Guest blogger & Autism Super hero sibling: Culzean Giammatteo
After the school year came to a close in the summer of 2013, I spent most of my time indoors, on whatever electronic device I had access to, reading. On this particular evening I was reading like I normally do and my brother, Vico, was next door playing his cheesy music at an unbearable volume. I was internally debating if the issue was important enough for me to get up and rifle through my things for some headphones. I absolutely despised the song that happened to be playing at that moment, because it was such an earworm that it would bother me for weeks on end.
My name is Mike and tonight I’m your robo emcee. Yeah that’s me!
And there went the chorus again. This was about the fifth time I had heard this song that day and I was beyond sick of it. I was had decided to get up and ask Vico politely to turn the music down which would result in him yelling at me to get out of his room and I would have to find my headphones anyway. That’s when I heard the crash.
It sounded loud as though several heavy things hit the ground at once. It was followed by more rustling and banging around. My heart rate escalated and I jumped out of bed, running immediately to his closed door. Vico had a history of seizures, but he hadn’t had one in years.
Just pick a song from the list and prepare the CD. Oh I got it!
I knock at his door loudly, asking nervously from behind the wooden entryway, “Vico?”
Yeah, and Mike’s on mics and you know that he’s doing the deed.
There came no answer, just more rustling and a few unintelligible moans. I knew I should open the door and get him into the rescue position, but I was frozen in fear. I had never seen Vico having a seizure before. When he’d had them before, I was young and my parents kept me away from him. I had no idea how I’d react to it. What if I panicked?
‘Cause nothing’s got a party going high like a little karaoke ‘doke. Oh!
I ran down the hall and into the den where my parents were watching TV. I stopped right in front of the screen, the word, “Help,” at the tip of my tongue. My mom hastily paused the show they were watching and looked a bit irritated at my unexplained presence right in front of the TV.
“What?” She asked.
“I think Vico is having a seizure,” I finally spit out.
The slight annoyance on her face quickly turned to horror as her and Dad bolted back up the hallway. I didn’t follow. I shut the dog in the den and slowly walked back to Vico’s room, stopping just around the corner so I couldn’t see what was happening. I wasn’t supposed to, right?
My name is Mike, come on! Let’s robokaraoke.
After a couple moments of this my dad realized I was standing out there and ushers me into the room. I stared, wide eyed, at the sight of my brother, three years my senior, twitching and moaning on the floor. He had a gash on his eyebrow, presumably from when he fell, that was bleeding.
Don’t you want a, don’t you want-
I shut off the music, not able to stand such a cheerful tune. Then there was nothing to do, but wait. The seizure broke in under two minutes, but it felt a lot longer to me. Mom and dad coaxed Vico, who was slurring and bleary eyed, into bed and I ran to grab a wet washcloth for his eyebrow. I needed to be useful.
After it was all over, Vico was safe in bed and dad was keeping him company, I sat on my own bed, leaning against my mother. I was mostly silent, internally berating myself for not just opening the door. In the middle of my self-shaming, my mom put her hand on my knee and thanked me for coming to get her. It wasn’t until later, when Vico’s black eye and cut were healed, and I found an article she wrote about the incident for her non profit assisting parents of children with autism, that I was able to accept that I did everything I could have done for Vico.
Editors Note: We are so grateful for siblings like Culzean. She and many like her will drive positive change for those living with autism. Our future is bright because of them. Thank you Culzean for your insight and love.
Great Article!!! My daughter is one year younger than her brother who had visible seizures as a kid. She would sit beside him when he was having one while I, her mother, pretty much went into a total panic. She always seemed to know to stay calm for him and talk to him softly. Now that he is in his teens, she is always there for him – though gets a little frustrated with him (and his music too!). But sister’s like you both are still the most amazing kinds of people I have ever known. You just know what to do at all the right times. And though having a special needs sibling isn’t that easy – I know you both (and all the other siblings) have a greater knowledge of human compassion and understanding. We are all learning from you! Thank you Culzean for opening yourself up and writing about a difficult time. I will have my daughter read it too so she will understand there are other young women just like her.
Nicely written! We have had a similar experience in our family…seizures are dreadful! Great you alerted your parent at the right time! Bless!