A Year After My Son Had a Seizure, I’m Glad I Told EMTs to Take Him to Methodist Richardson

March 17 is one year to the day that my son Charlie was hospitalized for what turned out to be a seizure. He and I will head over to Methodist Richardson. We’ll stop by the emergency room (ER) and the third-floor intensive care unit (ICU), maybe placing the palm of our hands, however briefly, on the door of Room 372. Those are the places we were a year ago, though only one of us remembers that day, that morning, those life-pivoting moments.

It was a typical Saturday, at least for the early part of the day. Charlie, scheduled to work at 9, was still asleep. I’d slept a little longer than I’d intended, which put me behind in my plan to start my morning run a half-hour earlier. I was dressed, my shoes were tied, and I was brushing my teeth when I heard a horrible, guttural sound coming from Charlie’s room. I went in and saw my healthy, fit, 24-year-old son lying on his bed with his hands clenched, his body stiff and unresponsive.

“Charlie!” I screamed, shaking him, hoping beyond hope that he was faking and would soon open his eyes and start laughing at my frenzy.

He wasn’t. He didn’t.

Life-saving choices at a tragic time

I somehow had the presence of mind to call 911, screaming to the operator that I thought my son was dying.

Minutes later, as our house filled with paramedics, EMTs, and police officers, one of the ambulance crew asked if I had a preference as to where they’d take Charlie.

“Methodist Richardson,” I said.

Methodist Richardson Medical Center is where I get my mammograms, plus it’s fairly close to home. And those, to be honest, were my only reasons for sending my son to Methodist Richardson Medical Center. Twelve months later, I remain grateful for that spur-of-the-moment decision, which has linked my heart forever to this place of hope, of professionalism, of compassion, of kindness.

A team of people dedicated to my son

Charlie Garcia undergoes a test to analyze his brain waves at Methodist Richardson. He spent three days at the hospital after having a life-threatening seizure.
Charlie Garcia undergoes a test to analyze his brain waves at Methodist Richardson. He spent three days at the hospital after having a life-threatening seizure.

The first person to show those attributes was Barbara Cook, the ER nurse who explained as much as she knew about what was happening. She allowed all of our shell-shocked contingent — me, Charlie’s dad, and my two sisters and their husbands — to traipse through the double doors, stand by the bedside of our unconscious Charlie, and stare at the blinking and beeping machines. She asked questions and she answered questions — always calm, always upfront.

When Charlie was transferred to the ICU a few hours later, the charge nurse, Melissa Miller, made a special point of pulling me from the waiting room to walk me through what was happening — what we could expect, who would be checking Charlie and monitoring him, who would be keeping us informed and helping us be a part of his recovery.

The next morning when I arrived at Charlie’s room his overnight nurse, Liz Browne — who had assured me eight hours earlier that spending the night at home would give me strength for the days to come — greeted me with news I longed to hear: “He did great!”

Myra Oluwasanmi-Grandeur, one of Charlie’s day nurses, endeared herself to me forever by her recollection of when she first saw Charlie — unconscious, scratched up, tubes everywhere: “I said, ‘Baby Jesus, do something! He’s only 24!’”

She and Liz — plus all Charlie’s doctors, nurses, and everyone else who administered tests and came into Room 372 for any reason at all — had other patients, of course. But we felt as if Charlie were the only one. I remember waiting for nothing — not for their attention, not for his meals, not for doctors to come by, not for our questions to be answered. For those three nights he spent in ICU, Charlie’s care team was patient, professional, and loving, explaining in terms we could understand just what was going on.

Ronald J. Bell, MD takes a picture next to Charlie after he regained consciousness

Ronald J. Bell, MD, Charlie’s neurologist on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson, spent much more time with us than I could have dreamed a doctor would do. He stopped by every afternoon. As Charlie’s level of comprehension and alertness improved, Dr. Bell engaged both of us with stories as well as a primer about his passion: this fascinating 3-pound organ that for whatever reason went haywire in my son’s head that morning of March 17. 

Picture at left: Ronald J. Bell, MD takes a picture next to Charlie after he regained consciousness

Overflowing with gratitude

A year ago, I could hardly envision what the next minute would bring. And now, here we are, 365 days later. Charlie is healthy — no repercussions, no recurrences, no medications. My thankfulness for how everything turned out overflows my heart like a waterfall of grateful tears, like a vase filled with ever-blooming flowers that push each other aside to make room for more.

When Charlie and I go to the ER and to the ICU where he spent those frightening, reassuring, life-affirming days, we’ll bring lemon bread and smiles. We’ll say thank you, and we’ll say it again — and we’ll keep saying it long after the double doors close behind us and we step back into the sunshine and resume our lives.

We don’t expect everyone at Methodist Richardson who treated Charlie to remember him. That’s okay. We remember them.

This past Christmas, Charlie Garcia visits his former ICU nurse Liz Browne at Methodist Richardson.
This past Christmas, Charlie Garcia visits his former ICU nurse Liz Browne at Methodist Richardson.
 

A mother-son trip for Leslie Barker and her son, Charlie Garcia, was possible this past year thanks to the lifesaving work of Methodist Richardson.

When Leslie Barker isn't worrying about her son, she's writing about and living her passion — health and fitness. She runs, swims, and tries desperately to not show too much clumsiness in her beloved yoga classes. She also loves cooking and bakes a pretty tasty lemon bread — not exactly healthy, but she believes treats are imperative to life. Formerly a senior writer for The Dallas Morning News, she loves sharing health tips as well as ways to find joy in even the simplest or challenging of circumstances. 

Picture at left: Ronald J. Bell, MD takes a picture next to Charlie after he regained consciousness