Shiver No More

elderly dog surrounded by first aid supplies.

Shiver No More

Fiction Based on a True Story

by Erin McGinn

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.

I want someone to hold my hand through retelling this. It’s not going to happen today, but maybe tomorrow.

In the back of a classroom. Plastic manikins, torsos of men and babies surround us. It’s a small class of about ten people. The instructor puts a video on about first aid for seizures.

The video shows an office woman wandering down the hall when she notices a pair of shaking feet. She finds her coworker on the ground and yells for help. My phone buzzes with a text from my dad telling me to come downstairs. I waddle down to the kitchen. My father is holding him down so he doesn’t jerk around as much. I tell my father to take his hands away because it could hurt him. We watch, waiting for it to stop. It ebbs and restarts like waves. I’m not allowed to take him to the hospital.

A second office worker arrives and starts dialing 911.

“I’m not allowed to take him to the hospital.”

I’m at my sister’s door in tears. She pushes past me, digesting the situation. She takes charge. He’s in a blanket and outside. 

They move a chair away from him, but he’s still flopping around. His mouth is clean. He’s foaming at the mouth uncontrollably. It’s blocking his breathing. I have to angle him at his side so it will fall on his blanket. Little feet push against my arms. It takes 5 -10 minutes to get to the hospital, and it’s not fast enough.

I look away from the screen and study the baby on my desk next to me. Its toes and fingers are permanently curled like the arch of a back in a tiny bed. Shiver no more. I can still hear the sounds, but it’s not as bad. The teacher closes the video and asks if anyone has questions.

“What happens when the person enters a status seizure?”

“What’s a status seizure?” the teacher asks.

“It’s when they don’t stop seizing.”

“Unfortunately, that’s beyond our care as first aid providers.”

I know, I think, the only thing you can do in that situation is put them in the car and run all the red lights.

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