5 Years Ago
The significance of this photo doesn't immediately jump out at you.
What a darling at 7, with her hair up on top of her head, and that little green cotton jumper. But look a little closer, at the whiteboard in the background, where it says EEG, June 18 @ 9 am. Underneath that it says midnight–5 am. That was all the sleep Panda (and Mom) were allowed the night before the big event, so that she (and Mom) would be as tired and off her game as possible.
It all started at the dining room table, during our school time. Panda would suddenly stop what she was doing, or reading, or saying, and just stare off into the air. Only for 10 seconds or so, but it was plain that she could neither see or hear me when it happened. She had absolutely no awareness that she was doing it. Sometimes she would repeat a syllable over and over. Twice it happened in the middle of a piano lesson, with her hands poised over the keys, totally blank.
At first I thought she was just a spacey little kid, but then the words "petit mal" flashed into my brain like a neon sign. And sure enough, that's what it was, a form of epilepsy officially known as absence seizures. Panda spent two years on anti-seizure medication. The weeks before, waiting for a diagnosis, watching her so carefully, keeping off her bike, and after, as we tapered her dosage and watched again for symptoms, were some of the worst in my life. How often Panda longed to be just like every other little girl. Or barring that, to have a friend right next door who was also adopted from China, homeschooled, with a medic alert bracelet that said Peanut Allergy, Absence Seizures. Being different is the hardest thing when you're 7.
Now I seldom think of that time, over 5 years ago—until I read Kimberly Geswein's blog entries about her little Katie. They are in Beijing today, while Katie has her first EEG. Everyone here in the Deeply Suburban is rooting for you and sending you our very best wishes, Kimberly and Katie.