My daughter was sleeping when the convulsions started. She woke up one Saturday night — or, I suppose it would have been Sunday morning, technically — screaming for my wife, Amy, filling our pitch black bedroom with a shrill screeching that a little girl should never emit. Now, I am a fairly heavy sleeper, so I reacted with less speed and grace than Amy, who was out the door in seconds. I groggily slammed the alarm clock with a closed fist in a spell of disorientation. It took me a quite a few seconds of fumbling in the dark, along with the blood-curdling screams of Jessie, to rouse me from my unconscious abyss, flick on the lamp switch, and get out of bed.
As I began to realize that Jessie’s screams were not dying down, and my experiences were not the side effects of nightmares or powerful, lucid dreaming, I, too, reacted the same way my wife had. I careened around the corner post of my bed and stumbled through the open doorway into a flood of light. The hallway light was blinding at first, but my thundering heartbeat and the thick course of adrenaline through my veins powered my legs forward, one after the other, in a desperate attempt to find my wife and daughter.
At 3AM in a somewhat new home, the turns and twists leading to my daughter’s room felt like an inescapable maze. However, I managed to get to the back staircase, bolt up into the doorless room which my daughter currently slept in while hers was being repaired and painted, and collapse, out of breath, at the foot of Jessie’s bed.
I thanked God at this moment that my wife was an RN. I watched for only seconds — although it felt like an eternity — as Jessie convulsed and seized violently. Her pupils and irises were entirely gone, rolled into the back of her head. Her mouth oozed a steady stream of brilliant red blood. Everything about her current state left me in shock. My wife screamed for my help now that my daughter’s screams were silenced by the vice-like clamp she had on her own tongue. My world stood still, frozen in time by the severity of the event transpiring around me. None of the sounds around me made sense; all I heard was my rapid heartbeat.
“Ben! For the love of fuck, call an ambulance!” finally penetrated the wall of white noise and I sprang into action for the first time that night. I tumbled down the narrow staircase and dialed 9-1-1 on my wife’s cell phone, which sat charging in the kitchen. The rest of that night was a blur: I ran from room to room, up and down the staircase a millions times, obeying every command my wife issued. I unlocked the front door and lodged it open with a ceramic pot used for houseplants. I jumped between holding my daughter during her convulsions and grabbing utensils to pry her jaw open and off of her tongue. Before I could recover, my daughter was on a stretcher and in the ambulance. It all happened so fast, yet it felt like hours.