Roger Gordonís Story

Seized by Fear


By Patty Gordon, Rogerís mother


Roger Gordon


"What is that sound?" I wondered as I awakened.  I could hear strange sounds coming from our oldest son Rogerís bedroom.  Nudging my sleeping husband, alarm rising within me, I cried, "Elmer, go check on Roger!'  I was right behind him, and when he opened the door, what we saw made my heart race. Roger was lying on the floor in the fetal position wrapped in his blanket. His frothing mouth was bluish and the guttural sounds he was making reminded me of what I thought someone would make if they were hanging from a rope.  I was so scared.  I was sure he was dying. Racing to the telephone in our bedroom, I nervously punched 411, the emergency number at that time.  The operator responded immediately and asked a few questions.   "My son is having some kind of seizure",  I yelled into the phone.  An ambulance was soon on its way to our home. We watched helplessly as Roger convulsed, as we didnít know what to do.


Earlier that evening my neighbor Anne Schneider and I had gone to Denneyís for a cup of coffee, and I had jokingly threatened to call her if the coffee kept me awake.  At that time, Anne was a nursing student at Tulsa University, so I actually did call her, thinking she could help.  The ambulance arrived and the attendants rushed into Rogerís small bedroom.  My friend Anne had also arrived, our younger son Brent had awakened, and we were all in that small bedroom.  When Roger regained consciousness, he had a puzzled look on his face as he looked around his crowded room.  When the emergency squad felt that their services were no longer needed, they left.    Anne cleaned up some while Elmer, Brent, and I took Roger to the hospital where he was given a small supply of Phenobarbital. The next day, Roger was admitted to St. Johnís Hospital for tests; his doctor wanted to make sure there was no brain tumor. Roger later joked with friends, "They did a brain scan, but they didnít find anything." The doctorís diagnosis was epilepsy.


We learned that we had done the right thing during his seizure because once a seizure starts, there is nothing that will stop it.  It has to run its course.   All one can do is keep an epileptic person from hurting himself. About all we knew to do was keep him from banging his head on his furniture.  And we did that. Roger apparently dealt with the doctorís diagnosis better than I did initially.  He talked openly about the seizure and his medication with his friends.  When a well-meaning friend called me one day and asked, "Kid, does Roger have epilepsy?" I lied.  My mind was still being battered by the impact of the diagnosis.  I remembered how a schoolmateís seizure after a basketball game and how she had thrashed all over a dressing room while we just stood and gawked.  I just wanted my son to be normal and be treated normally.


That fall, Roger entered his twelfth year of school; he was a senior.  At night, I was a nervous wreck; the least sound disturbed my sleep.  Roger enjoyed golf and kept his clubs in his bedroom.  One night, we heard a thud from his room, and I begged Elmer to please go check on Roger.  When he opened the door, He found Roger just fineóbut he had been practicing his putting and somehow had knocked a mirror off the wall.  "Roger, get to bed so your mother can get some rest!" his father demanded. Then on Christmas Eve, Roger had a second grand mal seizure.  We were scared  but didnít panic, and we put him back in bed as soon as we could and reminded him of the importance of taking his medication. We didnít enjoy it, but we were slowly learning to deal with this new phase in Rogerís life.


In the spring of 1980, Roger graduated from high school.  He was offered a partial scholarship to OCU but chose to attend Rogers State College at Claremore on a golf scholarship.  After Rogers State, Roger transferred to Oklahoma University, majoring in finance.  A few hours shy of a degree, he moved back to Tulsa.  He worked at various golf shops in Tulsa and when Forest Ridge Golf Club opened October 1, 1989, he went to work there as a golf professional.  He finished his work on a bachelorís degree, and it arrived in the mail the day before his 30th birthday.  As a combination birthday and graduation gift, Rogerís dad and I gave him $5,000, which he used to buy a home in Broken Arrow.


Life seemed to be going well enough.  I was working at my career, and Roger worked long hours at the golf course.  We didnít realize it, but he was having several petit mal (light) seizures daily.  He had been at Forest Ridge for eight years, but one day they told him they wouldnít need him anymore.  His friend Wayne Morris suggested he apply for a job at the Tulsa Auto Collection where he worked.  Roger was hired as a salesman, and he held down this job  for over a year.  One day when he showed up for work, he learned that they wouldnít need him anymore either.  Roger was convinced that the seizures cost him both jobs.  The medicine just wasnít working anymore:  Phenobarbital, Dilantin, and Tegritol, just to name a few.


Roger learned through a doctor friend, Steve Mareburger, that he might be eligible for a temporal lobectomy.  Rogerís health insurance was to expire on February 28, so everyone worked to expedite the process.  Roger went to Oklahoma City where Dr. K. J. Oommen, the medical director of OU Medical Centerís epilepsy department, ran a series of tests and found Roger to be a good candidate for the rare surgery.  Roger spent several days ďwired up,Ē so his seizures could be documented.  Most of his seizures seemed to originate in the right temporal lobe, so he decided to have the surgery.


I took Roger to Oklahoma City on Sunday, so we would be near the center the next morning.  He spent Monday undergoing psychological testing and his surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, 2001.  Monday and Tuesday had been beautiful, but Wednesday a snowstorm arrived, and the streets were icy and dangerous.  Roger had checked into Presbyterian Hospital the evening before, and we were staying at a nearby hotel. The surgery took about four hours. 


Afterwards, Dr. Francel, Oklahomaís expert on this type of surgery, spoke with us.  He believed scar tissue in the area he excised was largely to blame for Rogerís seizures. With a shaved and bound head, Roger was released to our care on Saturday, just three days later.  The streets were clear by then, so we made it back to Tulsa safely. He even went to church on Sunday, possibly to show off his ďtrophy,Ē his shaved and stitched-up head. It has been over 3 Ĺ years since the temporal lobectomy, and Roger is glad he decided to have the surgery.  The surgeons had told him that success could come in one of two ways.  He might be seizure free without medicine, or he might be seizure free with medicine.  Although he isnít seizure free, Rogerís seizures are mild and usually infrequent. 


Roger is a person of faith, and his faith in God has been strengthened by the ordeal.  He had prayed for a miracle, and he feels that the miracle came through the hands of his surgeon, Dr. Paul Francel.   Story written April 23, 2002.


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