Work and Life In Chi-Town

Last Tuesday at around 4:30, I was sitting at my desk studying google maps trying to figure out how to get from O’Hare airport to a hotel in the Loop in the cheapest way possible. I won a scholarship from a journalism group to attend a writers conference in Chicago, which paid for the hotel, airfare, and the conference, but ground transportation was my own responsibility. A cab ride wasn’t going to break our budget, but I like my side of the Quicken budget to be in the black, not the red, so I studied the subways lines.

I happened to look over at Steve’s desk behind me in time to see Ian sloop out of his chair and hit the floor. His eyes were open, but his body was stiff for about five seconds. When he came back to consciousness, he asked why he was on the floor and said that he had image flash through his head before he passed out. He said he thought he was at a New Year’s Eve party. He said that this image had flashed through his head a few times in the past month.

I’ve seen seizures before. When I was a special ed teacher in the Bronx many years ago, I had a student, Shawnee, who would have grand Mal seizures every day in the class. She would shake and tremble for about ten minutes. Ian’s episode wasn’t anything like that, but it still did scream “seizure” to me, so I texted his reading tutor not to come and immediately called his pediatrician and neurologist.

Afterwards he was fine. Went back to his video games and his homework like nothing happened. I was a wreck. I scheduled doctor’s appointments for the following day. I told Steve. I arranged with my sister to help out with one the appointments, because I had my own appointment to get my usual pre-conference haircut and blowout. The cab was going to pick me up to take me to Newark airport on Thursday at 5:30am. If my hair was good, I could just wake up and go. Dinner plans were scrapped, so Steve got a pizza on the way home from the train station.

At the second appointment at the neurologist at 5:00, she said that she didn’t think that Ian should be left alone until we figured out what was going on. So, I arranged coverage of Ian between the end of school, before Steve got home. Again, my sister was enlisted to help. Steve left work early, but couldn’t skip out of work entirely.

The conference itself was good. The topic was the transition from high school to college. Various experts, who hoped to be sources for news articles, gave presentations for two days. We crammed into a stuffy little room at Northwestern and asked questions that were general enough to not show our hands to other journalists in the room.

As I walked through a deserted Newark airport at midnight on Friday, I relaxed for a minute. The adrenaline that had kept me going through those few days was ebbing. My overnight bag dug into my shoulder, because I always overpack when I’m nervous. Next time, I’ll pack less, I promised myself.

But will there be a next time? I’m already long in the tooth for this career. My most recent plan was to do something completely different for a couple of months, and write some long form essays and book proposals that have been percolating for months. I even filled out a job application before Ian’s slump. My sister texted me to say there was a message on the answering machine from a manager of a bookstore.

Plans to work outside the home were shelved, because I need to be available for more doctor’s appointments. I can’t take advantage of family to mind the kid, while I work a minimum wage job for kicks. Hopefully, we can figure out what happened quickly, and then I’ll try again after the holidays.

Over the weekend, I just processed information and recovered from the days of stress. I cancelled plans with friends and nested with family. Jonah came home for the day. I cooked. I boiled down some chicken bones from the freezer and other scraps to make a witch’s brew of soup broth.

I did a couple of chores in the morning yesterday, and then left to pick up Ian at 2:00 for an EEG test. The technician measured Ian’s head and marked up his forehead with a red marker. We assured Ian that those marks were for the suction cups sensors, and there were no plans for brain removal. We sat in a dark room for an hour, as the technician looked for misfires in his brain. We’ll get results today. If the test is inconclusive, he’ll have to wear an electrode cap for two days for better results.

Hopefully, the tests will show that he was just tired or dehydrated. Maybe it was a weird kind of migraine headache. But 30 percent of people with an autistic spectrum disorder also get epilepsy, so we do have to seriously prepare ourselves for a worse case scenario. The worse case scenario isn’t terrible — medication is great these days — but it will be just one more burden on the kid, who already has his share of burdens.

With fingers crossed for a good phone call from the neurologist at 9, I’m making adjustments in work plans. I’ve been writing an essay in my head for the past day, using the scraps and bones of information from the conference, previous articles, and recent experiences. Like my chicken broth, it’s going to take some time for all this to cook and for the flavors to marry. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, Ian will have a clean bill of health and I’ll have an essay or two sealed up in tidy little jars that can be sent to editors.

12 thoughts on “Work and Life In Chi-Town

  1. I’m so sorry. That must have been so scary. 😦 Hoping you got good news.

    “The conference itself was good. The topic was the transition from high school to college. ”

    Would love to hear more. I can tell you I have to unteach so many bad habits, particularly in writing. I always understand why the teachers teach those habits, but they are ultimately problematic in college and the workplace.


      1. I’ll wait till tomorrow, but of course, now I can’t remember anything. 😀 I’ll ponder while I wait for the post.


      2. One thing I had to get untaught on entering the workplace was the idea that copying was plagiarism and was bad. I was involved in writing responses to regulatory questions, and if I could find something we had said before, the closer I could come to using the exact response we had made before, the better for everybody. Originality was not a virtue!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “One thing I had to get untaught on entering the workplace was the idea that copying was plagiarism and was bad.”

        I actually agree. It’s a difficult concept to convey to students, too, though I try,


  2. Being in the liminal space before a diagnosis and treatment plan is exhausting. Wishing you and your family ease.


  3. I’m sorry – so unsettling. I hope he was just dehydrated. Fingers crossed.

    We went through something similar – in November of his senior year of high school, my son – the one withOUT autism – had a seizure, then several more a few weeks later. We never found out what was causing them. He was on meds all through college and then titrated off them after he graduated. All good so far.

    It’s just one more thing.


  4. Thankful for sisters who can help out. Mine and yours. Hope all goes well.

    I am reading how college works by chambliss and tabac, a multimodal case study of Hamilton college. It describes a vision of college that is successful because of interactions with peers and faculty and quite different from a program/credentials version.

    They are also promising a study of writing development In college based on blind judging of essays. I’m looking forward to that description.


  5. That must have been scary – and then so hard to leave. Good to have such family support around you.

    We’ve had some scary moments with our college kid (and a hospitalization a few weeks ago that required a middle-of-the-night panicked 4 hour drive to get there). It’s so hard when your kids are suffering.

    I hope you get some answers and treatment and peace of mind.


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