A Scary Moment

Babies don’t come with instructions and for the most part a Mother’s Intuition is the best instruction manual that was never written. But when something happens out of the blue to your little one and you’re helpless to fix the situation, its the most terrifying thing.  This was my Sunday night.

Little Man came down with a fever late Saturday night (around 11:30pm) so I took his temp and gave him some Tylenol. He drank a bottle and some water and went to sleep in my arms. He wasn’t coughing or congested, no runny nose or other symptom, so I figured it was a teething fever. I had to leave at 5:30am the next morning to go to San Diego for the day and my dad was home to watch Little Man. Of course, I called every few hours to check in. All seemed well, Grandpa told me they slept in a little, he ate normally throughout the day and had wet/poopy diapers. He took an extra long nap and he was still warm, so he gave him Tylenol. He played, was happy and overall he was mostly his normal rowdy self, just a little slower. Grammy joined them later in the afternoon as well and she cuddled him and napped with him and all seemed fine. I got home a little before 9:00pm (the longest I’ve ever been away from him), he was cuddled on the couch with Grammy and was of course happy to see me.

I picked him up and noticed his cheeks were pink and that his head was HOT. So I got him some water and immediately gave him some Tylenol. I put my purse away, took off my shoes, used the restroom, went back to the Little Man to take him to his room for a diaper change and to take his temperature. As I was holding him, about to walk to his room, he threw his head back and went stiff. He started to shake, arms up, fists clenched, eyes rolled back, breathing ragged. He was having a seizure. I froze in terror for a few seconds and as soon as my brain processed what was happening, I called for my mom to get her phone to dial 911. Everything went fast and slow at the same time. I held him for a few more seconds, then set him on the floor, talking to him calmly, ear on his chest watching and listening for breathing, heart beating. His tongue was limp in his mouth, but he wasn’t choking on it. His breathing was rapid and staggered, his heart racing. The ambulance was on their way. I made my dad go to the street to help them find the apartment and to give him something to do. The 911 Operator was on speaker and I was telling her what was going on. I had my mom lock my dog in my bedroom. I kept talking to him and singing his favorite songs, trying to stay calm.  After a lifetime, the seizing slowed down and eventually stopped. He was dazed, almost non responsive to my voice, he was breathing and it was slowing down back to normal. The 911 Operator told me he was going to be disoriented, so my immediate panic subsided. He slowly started to come out of it and was able to follow my face with his eyes. I felt immediate relief, as if I had been holding my breath but didn’t realize it. I heard the sirens and then, the paramedics were in my living room and took over and we hung up with 911.

I don’t know exactly how long the seizure lasted, but the 911 call was 7 minutes long. The longest, most terrifying 7 minutes of my life.

We took the short ambulance ride to the ER, arrived around 9:40 where the nurses and the ER doctor, Dr Grey were waiting for us. Little Man was awake now, responding normally, pretty pissed off at the poking and prodding.He had a temperature of 102.3 (so it must have been higher at home).  He was given ibuprofen and a nose swab was taken to test for influenza. That was ruled out, so he was given a catheter to test for a UTI, also negative. My poor baby. Were were in the ER for 3 hours. And the answer was: a virus. Its a bad cold and flu season, so whatever he picked up on Saturday hit fast and hard without any other symptoms. Didn’t I feel like the worst mom on the planet. Leaving my sick baby for 14 hours not knowing he was a sick as he was. I’m just glad I was home when it happened (although it never happening would have been preferred).

The seizure is called a Febrile Seizure. It’s caused by a rapid spike in temperature. Apparently, it’s not caused by the high temperature only, but how fast the temperature rises. Dr. Gray told me it sounded like a classic grand mal febrile seizure, and its not the same kind of seizure that is typically related to epilepsy and the risk of developing it is slim. He said the best way to prevent future seizures is to control the fever so there are not dramatic spikes in temperature. The aggressive way to do this at home is with a combination of alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen: so give Tylenol,  2-3 hours later five Ibuprofen, and continue the alternating. I had no idea you could give a child (or anyone) both of them together, so its a good thing to know! Needless to say, I am now stocked up on both of these items and 2 kinds of thermometers.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if he’ll have another one. He could have another tomorrow or in 5 years, or never again. It’s unpredictable. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, and more than one-third of these children will have additional febrile seizures before they outgrow the tendency to have them. Febrile seizures usually occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and are particularly common in toddlers. Children rarely develop their first febrile seizure before the age of 6 months or after 3 years of age. The older a child is when the first febrile seizure occurs, the less likely that child is to have more.”

I’m not a doctor, so I cannot give medical advice. But I can share what I learned from this terrifying experience in hopes that other parents will be aware of what they are and how to avoid them. To learn more about what to do if it happens to you, talk to your doctor. I also found the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website to be helpful… as was calls and messages from other mom’s who have experienced it.



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