fears? How did my family cope? Looking back, these experiences flash before my eyes. I remember the nights when my mom was awake all night watching me sleep; I remember that my medicine made me susceptible to every virus and cold, making me sick almost once a month; I remember the EEG tests, where doctors glued suction-like cups onto my scalp to record my brain. Above all, however, I remember my determination. I remember my strength to finish these tests; I remember my bravery when I was taken off my medication for good. In remembering all of these things, I am confident that I can overcome all of life’s obstacles.
Nobody’s life is perfect, and it is what we make of it that matters. These unfortunate life events gave me everything I love in my life: a supportive family and group of true friends that I cannot be more thankful for, Laurel Springs School, my love of the performing arts, and overall, happiness. That one seizure helped me find myself. Most importantly, I learned the life lesson that being happy with oneself can make all of the difference.
Maggie Schneider is a singer, songwriter, musician, and actress from Atlanta. As an avid fan of John Hughes movies and pop punk music, Maggie loves to write about pop culture. Her life is one big awesome performance and she is excited to share her thoughts with you. Listen to her music on YouTube and Facebook.