Last night, in class, one of my students had a seizure.
It was the very beginning of class, like within the first minute. I was standing near the front, getting ready to distribute their quiz, when she began convulsing in her chair. She was in a desk in the front row, so I quickly threw the quizzes down on my desk at the front of the room and went to her side. Two other students quickly responded, and between the 3 of us, we were able to ensure that she didn't fall out of her chair or smack her head. One other student called 911, and another student called campus safety and security.
The seizure only lasted about a minute, maybe two, but it felt like forever. Then, after her convulsions subsided, she slipped into unconsciousness. She was breathing evenly then and she had a strong pulse, so I figured that all had to be good. She had a light sweater with her, so one student balled it up and put it under her head, and I remained next to her, along with another student, and we just held her gently so that she didn't slip out of her chair. I don't know much about how to treat someone who has experienced a seizure, but I figured it was best not to move her and to just wait for the paramedics to arrive.
A few minutes later, she woke up, but she was disoriented, confused, and seemed lack any verbal ability. I told her where she was, who I was, and told her that help was on the way, but I'm not sure if she comprehended anything I said. I remained next to her, gently patting her back, and telling her that everything was okay. Then, as she became more aware, she collapsed into me and wrapped her arms around me and leaned her entire weight against me and began sobbing. I held onto her and continue to rub her back and repeat soothing phrases, like "It's okay, you're okay. Everything's gonna be alright."
By this time, other students had returned to their seats and just sat quietly. Soon, the EMTs arrived. They asked me a few brief questions, and then carefully loaded her onto a stretcher and wheeled her out of the classroom. Security lingered behind and asked me a few additional questions, and then they too left. The whole thing probably lasted 20 minutes, yet it felt like it had taken hours.
After the paramedics and security left, I found myself facing 20-something expectant faces. What should we do now? I felt like the choice shouldn't entirely be mine, so I asked them to vote. There were less than a handful who voted to stay and carry on with our evening's work as planned; the rest -- a clear majority -- voted that the incident was too much of a distraction for them to continue on for the evening. So I thanked them for their help, as well as their patience, and then we all left.
Once I got back to my office, I sat down, called Jerry, and then cried. I don't know exactly why I cried, but in that moment, I felt overwhelmed by emotion. And still, this morning, typing this, my eyes fill with tears even recalling the event. I can't pinpoint exactly why it all felt so traumatic, but I suppose it's a combination of feeling surprised, terrified, and then finally, relieved.
Since then, this student has been on my mind. I sent her an email (her college account is the only contact information I have for her), but I don't know if she'll check it or respond. I spoke with my department dean this morning and he assured me I did everything I was supposed to do. And, thinking back on the incident, I know I reacted calmly and with my best intentions, but I can't help but wonder if there was, or is, something I could have done differently, or something I should be doing now in response. I don't know what hospital she was taken to, and I don't have contact info but her email address, so I'm not sure what options there would be for me to reach out to her, but I still feel as though there should be something within my means.
In the end, I suppose it's natural to second guess my reaction in a stressful situation, but I think I did the best I could. I also really appreciated the students' responses and reactions. A few of them, in particular, reacted with grace and speed, and made the situation much easier to handle. Additionally, all of them respectfully sat and waited patiently while we were all awaiting the arrival of the paramedics, and then after all the commotion was over, they silently waited for me to dictate how we should proceed. I'm not certain how they judged my reaction, but I'm thankful for theirs.