A Mother’s Nightmare


I’ve been holding my breath for hours now, waiting to see what will happen/not happen as a result of Jenna’s blog post yesterday afternoon. It took a lot of courage for her to lay it all out for people, not knowing what their reaction would be. Most who read it probably won’t react…it’s easier to say nothing and avoid the subject, or easier yet, just start avoiding Jenna. Of course, there will be some who think she made it up or that she’s only doing it for the attention. Seriously. We’re still dealing with some of that ignorance. She could have kept it all secret, but that’s not our Jenna…she’s determined to show people just how insidiously Lyme disease can take over one’s life in the hope that they will become more aware, more careful, and more compassionate.

Jenna’s been dealing with post-seizure amnesia for a while now. We work through it and usually she comes around pretty quickly when we can find a trigger that brings her back. Although she sometimes does get frightened when she wakes up confused, this irrational terror that she’s been experiencing lately goes so much deeper. We never really know when it’s going to strike, but it’s most often when Jen’s very tired or overly stressed or feeling really ill. The biggest and scariest difference between then and now, is that now she will act on the terrors. She voluntarily climbs into the backseat and insisted on child safety locks after we talked about how she tries to escape from the car while it’s moving. We’ve worked out a “No locked doors” policy after a few incidents that shook both of us. She’s never home alone or when out and about, more than a few minutes from an adult who understands her condition. You do what you have to do.

I didn’t see Wednesday night’s episode coming. I should have, I guess. Jenna was tired after having treatment in the morning and then going in to school, but she didn’t seem overly stressed or to feel that much worse than usual. We all sat down to dinner together, Jen helped clear the table, and we talked about making a sinfully rich delicious dessert. That was nixed in exchange for some “spa” stuff since prom is just days away. Around 7:30 I started gathering her night meds and that’s when the first flickers began…the white-outs (black-outs with open eyes that dart and roll back) were followed by some short black-outs that affected her speech and swallowing. I had to keep waking her and reminding her to swallow so that she could get all 30+ pills in before bedtime. Once the pills were in, she seemed a bit better and asked me to bring something out from my bedroom. I had no sooner walked into my room and closed the door when…SLAM…the front door closed. I came out of my room, calling Jenna but she was gone. I looked out the door and saw her at the edge of the yard; I called out to her but knew it was no use because it was obvious that she didn’t recognize me (a mom’s nightmare in itself), so I stepped back in, grabbed my shoes and car keys and watched as she ran down our rocky driveway in her pajamas and stocking feet.

I tried to keep the car back from her until I knew I could catch up to her quickly. She kept looking back at me, so scared, so I stopped the car and ran after her. Finally I was able to lunge and grab her from behind in a bear hug. “Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me,” she cried, between “Let me go!” and “I don’t know you.” I held on for dear life, and never felt the punches, kicks, and scratches. After a few minutes I just couldn’t stand up anymore and I put us both on the ground, with me laying on top of her, holding her down. At one point, she finally grasped (I think) that I wasn’t going to hurt her, and she started begging me to let her go home. I offered to take her home and she said, “No, then you’ll know where I live and you’ll come back for me.” I tried bringing her out of it with one of our stand-by triggers, her puppy Kara — “No, no” she argued, “That’s what bad people tell little kids when they want to take them.” My husband noticed the car when he returned from visiting with his parents across town and drove down to where we were sitting, now in the dark; his calm voice reassured Jenna and she allowed us to take her home. The “realness” of her experience was still with her though. She told us about the bad lady who kidnapped her, how she had escaped, how she had hurt the lady to get away but felt bad about it. When her legs started hurting more, she insisted that the bad lady had poisoned her. When she wanted to watch Criminal Minds on TV and I suggested something else, she said that it would be good for her to watch it in case she got kidnapped again, because she might learn how she could escape. Panic swept through her off and on for the rest of the night and I just prayed that she wouldn’t remember what happened in the morning.

The reality of it didn’t fully come to light until almost noon the next day…the panic kept squeezing in and she eventually realized that what she thought was a bad dream had indeed happened. Jen apologized over and over, and I reassured her that I was fine and I am. The young lady who ran away from me, fought me, and thought I poisoned her was not my Jenna. It was a Lyme victim. She has no control over when the Lyme victim will take over and so I can’t hold her accountable for her actions when she is under the influence of Lyme. There are more details I could share, but you get the picture. Yes, it was a terrible nightmare and I was an emotional mess. Yes, I hurt – but not for me, for Jenna and for the nightmare she’s been living through that has changed her life forever.

Do daily tick checks and learn about Lyme disease.

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