The Seizure- Scott Campbell

The Seizure

When one runs as frequently as I do, it is easy for various jaunts to simply blend into one. By the weight of

their number and steady accumulation there is, for each run, a stealth to the quirks and features that obtain

and thus stands in defiance of individualisation. They are though, all different. Even if one deploys the same

route (or a ‘routine course’), one is unlikely to feel the same, or to run at an identical pace and time.

My run that day was notable in that I only managed to traverse the first couple of kilometres of a (planned)

longer run. This, and the fact that it was a full five hours following my departure before I returned home

distinguished this particular bout of exercise. I had, it emerged following an impromptu hospital visit, check-
up and diagnosis at the Western General Hospital, suffered a seizure at some point, presumably about ten

minutes after setting off.

There is a hallucinogenic quality to my recollections of the seizure itself. I can recall brief impressions and

sensations that flitted across my mind’s eye (or mind’s ear; or mind’s extremity) though they are mere

synaesthesic snapshots that defy any attempt at re-ordering, or chattelling them into some kind of storyline.

There are flashes of light; the brush of a branch (or bush) as my hand mis-gropes in attempting to break a

fall; voices of others elide with mumbled replies from me.

When attempting to imprint a timeline or narrative thread on otherwise abstract sensations the logical step is

– as with frayed wool or thread – to look for a start point. I can just about remember walking out the door at

the foot of my stairwell, I think. Am I recalling That Day’s exit, or merely another identikit run? I would like

to think that I can recall jogging downhill onto the walkway beside the river Kelvin. But these final, pre-
seizure and ‘conscious’ steps are sufficiently embedded to preclude divorcing any one instance from the


One is left instead with piecing together the story from the shards of memory that emerged from the

shattering of sanity, and attempting to weave backwards from the tendrils of impressions that occurred in the

ambulance and, later on, in the hospital.

x X x

The sharp and jagged pain to the rear of my tongue only really emerged as I half-sat, half-lay on a hospital

bed-cum-trolley in the corridor adjacent to the A&E department. Borderline supine, I was also still in the

process of resuming acquaintance with most of my autonomic responses. [I should add that at roughly the

same time that this pain began to command attention, I alighted on the bed-heads of the hospital trolleys

likeness to a tombstone. Coincidence?]

I had been relatively lucid – or recently returned to lucidity – for about an hour by this stage, and had talked

at length to the paramedics who retrieved and admitted me, though had yet to alight upon this source of pain.

It was a strange and delicate sensation as flaps of skin flit over the surface of my teeth, as if an errant piece

of food has become stuck there. Despite the general viscosity of the skin on our tongues, they are nonetheless

tautly affixed to the organ itself – as with any other part of our upper dermis.

Furthermore, had the doctor examining me not queried as to whether I had bitten my tongue, there is every

chance that I would not have volunteered it. As it was, this was apparently the clincher (no pun intended…)

so far as my diagnosis was concerned. The pain, over a week later, was still occasionally sharp and severe

depending on the temperature of the food imbibed.

x X x

‘Do you know why you’re here?’ a male voice demands of me, fairly insistently. He repeats the question,

primed, no doubt, by my shocked and vacant demeanour for little in the way of insight. This interrogatum

gives way to a minor personal reverie as I take in the apparatus that surrounds me in the back of the

ambulance. It is said of presidential (and prime-ministerial) bunkers that such is the infrastructural network

contained within that a war can be waged and managed from one. Ambulances may be constrained by their

dimensions, but the sheer variety of ailments and conditions that they are equipped to deal with – to staunch,

to splint, to revive – is never far from one’s attention, no matter one’s confusion.

‘Do. You. Know. Why. You’re. Here?’ A female voice this time, though less questioning than designed to

command my errant focus – the explanation hot on its heels: ‘You were found running around in circles; you

didn’t know where you were/what you were doing.’

Still I glance between the faces of the (three, in total) paramedics, my gaze alighting on some tube or

tourniquet. I may at this point have mumblingly interjected that I did not indeed know, or that I didn’t

understand. Didn’t understand any of it. One faceless soul proffered the factoid that many runners wear

bands or some form of neck-wear that bears details of prevailing health ‘issues’, or emergency contact

details. This catalysed my own sense of alarm, and momentarily sharpened my focus.

‘This has never happened before,’ I mumbled, or something to this effect. I padded around my midriff for

possessions that I must presumably have left the flat with. My only pocket bulges with keys and my running

hat, though my mobile phone is missing. The male paramedic – the other two being female – peels off; to

look for the phone? I think I supplied him with a number, though I’m simultaneously struggling to recall my

address. I tell them my name, and there is a palpable release of tension as I am addressed as ‘Scott’ where

previously I was but a nameless, and wholly unwilling convict of circumstance.

Am I a student? Do I have a job? What do I do for a living? Am I supposed to be at work just now? The

sheer variety of probable, and likely, responses to these queries returns me to mass-confusion. How many of

these questions were put to me by the paramedics, and which merely flitted across my mind I cannot at this

stage recall with any confidence. Before long, it was deemed appropriate to take me to A&E, and I readily


On the journey over lunacy jockeys with lucidity for primacy, and there are snatched conversations with the

two female paramedics about running in general, and races ran and entered, before some form of reflection

eventually seeped out of the patient. The walk from the driveway entrance to A&E is deemed an insufficient

and inappropriate addendum to the episode, thus far, and I was squired by a hospital bed upon a trolley to the

bowels of the Accident and Emergency department of the Western General hospital.

x X x

The paramedic who had wheeled me in stated that the couple who had found me claimed I was speaking

‘gibberish – as if a foreign language.’ I assured them that I speak no other language fluently, though did

briefly wonder whether my episode had afforded me a savant-like, near-perfect command of a foreign


The clinical aroma that shrouds one’s apperception of the frailty on show lingers in the memory. One

wonders if actual doctors and nurses can ever completely free themselves from this psychological anchor.

There is an aphorism that states that much of what we recall is based in – and can thus be triggered by –

smell, and this is especially pertinent in a hospital setting. Much of my visit was, initially, expended in the

corridor, and thereafter waiting in an examination room as various blood samples and heart-readings were

taken and filtered through the medium of my responses and recollections.

Once ensconced in a room of my own I was permitted a moment of privacy to relieve myself. Having taken

on a fair bit of water during the course of the day, my bladder was now full; mercifully so, I ought to add: it

is not uncommon for minor bouts of incontinence to afflict the seizure patient. This aspect of my hydration

levels was at some odds with my other symptoms, which spoke to prevailing states of dehydration. My lips

felt dry, and the skin on my face rather pinched. I could almost feel the friction of my eyelids against the

surface of my eyes. My brain felt as if it had shrunk to a quarter of its size, and was now bashing around my

parched skull. The resultant headache is the one ailment that was medicated during the course of my visit, as

the young doctor attending me dispenses a pair of aspirin.

I’m left alone for a little while whilst a vial of my blood is ferried away for analysis. In the room next to me

a patient awaiting further consultation – and perhaps diagnosis – manages to sound both resigned and

concerned at the same time as he claims to be cognisant of a figure looming over him. I glanced across the

hallway where one of the tombstone silhouettes hooks my gaze once more. I occupied myself by pacing

around my temporary commode in my hospital gown – a loose-fitting, backless number.

Shortly before being discharged, an elderly female patient and I were afforded the luxury of a visit to the tv

area where Question Time is showing. My concentration had not yet recovered to normal levels, though I

would, without hesitation, question the holistic appeal of the political squabbling on show. I was eventually

released, and trudged resignedly uphill to my flat, a short walk from A&E’s back door, making it home

shortly before midnight. Weariness and an adrenal exhilaration sparked by my ordeal keep me awake for a

while, before putting the day to bed.

I recorded much of the preceding account in the days immediately following the event, whilst various

impressions were fresh in the memory. A couple of weeks later I was referred to the seizure clinic of the

Western General Hospital where a specialist groped for a fuller diagnosis. This isn’t intended as criticism of

any of the care or insight that I received; but the primary diagnostic feature of seizures (particularly first-
time or isolated incidents) is their unpredictability and – therefore – an inability to attribute them to any

particular cause or menu of lifestyle factors.

As such, the offerings of the consultant supplied little in the way of succour, though retained the capacity to

focus the mind, somewhat. I currently occupy a hinterland between the experience itself and a fuller

diagnosis that could in turn presage a prolonged period of medication. I was packed off with a bulk of

literature on epilepsy, and how we might come to regard it as less of an affliction than a mere challenge.

Once again, much of the insight contained within is slightly eye-watering. I cannot, for the time being, drive.

Marathons of partying and nightclubbing are verboten; alongside retiring the dancing shoes, climbing

ladders without supervision is now also a feature of my past.

The ‘missing’ phone was at home all along (I never run with it). I can only offer grateful and belated thanks

to the paramedic who both attended to me and partook in this fruitless treasure-hunt.

Independence. Efficacy. Fallibility. Frailty. These are some of the synonyms that I had jotted down in the

margins at various points over the course of crafting this piece. I don’t feel different, though have never felt

more alien in those moments immediately following the seizure. I am relatively free of concern as to my long-
term, life prospects, though too often we are labile as to the short-term implications of our lives. The fact that

another seizure might strike me, without warning, at some point in the future ought to be alarming, though

really I’m ill-disposed to live life on such tenterhooks.


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