A little over a week ago we had a scare in our house. And I guess when I say “scare” I really mean “the scariest f-ing 7 minutes of both me and the husbands lives.”
It was a lazy Sunday around our house. We had talked about venturing out but realized mid morning that C had been running a fever of 100. Nothing too terrible and other than a low appetite he was acting like himself. We decided that given his fever, it best we stay home and just let our Sunday unfold in our living room. Late afternoon C was acting like maybe he needed a second nap. Normally he only has one a day but given that he was still running a fever I figured it best to let him sleep when he wanted. It was almost 6pm and C was still asleep. The husband decided to go wake him up so he could have some dinner and some alert time before his nap blended into his bedtime. We took his temperature and it was a blazing 103. I’ve always been a bit stingy with fever reducers following the logic that a fever is a sign our bodies are doing their job. Usually I only bring it out if C is visibly uncomfortable, not acting like himself, or if he has been running a high fever for a while. My plan at this point was to give him some juice and some grapes, let him “air out” post nap and then follow up with a lukewarm bath. If his fever was still high, then bring out the fever reducer. As it turns out, we never got that far.
C and the husband were sitting on the couch together watching some kids videos on YouTube while C ate some grapes. C was acting completely normal at this point, enjoying his video time with dad and showing the most appetite he had all day. I left the living room to cut some more grapes in the kitchen and almost immediately I hear the husband shouting C’s name. There is clear panic in his voice. At this point it all becomes a blur. What I can remember is that my husband was standing now and holding C and C was clearly unconscious. We both tried to get some response from him but he was the definition of “unresponsive.” I remember the hubs saying something about maybe C was choking. I think really he was asking me if he was choking. He told me that C had started shaking and he thought he was cold. He looked down at him as he went to tuck a blanket around him and saw that his eyes had rolled back. Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered reading about seizures in children being triggered by fever. And while I also remembered that they were not supposed to be a huge concern, immediately all I could think was that we had to get him to the ER immediately. C was no longer shaking but he still was not conscious. We were both clearly in a state of panic. And the panic continued to grow by each long second. C stayed non responsive for a solid 7 minutes. Long enough for us to discuss what was happening and decide to go to the ER. Long enough for us to decide how we were going to get to the hospital (I ended up driving while the husband held C). Long enough for me to realize we were about to leave the house without a cellphone and run back in to grab the husbands. Long enough to get almost all the way to the hospital (3.3 miles and an 8 minute drive according to GoogleMaps) before C made a sound. In those 7 minutes, I remember asking the husband over and over again, “is he breathing?” Every horrible thought and feeling came over me during that 7 minutes. I remember feeling a huge rush of relief when C finally made a little cry because it was the first time we were able to be sure that he was in fact breathing, it had been so quiet and shallow before that.
When we arrived at the ER we were both a little stressed to find that the waiting room was packed. A few looked like true emergency situations but there were also a fair share of people who clearly were not in any sense experiencing an emergency – like the cranky old man who’s arm had been hurting for a few days and had decided that Sunday evening sounded like a good time to hit the ER (FYI – he was sent home with a stabilizing brace and instructions to follow up with his normal doctor the next day). I had some serious mama rage at this point but I knew that it wouldn’t help us get him seen any sooner. As we waited to see a triage nurse, C started to come around a little more but he was still in a daze. The first thing we did was pick half a grape out of his mouth. During the seizure his mouth had locked and we couldn’t tell if he still had food in it. Turns out he did. Which thank god, he did not choke on. Our normally energetic and curious boy was a shell of himself. He kept his head down on the husbands shoulder, pools of drool leaking out of his mouth. His eyes looked around but he never picked his head up. He looked confused. He looked like he was maybe in a state of shock. Occasionally he let out a cry. I was doing my best to keep from doing the same.
I’ll speed the story up a bit here. We spent about 4 1/2 hours in the ER that day. During that time C vomited all over himself and the husband (resulting in each of them getting a new outfit to wear courtesy of the hospital staff). He was given some fever reducers and anti nausea meds and after some pedialyte he was given a catheter so a urine sample could be cultured to ensure there was no underlying infection which caused the seizure. Otherwise he was simply observed. After about hour 3 he started to act like himself. The husband even got him to laugh. Music to my ears.
The verdict: My first instinct was correct. C suffered from a febrile seizure brought on by his fever rising too quickly. Some 2-4% of children are said to experience febrile seizures. As long as the seizure is preceded by a fever, there is only one seizure per illness, and the child is under 6 years of age, this is considered *NORMAL.* Yes – a seizing child is “normal.” We were sent home with instructions to watch him closely and bring him back if he seized again, started vomiting, or started to act “off” and follow up with our pediatrician in the morning. You can imagine how much sleep I got that night. Despite the fact that febrile seizures do not cause long term effects and are not an underlying cause of something bigger and badder – both the pediatric doctor in the ER and our pediatrician agree that they are terrifying to watch.
C is at risk of more seizures if he has a rising temperature. Moving forward we will be doling out the fever reducers at the slightest sign of a true fever to try to prevent another seizure.
C has *always* been my special child when it comes to odds. During my pregnancy with C, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (with zero risk factors). GD affects about 18% of pregnant women (although until recently it was thought to be 2-4%). Shortly there after my OB realized that I had low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios). This affects about 4% of pregnancies. Because of these conditions I was being very closely monitored with C – and not long after he was diagnosed as IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), meaning that he was not growing correctly, indicating that he was not recieving the amount of nourishment one would expect. This affects roughly 3% of pregnancies. See where I am going with this? After birth C had to spend some time in the NICU (as does 10-15% of US born babies). After being discharged he immediately developed thrush (2-4% of babies develop thrush) which we battled for close to 2 months. Along with the thrush, C developed sever acid reflux. I’m not talking spit up here. Spitting up is common in infants and to some degree so is a low level of reflux. But I’m talking Linda Blair in the exorcist after EVERY SINGLE MEAL type of reflux. My poor little guy would eat and eat and eat, only to lose 90% of what he ate within 10 minutes of finishing his meal. Which resulted in weight checks. Lots of weight checks. And medication. And falling off the charts. My little guy was wearing a 6-9 month onesie at a weight check at 13.5 months where he weighed in at the 4th percentile (up from the 2nd!) and measured in the 1st for height. And lets not forget the hemangiomas my son has on his head and shoulder. Hemangiomas are a birthmark of sorts that affect about 2 percent of babies. C was lucky in that his were small but because he had more than 1 (only 20% of children with hemangiomas have more than 1) and because of their placement, we had a CT scan done at 6 months to ensure he didn’t also have internal hemangiomas. And we can’t forget that he is now one of the roughly 4% of people who are carriers of a CF mutation. Now lets add on febrile seizures to the list. He’s had a busy 22 months of life.
At almost 36 weeks pregnant, I can only hope that this little one beats our family odds. C likes to live in the 4% realm. It has become a running joke in my family that if the odds are in the 4% family, then C will hit them! I’m really hoping this kid decided to be a little less of an individual. I don’t know if I can handle another one like C!