The ambulance arrives. The paramedics come in. I think in the jumble of words the clog up the processing of my mind, “What’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?”
I have no answer, except that the EMTs were quicker, because they were local to the mountain, and the paramedics had to come all the way from Boulder.
The paramedics ask the same questions, plus more questions. I repeat everything. Willy can walk now. He doesn’t want to go. “Not a choice.” We make it into the ambulance somehow. Moths cover everything. They’re inside the ambulance. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Willy’s in the bed, one paramedic is hooking him up to their equipment. Relax. Help is here. I sit. Dizziness. Pain. Fear. Panic. “Is this a good spot for me to sit?” It is. I buckle myself in. I caress Willy’s cheek. We’re waiting. Someone—the EMTs, I think—remember Willy’s special pillow and special blanket. Good. He was so insistent that we bring them, and I had to leave behind the extra clothes to make room in our bags. He needs them even more now. The moths aren’t gone, but there’s less of them. Banging as one paramedic communicates to the other that it’s time to go. The ambulance rocks as it sets off into the darkness of the mountain roads. I look behind, eyes unfocused, caressing Willy’s cheek as the paramedic finishes the last of his tasks to keep Willy stable. Willy can sleep now and he does.
The paramedic in the ambulance with me is wonderful. He keeps up a conversation. Slowly the two sides of my brain coalesce. I learn that my headache is probably due to the altitude. That Wisconsin is “about 80% humidity” and Colorado is “about 5%.” I need to drink more water. I need to take things slow. He promises to get me some water as soon as we get there. We talk, me still a bit dazed, about autism, seizures, altitude, writing. Once he’s given and received all the necessary information, we settle on the topic of writing. This calms me. By then, Willy is sleeping soundly. He helps me pull myself together, merging the two parts of my brain, giving me the ability to be both comforting and rational, coherently so. Of all the people who participated in this unwanted adventure, of all the people from my brother to the EMTs, from my mother to the nurse, it is this paramedic I am most grateful for—he took care of Willy’s physical needs, treating him just as respectfully and patiently and wonderfully as I would want, and he took care of my emotional needs, giving me the time and support I needed to brace myself for the rest of this adventure. It was a forty-minute trip back to down the mountain, to the hospital. In those forty-minutes I went from barely functioning fragments back to a cohesive whole.
I notice a pair of headlights following, and I know it must be my brother and mother. I see that there are lights at the back and I wonder what they are. In time, I realize they coincide with the brake and turn signal lights. I’m briefly proud of myself for figuring this out. Shortly, he’s facing forward, preparing Willy for his departure, and we sway. The paramedic smiles and says, “We need those lights up there,” pointing above my head.
Willy’s ready for his departure by the time the vehicle stops. My depth perception seems a bit out of whack, because we seem to be parked right up against a wall. But there’s room for the bed to come down and there’s room for me to climb down. I’m unsteady on my feet. We make it to the room. I start to fragment again. There’s people. Helping Willy. The curtain is pulled so I don’t see what they’re doing. People talking to me. I must have made enough sense, because they nod their understanding. It seems a long time, but the curtain is drawn back, the paramedic is there, hands me a water bottle. I drink. I find I’m very thirsty and I drink again. By the time the bottle is half-gone, I start to feel better. Things are quiet now.
I get permission to bring my mom and my brother in. Willy’s resting. I catch them up. I regret taking so long to think of them. Shortly after that, the adrenaline seems to leave my system in a rush and I experience a new kind of dizziness. Blood tests, monitors, then a CAT scan. Willy bravely tells me he wants to go alone. He does a wonderful job. More waiting. Lots of waiting. I remember that I haven’t really slept in over thirty-six hours. It hits me like a rock slide. We hadn’t had dinner either. It’s now well past midnight. This started around nine, I think. Maybe eight. More waiting. My brother leaves to get us some dinner—but not Willy, because he’s asleep and because he’s not supposed to eat until they’re 100% sure he’s stable. The doctor comes and tells us that there are no physical reasons for the seizure. He calls it a non-epileptic seizure, but tells me I need to take Willy to a neurologist for further testing when we get back home. He’s going to be okay, he can go back to the cabin tonight, but we’ll have to take things slowly, make sure he eats, drinks, and sleeps enough. It’s almost time to go. My brother comes back with food. It’s not very good, but we eat. It’s a toss-up as to whether the food makes us feel better or worse. There’s more waiting and I’m very tired, even after chewing down some roasted espresso beans. The caffeine rolls off of me and sleeps sings its seductive song in my ear, but I have to ignore it for a little while longer—another hour at least.
When it’s time to go, Willy walks out by himself. My hand hovers near his arm for a while, but then he moves off on his own when he sees the Jeep before we do. We drink water as soon as we’re in the cabin. We sleep in the bedroom together. My brother sleeps on the air mattress. My mom sleeps on the couch.
In the morning, everyone is awake before I am. I drink down a glass of water right away, before I do anything else. Good. Willy remembers the ride in the ambulance, he remembers the hospital, but he doesn’t remember the seizure. The loft is off limits. At first, he complains. But then, later, I show him the light that flickers in my brother’s bedroom if you turn it too far. I explain that his brain is like the light and that a seizure is like the light flickering. He seems to understand, well enough. Later, the next day, we talk about maybe going up in the loft, during the day. He even talks about maybe sleeping there, if it’s okay with me. We’re never quite that brave. We never make it back up the loft.
Each moment he’s out of my sight I worry: What if he has another seizure and I’m not there to hold him? But life goes on. Soon, we’ll have the EEG. Soon, we’ll have some sort of answers. I hope.