Tuesday, August 3

Cataplexy Isn't Funny In Person

When our daughter was born, my husband almost dropped her once.

I was enraged. How dare he risk our child's life by not being aware enough to put her down when he realized how tired he was?

Looking back, I can't believe how unreasonable I was.

The first time I remember meeting Narcolepsy's close personal friend, Cataplexy, my husband and I had been dating for awhile. He had this weird habit of taking deep breaths and closing his eyes whenever he was really amused at something. It was like he was trying to keep himself from laughing. Sometimes when I give into hysterical laughter, I get a bit of a piercing headache that goes away quickly. Sort of a laughter-brain-freeze, so I understood his desire to suppress his laughter.

But he wasn't always successful.

One day we were having a great time - dancing, laughing, playing around, and in the middle of laughing, he suddenly fell to the floor. Quite suddenly, actually. This was no slow slump or slide down the wall - he fell down like he'd fainted or something. Still laughing, I went over to him to help him up. I thought he was still joking around. I put out my hand.

From Vector Magz
"Come on, get up," I said.
When he didn't move, I stopped laughing and stared. He was just lying there, eyes open, his face still frozen in a smile. It was creepy. He looked like the Joker.
"Come on, knock it off," I said, and grabbed his arm.
It took a few minutes, but I finally got him to "unfreeze" and take my hand. By now, I was concerned... and confused.
"What's wrong? Did you hurt something?"
He didn't respond.
"Take my hand, I'll help you up," I said.
He whispered, "I can't."
I looked around as if someone could help us, but we were alone. I considered calling an ambulance.
"Why can't you get up?" I asked again.
His hand moved in mine - very slightly.
"I can't make a fist yet," he said.
Several minutes passed. Finally, he gained enough strength to sit up and I helped him onto the couch. Within 20 minutes, he was back to normal.

My soon-to-be-fiance was embarrassed and couldn't really explain what had happened to him. He told me that any strong emotion - anger, laughter, fear, even excitement - could cause him to "feel weak" and sometimes even collapse.

Baffled, I told him that he probably just needed a multivitamin.

Years later, after his narcolepsy/cataplexy diagnosis, I apologized to my husband for yelling at him the day he almost dropped the baby. I know that accidents happen and I also know how much he adores our daughter and would never intentionally put her in danger. He gracefully accepted my apology, but then I told him that I had a confession:

Once when I was changing her diaper, she fell off the changing table.

I swear I don't know what happened! One minute she was on the changing table, preparing for a new diaper, and the next minute she was on the floor, staring up at me with a really surprised look on her face. That's not the best way to discover that your baby has learned to roll over, but it happens. I was frantic but she was totally fine. You know, my husband didn't even get angry - didn't call me a hypocrite... he didn't miss a beat when he said,

"Good thing we had carpeting."


  1. My cataplexy is only recently getting worse, but it used to just be loss of muscle control in my arms when I laughed too hard. My daughter, also with N/C has severe cataplexy. She requires a wheelchair when she comes to, for several hours because her legs remain too weak. One day I was carrying her from the bottom of the stairs to the van to get her to school. She had just had an attack, and was unable to walk to the van. She made some kind of joke while I was carrying her and I barely made it to the van before I dropped her on the cement. She thought it was HILARIOUS! She kept trying to make me laugh when I'd carry her, but I have since learned to block that emotion out when I carry her. Don't ask me why a teenager would want to be dropped on their noggin!

  2. Oh wow Jaalsey! That's pretty scary... cataplexy looks funny sometimes, doesn't it?
    Thanks for your comment!