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Thursday, September 30, 2010

That first seizure, Pt 1.

This was the event that dramatically changed the course of my life in a matter of minutes. It is something I reflect upon as a person might do if they were involved in a car accident that disabled them severely in a fraction of a second.

3 December 2009 was a Thursday. On Monday and Wednesday of that week, Tracey and I had played squash for an hour each of those days, and were going to go again on Friday. We both loved those games as they were great for fitness. I had played a lot of squash and loved the game, but a long time before. Tracey had never played up till that time.

   I was a bit concerned that the knee problem that made me stop playing years before would arise again, but it didn’t. Tracey continued to improve rapidly over the months before December and the unequal battle at the start quickly developed into a genuine contest.

   Late on that Thursday morning, unshowered, unshaven and pretty disreputable, I decided to cut some of the privet hedge that was getting out of control in one spot, intending to fill the green bin and then shower and become respectable for the afternoon. 

   Using a pruning saw, I cut long thick stems with my left hand [I am left-handed] and pulled the cut branches down with my right.

   After about 15 minutes sawing and getting a little hot and sweaty, as I was threading a cut branch through the uncut ones, the fingers of my right hand suddenly started to twitch and feel as if I had touched a hot electric wire, tentacles of burning electrical sparks running up the fingers into the hand. The fingers were dancing visibly.

   Naturally, I stopped working, but wasn’t unduly concerned, thinking that somehow I must have pinched a nerve somewhere in the arm. It was hot and I stood under the shade of a nearby tree, quite confidently expecting the sensation to go away at any time.

   But it didn’t. On the contrary, the tentacles of fiery electricity started moving up my arm slowly towards the elbow. I became a little more concerned, but was still convinced it was some passing phenomenon that would stop and I would get checked out by my GP. I waited still under the tree for it to pass.

   But then the arm itself started to jerk rhythmically with a pulsing sensation and it finally got through to me that something very odd was happening. Yet not for a moment did I suspect the real cause of the event. What seems so obvious now with the benefit of hindsight couldn’t have been further off my radar at that point. Pinched nerve. A muscular spasm….

   But I did know one thing. It was not under any control by me and it was not stopping. It was extending further and further up the arm towards my shoulder.

   I guess it must have been sheer denial, but the thing I did next was gather up the gardening tools with my left arm and put them under cover, and then, with my right arm now seriously in spasm, I walked on to the verandah and sat down, still convinced that any time it would stop and then I’d tell Tracey about it and we’d check it out. But as I sat there with the arm out of control, the penny finally dropped. This was not going to stop by itself, it was getting worse, and I needed help.


  1. Looking forward to part two. The start of your journey. It is good to go back to the start. So glad you continue to see improvements. All my love, Uncle Den.

  2. Thanks, nice niece! I'll have another instalment ready soon! It is indeed the start of a journey I never thought I'd be taking. Not this particular journey anyway....

  3. Had you posted this before? I think not. I find it quite chilling, as it reminds me how a perfectly normal day can suddenly throw up a huge, fateful change. We should never take a 'normal' day without realising its specialness..

  4. posted 30 September 2010, Julie - never before that nor ever since. You are so right about a 'normal' day. The morning I woke on that day [3 December 2009] was the last morning that was ever 'normal' for me. But we cannot live fearing such things when we are living normally; we should just revel in the fact that normalcy is the greatest gift we can have.

  5. Dennis - I wish the very best in your journey. I had a similar experience. I had just gotten back to my desk after lunch. My left eye started twitching. It kept twitching and the next thing I knew, my whole head was jerking, then my shoulder and my left arm and hand. It was terrifying - I was completely conscious, but I could not talk or control the movements.

    I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where I had another, more violent seizure. I was given anti-seizure meds via IV, then a CT scan, after which I was told that I had a brain tumor on the right side of my brain. That was around 4pm.

    A heartless neurologist told me that my tumor was probably a metastes (of cancer) from somewhere else in my body), so from around 4pm until after 10pm when my neurosurgeon stopped by my room, I literally thought I was dying.

    When my surgeon told me that my tumor was a benign meningioma, I cried for an hour. It was removed on 12/1/2004, and I made a complete recovery.

    I wish you the same, and I'll be sending you good thoughts. Please feel free to email me if you need support or someone to talk to.

    Best wishes,


  6. Ah, you've answered many of my questions, thank you. You seem to have had one similar to my daughter Sylvia, and how wonderful that it turned out as well as hers seems to have done. Sylvia was cleared nearly 10 years ago. I'm surprised they confirmed a brain tumour for you before an MRI, though I suppose there was little doubt.

    Your neurosurgeon was indeed heartless. All he should have said was there was a tumour there, that they would remove it and find out what sort it was. Nothing more should ever be said at that time, even if s/he is nearly sure it is malignant. A patient should only be confronted with certainties as far as that's possible, and ONLY after getting a biopsy result was the time for that. Suggesting it might be a secondary with no evidence was unforgivable, as we know too well how much more pressure that would put on the person. A doctor should never give false hope, but they should also be very careful about making predictions when clear proof is going to be available soon. I am delighted at how wrong you proved him to be.

    The course of my illness so far cannot offer such hope for recovery, but the main thing is, I am still here and able to enjoy life when it seemed there was little chance. So we cling to that, and take it day by day.

  7. ps I should add that I have wonderful support here, with Tracey and Christian ever at hand, and my family and friends always ready to help, and great backup from my GP and staff at the hospital here. I am very lucky!

  8. Hi Denis,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?



    1. Possibly, if you tell me clearly who you are, why you want to contact me, and an email address. But I warn you, this looks like a phishing expedition, so up front please.


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