Seizure 2. Way too much partying.

After my first seizure, I told myself and everyone else that it was just a fainting spell. Things more or less got back to normal and I was back on the swim team. With my inability to do a lot of other sports, I got into computers and more intellectual pursuits, which made me into the geek I am today.

After high school, I did get into a training program at the Emirates Training Center, to study to become a travel agent, life was pretty much easy, no pressures whatsoever. I hung out with my friends, and went to parties and basically enjoyed life.

One Christmas, when I was perhaps 17 or 18, the dad of a friend of ours decided to have a Christmas party for his friends at a nursery school that he owned. We were hired to be “bartender”, something quite a few of us were very much looking forward to. I mean, teenagers with unlimited booze lying around. What could go wrong?

The party was good enough, a bunch of parents all dancing and chatting, with us guys pouring drinks for them and ourselves. At 3am, pretty much everyone was wasted and the parents had all gone. We stayed back and cleaned up, I sent everyone home by taxi and the few of us who were left picked up mattresses from the place of a friend who lived close by and slept at the school.

In the morning, we cleaned up, I went home, fixed myself a meal and sat down in front of the TV about to eat.

I woke up in the hospital with a very worried mom and dad above me. This was the first time they had seen me have a seizure, and they seemed very worried, although I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. As far as I know, I had no “aura” or anything of the sort. My muscles ached though and were all stiff and all I could do was roll over and go back to sleep.

There were classic signs of Rhabdomyolosis after that. I peed what could only be described as something the color of Pepsi. My dad believed that it was because I drank a lot of Pepsi at that time, and I don’t think anyone in the hospital told us what Rhabdomyolosis was.

I did get sent to an EEG, which came back negative. At least that is what I think. No one ever told us what the results were – a side effect of the government hospital in the Middle East at that time, so I assume that it was normal. I did get put on Carbamazepine tablets for the next couple of years, but stopped taking it and didn’t have a seizure for years later.

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High School, Swimming and Seizures

For Grade 11 and 12, I moved to Dubai, where I hoped to start with a clean slate. No one knew how bad I was at sports and I thought I would be able to get better if I trained harder.

My mom was a teacher in my school, she taught kindergarten, and many of the high school teachers knew her since she had been teaching for over 20 years. I did try to get selected for the soccer team, but that didn’t work out. I tried basketball, but again that didn’t pan out either.

They did have a swimming program and my mom talked it over with the swimming coach, a very nice man called Mr. Daniels, who took me on the team. I tried really hard, but there was definitely something wrong. Everyone else would be across the pool while I would still be half way across. It was almost like I was running out of energy halfway across the pool, and I would struggle to make it to the other side, ending up clutching the side of the pool to catch my breath and needing help to get out.

For the competitions, I would go with the team, but not take part, instead I would cheer or manage the roster making sure everyone was ready for the next event. I was part of the team and did get my “participation” certificates. I now call these “thanks for showing up” certificates.

One day at school I was watching friends play basketball. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital, on a gurney with my parents around.

My parents said that I had fainted while watching the game. Some of my friends said I seemed to be having a seizure. A seizure meant no more swim team, so I told everyone that it was just a fainting spell (bolstered by the initial clinical diagnosis from the ER).

Ironic. In retrospect, I lied about a diagnosis that put my life at risk, just so that I could be on a team for a sport that I sucked at and didn’t even get to compete.

I think I wanted to be active like everyone else too much.

I hate sports

As a child, I hated sports, something which is a big part of boarding school life.

We had a multitude of sports during the school year. From cross country runs, which, depending on age, were either 3k, 5k or 7k circuits, to organized sports like hockey, football, basketball and cricket. Our school was divided into 4 teams and we all competed against each other in sport, academics and arts programs.

Sport was never my forte. I was always picked last for the team, even for games like “seven tiles” or tag and usually only by my best friend Ronald. I was more of a strategist who liked to win games by thinking and coming up with ideas and using my smarts rather than brute force. When I did get picked for any sports, I usually batted last (in cricket you do have to do some running), or fielded in an area of the pitch where it was unlikely that I needed to do much.

My relief came when I fell sick in grade 8 and managed to wrangle an “exemption from sports” letter from the doctor. It was only meant to be for two weeks, but I managed to convince the PE teachers that it was permanent. Personally I didn’t think I was that convincing, I am quite sure that the PE teachers bought it more out of relief that they didn’t have to have someone who was so out of shape lowering the scores for their teams.

I was a lot happier too, I could go and hang out in the library at sports time, something that I believe contributes to all the weird and wonderful things I happen to know.

“Ponnamma, carry me!”

The earliest time I remember something being “wrong” with me was when I was a child, probably around age 5 or so, in boarding school in Ketti, India.

The school was set in a forest with classrooms, dining hall and dormitories spaced apart, requiring walking from one building to another. At grade 1 and 2, (called 1st standard and 2nd standard), our classrooms, dining room and dormitories were in the same building, requiring very little travel to the rest of the school.

The only time we ever ventured far out was either to surgery (the clinic) or to the main school dining hall for movie night, and in retrospect, I should say I am grateful that this was only a very rare affair.

We’d watch a movie on a projector and a screen, and I remember I sometimes fell asleep, only to wake when it was time to go back to our cottage for the night. We’d all line up and head back, late at night, with the “ayahs” and the matron shepherding us back.

It was so far away, and and after dark so it was essential for them to get us back to the cottage and put us to bed. In addition, it had a slight incline to it as well, and we would start off at a speed that, at that time, I considered as a reasonable walking pace.

Within about a few minutes, I wouldn’t be able to continue. My legs would burn, and shut down and I would be in agony. Within five minutes, I would be lagging behind everyone, unable to keep up, while they continued on, eager to get everyone back into the building.

I’d cry, and call for them to slow down, or wait for me.  I’d shout out to one of the “ayahs”, Ponnamma, to carry me. It actually became a tease I endured for the next 8 years or so, where my friends would taunt me by saying “Ponnamma, carry me!”

Halfway up to the dormitory, I would be well behind everyone watching them go on and on, getting further away leaving me with trees and darkness for company. Using that as motivation, and with every last ounce of willpower, I would struggle onward until I made it back to the cottage. only to pretty much collapse inside the door just catching my breath.

Google Maps is a wonderful thing. I can go back to my school and measure out the road now, and I find that distances that seemed vast to a 5 year old, are nothing more than a two minute walk for an adult. The distance between where we watched our movies and our cottage was about a 200 meter walk, or about an eighth of a mile.