Unexpected Words: Our Family’s Story ~ Chapter 5

March 19, 1999

It had been such a fun night! We had gone out with our good friends, Anna and Mark Lile. Mark was Tom’s “first friend;” they’d known each other since kindergarten. Mark, now a pastor, had also given Tom a Bible during college. We were delighted to be living close to them again, and had enjoyed the kind of laughter that only happens when old friends get together.  While we’d gone to dinner, Annie and Bill stayed at the Lile’s house with a babysitter and played with their children.

When we picked them up to drive home, I noticed that Annie didn’t seem to be feeling well… her nose was runny, and she was just not herself. I chalked it up to fatigue and tucked her into bed. During the night, she had woken up crying, and I gave her some medicine, hoping that would help make her comfortable so she could settle into a good sleep. The next day was Dad’s Day at preschool, and she was so excited! It was a special “Saturday date” for her and Tom…all of the preschoolers got to invite their dads to come and visit the school, meet the teachers and share a treat. (I wasn’t sure who was more excited…Annie or Tom!)

March 20, 1999

We awoke to an impossibly pretty day. It was crisp and sunny and absolutely cloudless…just warm enough to shed the winter coat, don a sweatshirt and drink in the day. When I came downstairs, Tom had Annie on his lap. She looked pale and was cranky and whiny. We decided to put her back into her bed to get a little more sleep. She didn’t have a fever, so we figured she was just overdone from the night before, in addition to having a little cold. We had a couple of hours before Dad’s Day started, and wanted her to get some rest. Tom carried her upstairs and I filled a bowl with Cheerios for Bill, who was contentedly watching cartoons.  I then hopped on the exercise bike with a book. Tom returned to read the paper and finish his coffee.

About a half an hour later, while I was exercising, I heard Annie cry out a couple of times. I looked at Tom, who told me that he would run up and check on her. And then I heard him call, “Katie? Can you come up here?” I put down my book and sighed, concerned that Annie might be getting too sick to attend Dad’s Day. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked into her room and saw Tom standing over her bed. “She’s really not feeling well,” he said.

“Well, let’s get her into a bath,” I decided, thinking that might soothe her. As we got her into the tub, everything suddenly went drastically wrong. Her right arm and leg began convulsing, and her head began jerking back and forth. “Tom!” I shouted. She’s having a seizure!” Her eyes looked strangely shallow and vacant to me. Tom lifted her out of the tub and brought her into the hallway. We wrapped her up in a towel. “Get her dressed,” I commanded as I flew down the stairs to find the phone and call the pediatrician, who told us to come in right away. I scooped up Bill and ran back upstairs. As turned on the landing, I saw that Tom had finished getting Annie dressed. Still convulsing, she was sitting next to him. “Get her in the car! I’m getting Bill dressed and then we can go to the doctor!” I screamed.

Then, Tom’s gentle voice: “Come here, sweetie,” he said to Annie, standing above her and reaching his arms out to pick her up.

She reached for him. Even in her confusion and terror, she reached for her father with all of her strength.

And I watched as only her left arm extended upward, while her right arm hung at her side.

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