In February, my father called me from the Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. He told me that my older sister may not be coming home. I had been alone at home since the end of January. Our conversation started off normal until he shared this news. I asked about Bridget’s health and he said she was still managing but had just suffered another seizure. Then he revealed some news we received today. Curious, I asked what it was and he somberly replied that if my sister has surgery, there is a chance she won’t survive it. As an eleven-year-old, those words made me sit down in silence for a moment before quickly responding “Good.”
It all began when Bridget was in her terrible two’s. She had been having trouble sleeping, waking up scared, shaken, and crying. At first, everyone believed these were “night terrors,” but after experiencing them for some time, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, a brain disorder. My parents started studying the condition, and my aunt was especially helpful because she had also had epilepsy as a child; however, it ended during puberty for her. We hoped that Bridget would have the same outcome. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she reached puberty that the seizures became more intense.
My parents’ divorce heightened the stress, worsening the situation. Previously, she had been given temporary medications that did not provide lasting relief. The frequency and uncontrollability of her condition increased. There were multiple instances when hospital visits or urgent trips to the ER were necessary. At one point, she even had to be transported to Denver, CO on Flight for Life. This strained my family greatly. My dad had been unemployed for more than a year, resulting in severe financial limitations. We took turns staying awake every night with Bridget, holding her hand and offering comfort.
Because B experienced seizures every three to five minutes, we had to sit in the darkness, holding her hand and listening to her rapid breaths followed by sobbing and a weak sigh of relief. By morning, we were tired but able to recover, while she remained exhausted and almost considered handicapped. After over a year of constant seizing and restless nights, something needed to be done. Another hospital visit with more testing was approaching in February.
The topic of surgery was discussed with Dr. Alabaster, who expressed support for it. I attended the doctor’s meeting as my sister’s companion, while my father engaged in various discussions with the doctor. Meanwhile, I explored the surroundings and played with random objects. However, when the word “surgery” came up, my attention immediately shifted to the conversation.
Dad inquired about the details of the procedure, asking what would be done exactly. The response explained that two surgeries were planned: one involving removing her skull to connect her brain to a machine, and another focusing on eliminating the source of the problem.
Doubtful if she would be seizure-free afterwards, Dad questioned further. In reply, the doctor admitted that she would be if she survived the surgery – a statement that shook me deeply and filled me with dread.
We were informed that her options were limited: either live disabled until 18 and die at 20 or undergo surgery now with a risk of death. At this point, my sister grew weary of everything and desperately wished for an end to her seizures.
Consequently, both my mother and father agreed along with her to proceed with the surgical proposal. The significant day arrived on February 20th when consent forms had been signed by our parents to finalize their decision.
The surgery felt like an endless ordeal while waiting in a dim and stuffy waiting room.
The room was filled with people coming and going, while doctors entered in search of a specific family. Each doctor I saw made my heart race, but it would return to normal when I didn’t recognize them. Time seemed to slow down, with each tick of the clock sounding louder and more chilling. The waiting room was an unpleasant place to be, with uncomfortable chairs, snoring men on the only two couches, fussy infants, and my patience wearing thin. To distract myself, I visited the gift shop and rode the glass elevator multiple times.
As soon as I stepped into the elevator, my excitement dampened when I spotted a male Janitor tidying up vomit. From that point on, I decided to take the stairs and endured the unbearable waiting room. During my two-hour wait, not a single doctor entered the room. For an agonizing six hours, my sister underwent surgery. Then, at long last, I spotted our doctor’s green pants and shoe covers approaching down the hallway, followed by his face appearing in the doorway. We stood up instinctively as he informed us, “The surgery went smoothly and we couldn’t be happier.” Even his smile, with teeth overlapping and slightly crooked, failed to dampen my spirits on that day.
Despite my anticipation, I was disappointed to see that my sister’s surgery had taken a turn for the worse. The operation lasted almost an hour and she remained sedated throughout. Our family anxiously waited by her side in the Intensive Care Center (ICC), hoping for her awakening. Eventually, we were relieved to hear her speaking again, although it was about trivial matters like having a bad hair day – indicating her delusion. As she regained consciousness further, she returned to speaking in her usual manner; complaining, whining, and expressing discomfort from the procedure. However, it soon became apparent to both herself and those observing that she had lost all mobility on her right side.
Shortly after her surgery, Bridget experienced complete paralysis on her right side. After five days, physical therapy commenced and she promptly regained her mobility. This advancement was exhilarating, akin to observing an infant take their first steps. Unfortunately, there is no recorded footage of this significant moment. Despite regaining many of her normal movements, Bridget continued to face challenges with tasks like eating, writing, and utilizing her dominant hand. Walking also remained a struggle for her. Prior to commencing therapy, Bridget’s life had been overwhelmingly stressful and discouraging. It took one month and eleven days post-surgery for her to finally be discharged from the hospital.
She relished the liberation from seizures, stress, and hospital meals. It was imperative for her to continue taking medication for a certain duration, gradually reducing it until she no longer required any medicine. This encounter not only transformed her life but also profoundly impacted mine. Throughout Briquette’s illness, I never comprehended the severity of her state. Only when she narrowly escaped death did I truly grasp the gravity of the circumstance. I failed to fathom how close we were to losing her permanently, and in that moment, I’m uncertain if I even had enough concern to genuinely comprehend.
Although the exact date of death remains uncertain, I gained an understanding of the importance of cherishing my loved ones and fully embracing life. In my eyes, Bridget transformed into a completely different person in her new state. Her once short brown hair grew longer, her smile expanded, and her blue eyes shone with newfound brilliance every day. She showed unwavering determination to excel academically and found immense happiness in her improved way of living. While Bridget may have caused hardships for me and my family, I will never truly comprehend the obstacles she faced or the sacrifices she made.
Her illness has helped me understand others differently and not judge or criticize because they are in a wheelchair. Bridget experienced the same situation and for her, it was embarrassing. People walking would belittle her and she wished they would give her a chance. Previously, I also didn’t give anyone a chance. I never imagined how much pain one person could endure. This made me realize the importance of not expressing impolite judgments. There was still hope, and my sister is still alive today. Therefore, try to see life from a different perspective. Give everyone an opportunity, as it could potentially change their lives just by trying.