No Place to Hide

by Jeanne Seisen Crimp and Shayne Chosei Crimp

Featured in Mountain Record 24.4, Summer 2006




December 31, 1989. Midafternoon. Wanaka, New Zealand. We are visiting friends. Seven-year-old Karen is watching TV and not feeling well. Baby Natalie is ready for a nap. Returning to the living room—no Karen! She must be playing a joke. Ah yes, there is her foot under the drapery. Pulling back the curtain with a flourish—no joke. She is lying on her back, body jerking, eyes staring, unseeing. Panic overwhelms. Take a deep breath. Call the ambulance.

Doctors’ Surgery. The seizure continues after two injections of valium. Karen and the doctor fly to Dunedin. We pack up our belongings and make the three-hour drive in record time. Dunedin Hospital. The pediatrician tells us that a virus has attacked Karen’s brain. The seizure has finally stopped but Karen is delirious for two days. Twice, she has chewed through the bandages to pull out her IV. She keeps falling off the bed. There aren’t enough nurses. One of us has to stay with her twenty-four hours a day.

The other has to look after Natalie, maybe meditate or get some sleep. Karen slips into a dull stupor. Natalie walks for the first time while we pace the hospital corridors.

Two weeks later we return home to Christchurch, exhausted. Karen seems stunned, in a dream. She has difficulty communicating. No one can tell us how much damage has been done to her brain. We will have to find out for ourselves.

Although we could not have known it then, from that time on our lives changed completely. As Buddhists, we accept that all life is in a continual state of change. Nevertheless, most parents have the luxury of watching their children change gradually and in reasonably predictable ways. Virtually overnight our bright, articulate, inquisitive child had become dull, hyperactive, unable to remember even the simplest of words. The change was so profound, it was as if Karen had died and another child had taken her place. But there was no time to grieve. We breathed a deep sigh and continued to take care of our children.