Strong and Vulnerable

Bernice, our first foster failure, had another seizure this evening. This was a strong seizure. Her legs stiff but flailing as if she were trying to run or swim away, body folded at one moment, hyperextended the next, eyes popping out and sinking at once, and mouth clenched. I held her close to protect her from banging against edges, my hand cupped over her racing heart. How was her heart not exploding under the pressure of these seizures?

I fell to pieces the first time I saw her have a seizure. I woke a little after midnight and I fussed at her.strong

Settle down, Bernice.

When she didn’t I turned the light on.

Steven!!!! Something’s wrong with Bernice! 

I couldn’t sort through any of the questions.

What do we do? Who do we call? How do we get her downstairs? She’s not going to die, is she?

She didn’t, but we learned a lot about seizures into the wee hours of the morning.

We’re Both Strong and Vulnerable

As far as I know, Bernice has about one seizure a month. I probably see most of them since I work from home, and she’s my shadow. Seizures vary from violent (she might hurt herself or me) to limpish (stiff but no flailing or shaking). Sometimes she groans as if she’s in pain or afraid. Sometimes it’s as if she’s not even breathing.

As I hold Bernice through a seizure, I’m amazed that this strong creature is so helpless. Of our three dogs, she’s the strong, buff one. Through a seizure, I marvel at her heart, those delicate layers of tissue continue to pump blood, holding together even as her body seems to be imploding.

During a seizure, strong and vulnerable collide, spilling reminders: No guarantees. In a heartbeat. Life is precious.

I know the seizure is almost over when Bernice begins to pant and drool. Her joints slowly loosen up. She struggles to get up, but I hold her a few seconds more. It takes a few more for her legs to steady. I follow as she hazards a crooked path through the house to go outside. She’s going to be fine.

Yes, we’re also vulnerable. Sometimes, it’s in those moments that we find our strengths, like Bernice’s heart, fragile layers of tissue, solid as a rock as they give her the oxygen and strength to pull through the seizure.

I’m vulnerable, but I’m also strong.

©Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved, 2017.