“Momma, Momma,” my eight year old self screamed, “Help!”
My mother rushed down the hall and into my room, asking me what was the matter. She took my cries seriously because I wasn’t an easily frightened child. I grew up watching horror movies with her, so I wasn’t one to spook easily, or to fear the boogie man. As she sat on the edge of my bed I pointed to my E.T. nightlight.
“It moved,” I explained.
The whole ceramic statue hadn’t moved, but rather the light from his fingertips. As I had laid in bed falling asleep, staring at the red light on his pointed, alien digit, the shining beam of color had started to move around in a weird way. Whether it was my eyes playing tricks on me, or what we would later describe as my brain playing tricks on me, my mom had known it wasn’t my usual behavior. She had taken me to bed with her.
That night as she lay in bed reading a book, I had experienced a grand mal seizure at her side. I would wake up in the hospital and have no memory of the ordeal. My last memory would be of a brown, fictional nightlight on my dresser, and a momma holding me tight to ease my fear. But the look on my mom’s face when I woke would let me know it was serious. She made a tight smile that reduced her lips to tiny lines when she was worried about something.
It was right before the holidays, my first seizure, and I’d spend this particular Christmas in a hospital bed. It wasn’t that bad, as I recall. Volunteers brought around festive coloring pages and candy canes. Plus my mom was there, and of course, the man she had recently married. I liked him a lot. He was good to me, honest, and more importantly, present. He made my mom smile. That Christmas we all spent in my hospital room trying to become accustomed to my new diagnosis.
They explained it to me that the electrical activity of my brain wasn’t right. They showed me squiggly lines on paper that represented my little brain’s activity, and they circled the places where it wasn’t quite right. They gave me brochures with cartoon depictions explaining how this made me different, but not less. Wish I had always felt that way. Wish it would have remained as easy as those pamphlets made it feel.
I would spend the next year going to an adult neurologist who medicated me like an adult. I’d get stuck by needles every week, get my medicine dosages changed, and end up being overdosed. I’d be the new kid at school with the weird disease that made you shake, my parents being called to the principal’s office over concerns that my participating in computer class might cause me to go into an uncontrolled, epileptic fit. I’d hallucinate, projectile vomit in the lunchroom, and scream out loud in class when the headaches wouldn’t stop.
It was a frightening time. I experienced migraines that made me curl into a ball, but also strange auras. I remember sitting in class in the fourth grade and suddenly my pencil became very loud. It was like my ears were full of air, like when you change altitude, and the rest of the surrounding noise was muffled. I could barely hear my teacher’s voice as she spoke at the blackboard, but the sound of my own pencil scraping across the paper was like an airplane taking off. What should be loud was soft, but what should have been near-silent was suddenly blaring.
Then the voices would start. That’s what I called them. They didn’t say anything I could understand. It reminded me of what it would sound like if you were standing on the edge of a dinner party, and the attending crowd were all speaking at once, but it was put in fast forward. Muffled voices, in unison, and talking too fast for me to understand. Like I said, it was frightening.
Eventually my parents took me to a pediatric neurologist out of state, and it was at that point things began to improve. I got on the right medicine at the right dosage. The headaches became less, but I still became afraid every time the voices would come. I was always afraid it meant a seizure. I would steal away somewhere quiet, holding my knees to my chest, and hoping it wouldn’t come.
I tried to get back to a normal life. As normal as life with epilepsy, trips to the doctor every six months, EEGs, and remembering to take your daily medicine can be. The hospital bills had helped convince my absent, biological father to give up custody so I could be adopted by my mom’s husband. I loved my new Dad, but the circumstances did sting. I suppose they still do.
I got so used to taking my medicine every day for so many years that I hardly noticed. I knew I had to have it or bad things could happen, and it never seemed cumbersome until about the age of twenty. It seems that college had introduced me to not just new people, but a new life. Through a college and work friend I had come to know Jesus. I had known of Jesus for many years, but it wasn’t until I was twenty that I really got to know Him, to realize that He wanted a relationship with me, that He could change my whole life, and heal me from all my emotional pain. What I would learn, though, is that He could heal me physically as well.
In my newfound Christianity I had decided I wanted to attend a Discipleship Training School overseas. As I planned my trip it quickly became apparent to me that my anti-seizure medication could be a problem. My dad’s insurance wasn’t willing to shell out all the medicine I would need in advance, whether I was doing mission work or not, and as I spoke my concern to my friend she answered the dilemma quite simply, as if it was the most obvious solution.
“We’ll pray for you,” she said, matter of fact.
It was time for my semiannual neurology visit. The appointment was for Monday, and I attended church that Sunday night prior. I would have to stay up all night, as was usual for my scheduled EEG. They recorded my electrical brain activity with the test, and they liked to do what they called a “stress EEG.” Hence, I stayed up all night before, as a requirement, so my brain would be good and wore out. They also used strobe lights to see if it could induce a seizure. As if all that sticky glue in my hair wasn’t bad enough.
At church that night I brought my need before the congregation. I didn’t expect what happened. I remember going up front, I closed my eyes, and my new church family covered me with their hands as they prayed for me. This was all still so new, the “laying on hands” business, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. It felt natural to me. But what occurred next felt nothing like natural.
Do you remember the joke buzzers as a kid? The handshake prank kind? It wasn’t enough to kill you or anything, but enough to make you jump, enough to make you notice. It was kinda like that. My healing.
I remember the hands on me, and I remember one suddenly resting on my head. I remember it felt so hot against my skull, and as it rested there I felt comforted by its warmth. But suddenly, without the hand moving in any way, as prayers of healing were spoken out loud, I felt an urgent, electrical shock come from the hand on my head. It surprised me so much that my eyes burst open to find the source. To my side stood my friend’s mother with a look of her own kind of shock on her face, her hand drawn tentatively back to her chest.
“Did you feel that?” She asked in surprise.
I had, and I thought about it a lot throughout the night as I stayed awake reading a book. I somehow felt like I had been healed. I never believed in prayers like the ones they prayed, but I guess those prayers somehow believed in me. And as we went to sit in my doctor’s office after my test I would see it concretely.
My neurologist was a great man. He used to thumb on my head like it was a melon, proclaiming, “yep, sounds good,” just to make me laugh. He had done it every appointment for well over a decade, but this time he did not. He just sat there at his desk flipping back and forth the printed pages. My EEG results. Before, even though with the thump he had said it sounded good, it was never good. My brain was never right. The medicines had continued and a follow up was scheduled. But this particular day he just kept flipping pages, a look of bewilderment on his face.
“It’s a miracle,” he said, looking at my electrical activity on paper. “Everything is normal.”
He went on to show us the tracings from before compared to now. He circled the abnormal parts of past tests, even one from six months prior. Before they had always been the same. But this day they were gone. There was nothing abnormal.
“You don’t need me anymore,” he said with a laugh.
And I never did. I never had another seizure. I never took another medication to prevent them. I never had another migraine. For a couple of years after, maybe once or twice a year, the fast voices would come. They’d assault my senses out of nowhere, and I would feel fear. I would find my quiet place, lay down on my bed, and I would pray. I still recall the last time it happened. I beseeched the Lord to make it go away for good. It’s been about sixteen years since that day.
When I look back on telling the church my neurologist appointment results I smile. I mean, they were joyful, but they didn’t seem that impressed as me. But perhaps it was more-so that I was surprised, and they were not. I wasn’t expecting complete healing, but I believe they were. They rejoiced with a very dumbfounded me, and I went on my mission trip without worry of prescriptions and deductibles.
Many times when I am seeking the Lord about something I think of how He healed me from Epilepsy. I know He did it so I could make that trip, and He did it so He could show me His power, but even more I think He did it so I could always remember. In times of trial in my life I could remember how He healed me, and how He would never stop healing me. For this, I am grateful.