It seems like a long time ago now when Gavin had his first seizure. He was 10 and he was staying overnight at my parent's house as he did every Friday night. The call from my mom was frantic and it sounded like a foreign language, "Gavin had a seizure". He had a WHAT? We started a new journey that day that would take us down the hallows of neurology only to face the unavoidable truth that we do not actually understand the brain and why it sometimes misbehaves. Once Gavin started having seizures he could not stop. Oh, I should mention I got laid off about two weeks after that seizure too, and very unexpectedly as well. He couldn't go to school and I couldn't go to work. He had seizures every day and I waited for him to breathe again. I tucked him in at night and prayed he would live to the morning. He hasn't had a seizure for over three years now with the aid of a handful of pharmaceuticals, a lot of patience, several trials and errors, and a host of side effects.
All of this to say that we did survive that time. In fact, we made the very best of a terrible year. I found a gig, and then another, and then yet another. We experimented with meds, sleep, and food and he was able to go back to school. I was able to go back to work full-time. And, in the middle of all of that I finished my 7-year doctoral journey and defended my dissertation the month I went back to work full-time and when he celebrated a 6-month seizure-free mark. I learned quite a lot:
1) Epilepsy is an unpredictable friend that may show up uninvited at our doorstep at any moment of the day or night.
2) When you feel out of control, find something you can bring into focus -- for me it was my dissertation.
3) Do not take your family, friends, colleagues, or networks for granted.
Spoiler alert: this blog post is actually not about Epilepsy, though I do hope it spreads awareness. This post is about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and the power of connections in a world that can feel lonely and isolating. As I sat in my living room staring at my son for signs of convulsions, I was waiting on emails from friends and former colleagues about possible teaching gigs or consulting projects. And, they came through for me. I never thought I would be in a position to have to ask for help, but when I did they listened, helped, and provided a platform where I could continue to stay at home to take care of the most important thing in my life -- and have money to pay our mortgage too. And, while a PLN can be useful in times of crisis like mine, also know that my PLNs now teach me, answer questions, keep me focused, dare me to lead, and ultimately make me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. PLNs are everything and if you don't have one -- message me now to join mine, connect to ours, or start your own. You just never know what life will bring to your doorstep.