Disease & Illness

This Woman Helped A Total Stranger Through A Seizure And Shared The Story On Twitter

Wow. What a moving story.

Meet Erynn Brook.

She’s a writer who lives in Toronto with her husband and their two cats. She’s racked up a massive fan base on Twitter, where more than 34,000 people follow her. Brook runs a blog where she normally writes about feminism and culture. She seems to have a firm grasp on those topics — but she recently found herself in a situation that was a little outside of her comfort zone.

Just An Ordinary Day

On April 3, 2019, Brook was riding the subway home after work, like millions of people do every day, when the train reached her stop. This was at about 10 p.m., according to the lengthy Twitter thread Brook wrote about this memorable night the next day. She said that as she was getting ready to stand for her coming stop, another passenger approached her and started talking.

Zoning Out On Her Commute Home

Like many of us after a day of work, Brook said she was in her own bubble on the mostly empty subway car and was listening to something in her earbuds, which she removed when the passenger approached her. It was a young woman whose lips were barely moving when she asked Brook, “Are you getting off soon?” Brook said she was before she noticed a laminated piece of paper the woman was holding toward her.

A Stranger’s Request

It turned out this sheet was very important to this woman’s everyday life. At the top, it read, “My seizure plan.” When Brook read this, she looked at the woman, a complete stranger only moments earlier, and asked, “Are you having a seizure now?” The woman said, “No, but I’m about to.” She then asked Brook if she’d sit with her until her they reached her stop.

Waiting For The Seizure To Hit

As they both waited for the seizure that was about to come, the woman, who Brook never named in her story, said she was three stops away. Despite being on the verge of a medical episode that would frighten many of us, the woman seemed to be more worried about inconveniencing Brook than about her own safety. Brook asked her what she would do if she got off the train before her, to which the woman said she’d “ask someone else,” pointing out another woman on the train who looked “nice.” But they didn’t have time to talk more right then.

Staying The Course

Just then, the woman went into a seizure as Brook sat next to her. What the writer said stuck out most in her mind about the whole incident was how prepared and composed the woman was. She’d already moved her purse out of the way in preparation of the coming seizure and had folded her scarf over in a way that it would cushion her head as her body went through it. As the woman had her seizure, Brook read over the laminated sheet and learned that this person she’d just met was only 18 years old.

A 3-Minute Seizure

The seizure lasted for three whole minutes, as Brook was timing it on her phone. During that time, her own stop came and went, with Brook deciding she was going to ride this scary moment out with her new acquaintance and stay with her until she got home safely. The laminated “seizure plan,” which Brook described as an “anchor,” was filled with information about how long the woman’s seizures usually last, what to do for her and what to avoid doing for her when she was having one.

Another Seizure Hits

When the woman came out of the seizure, Brook told her she was going to help her get home. She comforts her by saying that she’ll stick with her even if they miss the woman’s stop and have to loop around again to make it back. The woman thanked her and they made small talk. The woman was wearing a monitoring device on her finger and when Brook was asking how it worked, she started having another seizure.

Life With Daily Seizures

As the woman again was having a seizure, Brook said she sat next to her and read the sheet she’d given her at the beginning. She learned the woman typically has anywhere from one to four seizures every day and that each episode can last for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. That moment gave Brook, a person who has written about her own bouts with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a serious pause. She realized this teenager is rendered completely vulnerable multiple times every day with little warning ahead of time.

Keeping This ‘Stranger’ Safe

After the woman came out of this seizure, the train reached her stop. Brook asked if she wanted to try to get off the train or stay seated, to which the woman said, “I’m just so tired. I want to go home.” Brook helped her get off the train and the two of them sat down at the station before going any farther. The woman warned her new friend, “If it gets real bad, I may have to lie down on the floor.” Then, while seated with her scarf again folded behind her head, she went into another seizure as Brook stood and tried to make sure she didn’t fall.

Getting Her Home Safely

Determined not to leave this 18-year-old woman all alone on a subway platform in the dark of night, Brook again assured the woman she’d help her get home. The woman was once again worried about further inconveniencing Brook, but told her she lived just outside the subway station, which meant they simply had to climb some stairs and they were close. As they walked up the stairs together, the woman told Brook she’d had two of these long episodes the previous day, while, thankfully, this was only her first of today.

Lights And Loud Noises Can Trigger Seizures

The slow walk up the stairs was a little tense, as the women watched the seizure monitor while climbing up toward the exit. Apparently, loud noises are a common trigger for the woman’s seizures, so she was forced to cover her ears as a train passed. The fluorescent lights at the subway platform could also trigger a seizure, the woman warned, but they eventually made it up the stairs and onto the street where she lived.

Arriving Home Safely

From there, Brook walked this woman, whom she’d never met until just minutes earlier, to the building where she lived. She held the door for her and the woman thanked her for being with her and helping her make it home. The pair of women waved goodbye to each other and Brook watched through a window as she slowly walked to the elevator. She noticed the scarf, which had been so important to the woman’s safety during that scary incident, was now being worn like it was always meant to be.

How Does This Young Woman Do It Alone?

Brook said as she thought later about this harrowing commute, she kept going back to the woman’s scarf.

“That’s the image I see,” Brook wrote in her Twitter thread. “How it was pre-folded before she even asked for help.” The writer said she was stunned by how this young woman didn’t really need any help at all and that she felt she didn’t actually help her much. “My job was to make sure that no one interrupted her getting to her door,” Brook wrote of her role that night.

Why She Didn’t Call 911

Brook wrote about how she initially thought about calling 911 when the woman first went into a seizure but realized later that it would’ve only caused her more trouble.

“This girl who’s just trying to go home because this is her daily life, would’ve been burdened with loud noises and fluorescent lights and maybe an ambulance trip further from her destination,” Brook wrote. She said she would’ve likely called for emergency services if the woman hadn’t given her the laminated sheet before it all happened.

Considering The Possible Dangers This Young Woman Faces

Injecting some much-needed humor into what was an intense story to read on social media, Brook revealed a fact about that woman’s life that really puts her battle in perspective.

“This girl has seizures more reliably than I eat breakfast,” she wrote. “And she’s just out there living her life as best as she can.” She said it really bothered her how vulnerable this woman is left to the harsh world around her every single day, despite clearly always being well prepared.

‘We Built A World For Convenience, Not Community’

As Brook further reflected on her night with this tough woman, she realized how sad it was that she seemed more worried about inconveniencing another passenger on the train than about her own safety. And how the world around us, while full of tools that make life more convenient, does not make for a tight sense of community. “We built a world where I could hit an emergency alarm button and walk off at my stop, feeling like I just saved this girl’s life, who didn’t need saving, without losing a minute of my day, if I wanted to,” Brook wrote in one of the thread’s most-liked posts.

‘Build Something Better, Folks’

Brook went on to write that she finds it sad that people don’t want to help others if it gets in the way of their lives too much. She said if she had sat with the woman until her own stop before leaving the train, as the woman had initially asked, Brook would have been doing “the bare minimum,” which she said was “not good enough.” She urged her readers to “[b]uild a better world.”

Shining A Light On Life With A Disability

The writer clarified that she didn’t write the thread to make herself sound like a good person or to simply point out how brave the woman she’d helped was. She said the lessons to be taken from her story are a bit deeper.

“It’s a story about human needs, through the lens of disability,” Brook wrote. “And how accessibility is not the same as acceptance or community care.”

The Story Went Viral

Clearly this story hit people hard. The entire thread, which Brook continued to add to for more than a week, went viral. It’s been retweeted more than 23,000 times and the initial tweet that started it has been liked more than 61,000 times, with each individual tweet in the thread also getting about 6,000 likes each. Brook wrote more about that night on her blog in a post titled, “The Girl on the Train.” She said she hasn’t been contacted by the woman since the story went viral. In the end, she urged readers to “listen to disabled folks and do better.”