On February 16, 2014 Jamie wrote Survivor—Nich’s Story. I invited her to give us an update, which she graciously accepted.
Written by, Jamie Sorensen
February seems like such a long time ago. We celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary and we’ve all got another year older! Since I last posted Survivor—Nich’s Story, part 2 back in February, there have definitely been a few changes in our lives. Unfortunately, Nich’s seizure activity has become more frequent, more severe and the recovery time has increased substantially.
In June, the neurologist that Nich’s seen since his car accident in 1999 retired and the entire practice closed. To make things even more difficult, they didn’t have any recommendations or referrals. After seeking advice from Nich’s neuropsychologist and our good friend “Google”, we were given the name of one of the top neurologists in Utah. The doctor reviewed his 15 years of files and decided to take him as a patient. With epilepsy increasing in activity and severity, we discussed some different options. We’ve decided to go with a VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation) Therapy, which is basically a “pacemaker for the brain”. During the surgery, a small device is placed just under the skin up near the collarbone, and a wire runs from the device up to the vagus nerve in the neck. A special magnet held near the device triggers it to deliver a burst of stimulation, outside of the regular programmed intervals. For people with warnings (auras) before their seizures, activating the stimulator with the magnet when the warning occurs may help to stop the seizure. For the most part, he’s able to “sense” approximately 75% of his seizures. We are hoping and crossing our fingers that the VNS will help in decreasing his seizure activity, as well as helping the recovery process afterward. The surgery is scheduled for October 10th.
As Nich’s caregiver, I’ve had to learn to cope with the ever-changing and increasing seizure activity. It’s been really emotionally and physically exhausting. I have felt so helpless at times. If you’ve ever had to watch someone go through a seizure, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I have such a hard time leaving him when I have to go to work each night. I feel like I’m abandoning him as I back out of the driveway. I wish I could stay home to take care of him full-time and do more to protect him. My heart breaks a little bit every time Nich calls me while I’m at work crying, not knowing what just happened and why his entire body hurts. I want to run to my car and drive straight home to comfort him. I hate seeing my husband, my best friend, my whole world, scared and in pain.
Last month our daughter, McKenzie, actually witnessed Nich having a seizure. Even though we’ve talked about it a million times and have gone over “instructions” on what to do, she admitted that it was scary to see her Dad like that. Later that night, I talked with her and explained everything that had just happened. I walked her through what to expect when Dad has a seizure. It helped her to realize what a seizure really looks like, instead of just hearing about it. Now that she’s seen it, she isn’t as scared anymore.
Coping with being a caregiver can be difficult at times. One of the ways I cope is through writing. I love to put my thoughts onto paper. I may not share them for the most part, but it seems to help. I love reading. I love listening to music. I’m that lady in the car on my way to work with the radio blasting, singing to myself. For the most part, the only time I really get to be by myself is during my shower, the drive to and from work, and of course the bathroom! I’m still trying to find more ways to cope and get things out instead of letting them build up inside. I admit I need to do a better job of taking care of myself. I need to sleep more, work out, eat better, etc. I need to make time for myself, even if it’s just 30 minutes to read or take in a movie, taking time to rejuvenate, so that I have the energy and strength to care for those I love. I don’t know how, but I need to somehow find the time.
I’ve been a little lost along the way in the form of support. There aren’t very many people I’ve come across who can even remotely understand what I’m going through. My husband found the perfect quote online the other day. “The emotional and physical abuse your body goes through having epilepsy is almost impossible to explain to anyone who doesn’t have it themselves. It’s frustrating trying to explain the overwhelming emotions you have right after a seizure.” This is the same for those of us who have to watch a loved one during and after a seizure. It’s not easy trying to explain to people what we are dealing with or going through.
Being a caregiver has truly been an extreme blessing in my life. Yes, it is tremendously challenging and can sometimes push me to the limits. However, it is also abundantly rewarding. I love taking care of my husband. I’m proud of my family and what we do for each other. I love knowing I am here for him when he needs something. I am grateful for the lessons my children are learning. They are becoming so responsible and so grown up. I love that they worry and get concerned. I love that they can now pick up on Dad’s “bad days” and know when he’s just simply “off”. They put others before themselves.They pick up the slack and chip in whenever they can. I couldn’t have better kids!
Earlier this month, I wanted to do something to connect with my husband and to show him how much I truly love every part of him and to remind him that I married him “in sickness and in health”, so I designed a tattoo. We went together and got our tattoos of purple and green ribbons. The green is for TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and the purple is for Epilepsy.
Nicholas is truly an amazing person. He is one of the strongest people I know. I admire his drive and passion for life; he honestly never gives up! No matter what cards he’s dealt, he always finds his way through the challenges. Nich is such an incredible father and is constantly making sure that the kids and I are happy and have everything we could ever hope or ask for. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life. I love knowing we get to spend the rest of our lives together. I am proudly a Caregiver for life.
Thank you Jamie for sharing your story. We wish you both the best in the upcoming months and hope the VNS helps Nich’s seizures! It has helped lessen Mark’s. We’ll look forward to hearing how the surgery went and the improvements it makes. You and Nich will be in my thoughts and prayers.