The Seizure People: Frog Gravy 76

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Frog Gravy

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.
-Franz Kafka

PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary, 2009

Several inmates leave the dining hall, after a meal, and begin the walk back to the dormitory.

We pass an inmate, lying in the grass yard just outside the chapel. The inmate is in the throes of a violent grand mal seizure. Another inmate is with the woman, and has turned her to her side. A circle of urine spreads in the crotch area of the seizing inmate’s khaki pants. Drool leaks out the side of her mouth.

“Seizure,” I say, to the group.

Comes the reply, “Well fuck me with an axe.”

We continue walking. So does everyone else. There is nothing that we can do for the woman, beyond what the assisting inmate is already doing.

During my stay in this prison, I have seen more grand mal seizures than I ever saw during my career as a nurse. If you have never seen such a thing, it is truly terrifying to witness. The first time I saw such a thing, in a hospital setting, I called for help and nearly called a code. It looked as if the person would die violently, right in front of me.

The seizure people are no longer terrifying, because we have become jaded from seeing so many of them. There is preventative medication available. Just not in prison, apparently.

The seizing women have lost their dignity. They are no longer wives or mothers or women. They are pants-pissing animals choking on their own drool in a prison yard while everyone walks by, careful to avoid stepping on them.

I believe that inmate women are entitled to prevention and dignity.

Seizures come in many forms, and they are a difficult health condition to accept.

Just yesterday I took an unexpected trip to the hospital. I was referred to a neurologist that I cannot afford. From what my husband had witnessed and related to the doctor, the doctor was concerned about the possibility of some sort of seizure activity in me. This is not the first time I have been told this. I was first told this following an EEG after a soccer-related head injury in the seventies.

I decided over the years to ignore the possibility of adjusting my life around some head thing. Maybe it is my age, but I must accept and make life adjustments, until I can get to that neurologist. People live with seizures. They just don’t get up onto roofs and operate machinery.

My husband and I were in the check out line at a local grocery store. One moment I was absolutely fine. The next minute, I said, “I don’t feel well.”

I sat on the nearest bench, took a couple of swallows of bottled water, and managed to screw the cap back on. Next thing I know, I am in my husband’s lap, from a seated position, and he is asking me if I can hear him. I was scared to death, but then, I felt like an asshole, because the whole thing was so transient.

Meanwhile, the spirit world was at work, and a kindred spirit named Kathy came to my side. Kathy is a nurse. She is also the published author of an inspirational book. She talked me into being seen. I will never forget Kathy, her spirit, and her kindness.

There is an entire realm of head trauma that can cause subclinical changes. I believe that we need more studies and more data on just what those changes look like, and how to deal with them.

Unfortunately, in the American prison world, even with a seizure condition as grossly apparent as the grand mal variety, there seems to be little interest in prevention.

This is sad, because the seizure people will return to the community, flat broke more often than not, with an untreated, life-altering seizure condition.

  1. My husband’s observation, related in a comment from another site:

    “She was sitting on a bench in the store telling me that she didn’t feel right and in mid sentence, she stopped speaking and started slumping toward me on her right. Her eyes were open; she appeared to be staring blindly ahead; and her head was jerking ever so slightly.

    I cradled her head in my hands and slowly stood up allowing her to gently reach a resting position on her side. I kept repeating, “Can you hear me?”

    She registered recognition after maybe a minute, possibly less. She did not realize that she had been unconscious and would not have known, if I had not been there to tell her.

    The nurse suddenly appeared. She had just paid for her groceries and was headed out of the store and saw the whole thing happen.

    Bizarre event.”

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