Seizure caused crash into Sobeys, says Fredericton man who survived harrowing experience
A Fredericton-area family is opening up about the medical disorder they say was behind a spectacular car crash last weekend.
Scott and Erica Henderson of Rusagonis say that contrary to the speculation on social media, it was not a heart attack but a seizure that led their vehicle to cross four lanes of traffic on Prospect Street and crash into a Sobeys.
It had been a regular Saturday morning until the crash, said Scott Henderson. He'd just left Home Depot, where he drives a forklift on the night shift, and picked up something to eat with the medication he takes to prevent seizures.
"I just remember grabbing my food from McDonald's and leaving … and waking up in the hospital," he said.
What he doesn't remember is that his vehicle went straight across a major thoroughfare, over the curb, sidewalk and across a parking lot and crashed just to the left of the Sobeys customer entrance.
Scott was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Erica Henderson, who runs a weekend birthday party business at the couple's educational farm in Rusagonis, said she'd been starting to wonder why her husband was late getting home and sent several unanswered texts before she got word from the hospital there had been an accident.
Scott was alert and waiting for a CT scan. She visited with him, spoke with a police officer and left to get clothing and food and check out the accident scene.
"You could see his dirt tracks through the parking lot. You could see where his car smashed."
Their Kia Soul, a small crossover vehicle, hit a protective yellow bollard in front of the store, knocking it over and then collided with stacks of bagged topsoil.
"That's what luckily stopped him," said Erica. "No one can believe that he didn't hit the light posts or hit anyone or anything," on the way across the parking lot.
WATCH | Scott and Erica Henderson describe a crash that could easily have had tragic results:
Scott said he feels lucky that he didn't hurt anyone else and that he survived. His family feels that way, too. The Henderson's have eight children, seven still living at home. The youngest just turned six.
He's trying not to stress about the incident because that's one of the triggers that can bring on his seizures.
It knocks the crap out of you ... But today is better than yesterday. - Scott Henderson
This was the first seizure he'd had in five years and came as "a total shock," he said.
In the past, he was able to feel seizures coming on, said Erica, but this time there was no indication. He just saw his neurologist a few weeks ago and was doing everything properly to manage his condition, she said.
The couple said they decided to go public to reduce the stigma around seizures. For example, in the past, Scott's been told he should stay away from certain places to avoid scaring people.
"I can still function like a 'normal' person," he said.
Seizures are incredibly common, said Dr. Stephanie Woodroffe, a neurologist at the Halifax Infirmary. About one in 10 people will experience a seizure in their lifetime, sometimes after a traumatic brain injury or during an illness.
When someone has more than one "unprovoked" seizure over a period of more than a day, it's given the umbrella term epilepsy, she said, which affects 0.5 to 0.7 per cent of the population.
About two-thirds of people diagnosed with epilepsy can remain seizure-free, long term, once they're on an appropriate dose of medication, said the doctor.
It's not always easy to recognize a seizure, she said.
Most people are familiar with the type that causes a person to stiffen up and have very jerky movements, but sometimes a seizure can just be staring straight ahead or moving hands or other body parts in a way that seems involuntary, she said.
Woodroffe offered this advice if you come across someone having a seizure:
If they're driving, try to take the wheel and pull over.
Get the person into a safe position where there's nothing dangerous around them.
Time the length of the seizure if you can.
Call 911 if it goes on longer than three minutes or for support if needed.
"It's always scary when you have a situation like this," said Woodroffe, but "there's absolutely many people out there with epilepsy who are safely driving and have well controlled seizures."
National guidelines suggest not driving for at least six months after a seizure, but the rules vary by province.
CBC News was unable to confirm with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure by publication time whether a policy of an automatic one-year ban is still in place in New Brunswick.
In Nova Scotia, it's not mandatory for seizures to be reported to driving authorities, said Woodroffe, but doctors have to talk about it with their patients.
Driving bans can be especially hard on people who live in rural areas, she said.
The Hendersons don't know how long it will be before Scott can return to work or drive again, said Erica.
Meanwhile, the couple said they are grateful to the many people who have been offering them support.
One friend started an online fundraiser. Local businesses have donated gift cards. Neighbours and homeschool classmates have been bringing meals to the house.
"It's nice," said Erica.
"I'm just so exhausted and Scott can't be on his feet very long."
"It knocks the crap out of you," he said. "But today is better than yesterday. It's just one step in front of the other."