Humor is tragedy plus time.
My friend Erika and I were talking on the phone last night, and I was sharing with her my recent visit to The Neurologist. Erika has a child with a seizure disorder as well, and even though her daughter is many years younger than my Sophie, Erika's sense of humor is sharp, achingly so, and she jumps right into the Roman gladiator pit with me.
As you might have surmised, Sophie's honeymoon from daily seizures is now officially over. The drug Vimpat has ceased working as well as it was, and now we're on the tiresome wheel of deciding what to do next. We don't really have any options that jump out at one, unless you think another ketogenic diet trial is worth it. The second and last time we tried the keto diet was about a decade ago (the first time was in the early days -- the mid-90s, when not many people even knew about it), and while it helped Sophie a bit as far as seizure control, it also turned her into a caged tiger, ravenously, desperately hungry with impacted poop (I'm not mincing words). It traumatized me so deeply that I look on that time as being equal to the trauma of her diagnosis and the early days of high dose steroids. That the connection between mothers, children and food is a deeply primitive one is not lost on me, but acknowledging it does nothing to dull the pain of that time.
A second choice is a revisiting of the drug Vigabatrin (or Sabril, as it's also known)-- one of the "newer" approved drugs and one that we tried, also, back in the mid-90s when we ordered it from England. I've waxed philosophical about Vigabatrin in a chapter in my yet-unfinished book -- the chapter was then published on epilepsy.com's website. The drug wasn't approved for many years in this country because of some very serious side effects involving the retinas of the eyes. It's now approved and used as a front line drug to control infantile spasms, the terrible epileptic syndrome that Sophie was diagnosed with -- a form of epilepsy that continues to stymie the best minds. In fact, very little progress has been made for babies and children with infantile spasms in the sixteen years that we've been part of that club. In order to go on the drug now, one is subjected to a strict protocol -- eye exam baselines and the signing and initialing of pages of caveats and warnings and information. This is what I did at The Neurologist appointment yesterday, and as I told Erika, I found it bizarre and not a little hilarious that I was able to casually check the little box and print my initials, EA, next to sentences like: I understand that about 1 in 3 infants taking Sabril will have damage to their vision. I understand that if any vision loss occurs, it will not improve even if my infant stops taking Sabril.
I loved Erika when she burst out laughing when I told her about initialing this sentence: I understand that there is no way to tell if my infant will develop vision loss.
Unless you get it, you're probably not laughing, but we were and I think if we were two women in vaudeville we might have been slapping our knees in hilarity, knocking each other over with the force of the absurdity.
What really set us to being utterly cracked was my description of our other "option" for control of seizures: the vagal nerve stimulator or VNS. You can google and read about it online, if you'd like to know more. It's been around for quite some time and really doesn't have a fabulous efficacy rate -- the rule of thirds, much like drugs (one third improve, one third stay the same, one third get worse or go off). In any case, here's a scan of the box that had the informational DVD and brochure.
In describing the packaging, I wondered aloud to Erika about the work that went into that marketing and how hard a group worked on just the right words, the right picture, how much to suggest, how to harness hope and propel people toward treatment. I wondered aloud to Erika whether the two women frolicking on the beach might be our daughters one day or maybe even the two of us, looking beyond.
We just laughed and laughed and laughed.
Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.