And Then This Happened (Grand Canyon, Part 2)

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One of the things we wanted to do at the Grand Canyon was watch the changing colors at sunset. Because we were driving an RV we found an over-look that was fairly quiet.

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We couldn’t resist dinner with a view, but after taking some pictures from inside the RV, we moved outside to just soak it all in.

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Click on any of the photos to get a closer look.

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We’d had a full day and it was so peaceful watching the rocks change from orange to purple as shadows crept across the canyon.

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The next morning we were up early so we could drive back to the canyons South Rim to watch the sunrise.

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The moon hadn’t set yet.

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After breakfast in the RV, we drove to the Visitor’s Center, parked, and caught a shuttle to enjoy more beautiful canyon vistas.  On Tuesday we’d driven one direction to the Desert View Watchtower near the East Entrance to the park.  Now we went the other direction, riding the shuttle to the last stop, Hermit’s Rest.

We browsed the gift shop and made a few purchases, enjoyed the view then back on the shuttle to Pima Point.

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And then this happened.

Rem had a seizure.

It’s important to know that he had a bicycle accident in 2002 and knocked his head badly, cracking his bike helmet. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as other injuries.  That is a whole long story, but since that accident he’s been on disability. He’s done a lot of rehabilitation and healing. Then about six years ago he had three seizures in one day. It’s possible that a bad reaction to an antibiotic he was taking, combined with the brain injury, were what triggered those seizures. Or it could have just been the TBI.

It is very distressing to see someone having a seizure, especially someone you love. Rem fell while he was seizing, cutting his lip, scraping and banging his arm and his hand. Almost as quickly as I got to him, and I was crouched over him, holding this head, two people were right there behind me, and the woman asked “how can we help?”

At the moment, of course, I was flustered and anxious, adrenaline pumping as I grabbed Rem’s dropped backpack to put under his head. But even under these extremely stressful conditions, I was amazed at her next words: “We’re both neurologists.

Wow.

I could not have imagined having this happen while we were on vacation but if it was going to happen, especially at an out-of-the-way location, who better to have standing ready to help but two doctors who specialize in the brain and nervous system?

This couple, tourists vacationing from Germany (and I only caught his name, Tobias), kept me calm at a time I was afraid. They reassured me and one of them, when she couldn’t reach 911, spoke to a shuttle bus driver who radioed in the call. They asked questions about Rem and his condition and when they learned he had a TBI and had previously had seizures, they said it was quite normal to have another seizure.

Although it felt like like a very long wait for the ambulance with Rem unconscious on the sidewalk and me on the ground with him, leaning over his face so my sunhat provides him some shade, the two doctor continued to reassure me about the typical symptoms he was exhibiting.  They were standing to provide shade as well. We could hear the siren echoing on the canyon walls and it seemed to be close than would fade as the road turned.

Rem would stir and blink his eyes a bit than sink back down. When he more fully regained consciousness he was very disoriented, again, quite normal under the circumstances, and what I’d experienced when he’d had the other seizures. But it was so reassuring to have these two angels with us for the whole time letting me know it was to be expected.

The EMT’s are park employees and the two doctors helped answer questions about what happened.  I couldn’t even remember how old Rem was and finally said “I’m 55 and he’s 7 years younger!” One guy was asking Rem if he wanted to go the the clinic in the park and Rem was saying “no” but I was saying “yes!”  Of course part of the questioning was to help them ascertain Rem’s condition. When asked if he knew where we were he said “Yosemite.”  I thought that was actually pretty good – it’s a National Park that we’ve visited.  He knew the President but not the day of the week. We were on vacation after all, so I’m not sure if I even knew the day of the week.

Rem was completely confused to be lying on the sidewalk with people leaning over him asking him questions. I kept telling him “You had a seizure and fell.” He finally said indignantly, “Well why didn’t anyone tell ME?!”

Soon enough he was on a gurney and I stood up and looked into the faces of Tobias and his wife/partner. I thanked them profusely and they explained that they see seizures and seizure patients every day in their work, and hadn’t expected to be involved with any on their vacation. As we walked out to the ambulance they explained that they’re not allowed to practice in the US. I assured them that making a 911 call and staying with Rem and I was not against those rules and that the care they had provided with their knowledge, calm presence, simple questions and explanations, and even standing close to provide shade had all been so helpful. I was so grateful and am still amazed that these would be the two people who were right there when it happened.

I was able to ride along to the clinic. Rem kept asking about “the car” and wondering how we would get back for it. I reminded him we had the RV and it was safely parked and we could get to it after he’d seen a doctor.

The doctor at the Grand Canyon clinic was wonderful.  She was calm, reassuring, and thorough. After an exam, lots of questions, tests and their results, she sent us on our way with a prescription for an emergency “break through” seizure medication.  She urged us to contact Rem’s GP and neurologist that day, which we did. The possibility that both the heat and the elevation (around 7,000 feet) could have been contributing factors was discussed.

Our day had changed course from our original plan, and it wasn’t exactly fun, but it could have been so much worse. I thought of a number of people I’d seen on the rocks at the edge of the canyon in the past few days.  They ignored signs and climbed over fences to pose for photos.  In many places alongside the canyon there are no fences.  That morning watching the sunrise, Rem and I had been sitting on rocks four or five feet from the edge. I’m so grateful that his seizure didn’t happen there.  Or he could have been driving our 25-foot rental RV when he had the seizure, another frightening thought.  In fact, he couldn’t drive for the remainder of the trip or for at least three months. I’m glad that I’d already been driving the RV.

We left the clinic and got a taxi-van to the market place to eat lunch. Then a shuttle ride to the visitor’s center where we watched a movie about the canyon, relaxing in the air-conditioned theater.  Even after this little rest we were both pretty worn out.  We took a short walk to the parking lot and our home-on-wheels. We climbed in, turned on the generator and the AC, closed the blinds and took a nap.

After the nap we caught a shuttle for one last trip to the rim at Yaki Point, and a final look at the canyon.

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On the drive out of the park we stopped at the entrance to get one more picture.

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Then back to the RV park in Tusayan for a good night’s rest.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Life

6 responses to “And Then This Happened (Grand Canyon, Part 2)

  1. Oh my so sorry to read this. Glad you were able to carry on later that day.

  2. Julie

    Wow Dianne – what a vacation!!! I’m so glad all turned out ok!!! XOXO

    • Thanks, Julie! We agreed it was an awesome vacation, in spite of what happened. We had a good time, got home in one piece and would do it again. Hopefully omitting that little episode.

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