“Your mom had a seizure. The ambulance is taking her to the ER.” It was my stepdad. He was talking about my mom.
My mom? A seizure? The ER?
My mom didn’t have seizures. None of this made sense.
I stared at the person in front of me. I was at work, doing some manager training. She asked, “Is everything okay?” I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to answer. She asked, “Do you need to leave?” Again, I couldn’t answer her. I was still trying to process the words. I finally said “I think I need to leave? He said my mom had a seizure but that can’t be right? My mom doesn’t have seizures…” I trailed off as I gathered my things. I drove to the ER and ran in and asked the nurse where my mom was. She was not there.
Of course, she wasn’t there. Exactly. I knew this wasn’t real. My mom didn’t have seizures. Why would he tell me that? I would have known if my mom had seizures…
The ambulance arrived and pushed a stretcher through the doors. A person was flopping like a fish out of water strapped to that stretcher. That person was flopping and shaking in the most uncontrollable and uncomfortable ways. I remember thinking “My mom kind of looks like that…”
It WAS my mom. It was MY MOM.
The EMT was walking away to get her checked into the hospital. “Wait! Do something! Why aren’t you helping her? Where are you going? SOMEBODY HELP ME!”
Apparently, my mother had a seizure. It was Memorial Day 2013. Over the next six months, she endured test after test after test as she continued to have seizures that left her exhausted and unable to function. Every single test came back ‘normal’ as she spent the entire summer sleeping 20+ hours every day. Only waking for basic human needs. We saw every kind of doctor, asked every question.
I was 25 years old, my husband of 6 whole weeks had been deployed to Afghanistan. I engulfed myself in medical research. I still have that notebook. I asked “silly” questions, asked doctors to spell words, I recorded everything that any medical personnel told us. I begged and pleaded with God and doctors “Please, you have to fix my mom.” I cried. A lot. But not in doctor offices because no doctor was going to fix my mom if I was being a blubbering fool.
I needed to stay focused and composed so they would fix her.
Labor Day 2013, my aunt tagged my mom in an article on social media explaining the dangers of Aspartame. Artificial sweetener. Fake sugar. The symptoms lined up, but why hadn’t a doctor asked about this? My mom decided “What’s the worst that could happen?” and completely cut out all artificial sweeteners on that Monday. That day, she had 1 nap. The next day, while still groggy and not her full self, she didn’t need a nap at all. The next day, she could walk down the stairs without needing to rest when she got to the bottom.
Each day that passed without aspartame, she improved. #mindblown #ThankYouJesus
When we went back to her neurologist to clear her to return to normal activity, he laughed in our face. “That is merely coincidental. It did not cause the seizures or the other symptoms” is what he told us. We didn’t argue, we only needed him to sign a piece of paper so she could resume her normal life. No doctor would ever agree with what we found.
The makers of aspartame donate millions of dollars to medical research. MILLIONS. The day doctors start blaming aspartame for “unexplained symptoms” when all the other tests come back completely normal is the day they start losing MILLIONS of dollars for medical research. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen. We accepted that. The other gut-punch: aspartame (or some version of it that has been re-named) is in SO. MANY. FOODS. When we started reading labels of food items, we were shocked. No wonder she was having unexplained symptoms; she was very unintentionally poisoning herself.
Now, I’m not saying that if you have a medical condition that can’t be explained, that you are poisoning yourself. I am not a medical professional, you should continue to follow the best advice from your doctor. I’m not saying that if you choose to eat or drink artificial sugar you are poisoning yourself. It is sort of like an allergy- just because John Doe is allergic to peanuts and could die from eating them doesn’t mean they affect everyone like that. It just doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
We are approaching the seventh anniversary of her first seizure. Sometimes it’s hard to even believe that this was a thing that happened to her. There was a time that we weren’t sure she would be here to tell her story. But she is. She is here to experience and spoil her 6 (almost 7) grandchildren. She is here to give hugs and cook Sunday dinners and listen to us dream and complain and share every insignificant detail of life with.
The best advice I can give to anybody having terrifying, unexplainable symptoms is to never stop reading, never stop asking questions, never stop starting over at square one with absolutely no direction or possible solution. Find a notebook you like and take all those notes. Write out the timeline, record everything that you can. Try everything, even if the only reason you can muster is “what’s the worst that could happen?”