I’m writing this post to share our experience with a febrile seizure with our 18 month old. It was
scary terrifying. We were well taken-care-of through the process, if a little traumatized. Like most people, I didn’t even know what a febrile seizure was prior to this and this experience has made me better understand the thing itself as well as appreciate the support systems I have.
We were on the road, traveling the 8 hours from NC to PA. It was going great. We had the iPad hooked up with this little contraption (HIGHLY recommend, btw), Margo was watching some ripped Elmo DVDs. We stopped for dinner, she ran around, ate a respectable dinner and we got her jammies on, hoping she’d sleep most of the rest of the way. I sat in the back with her, just in case that process didn’t go as planned, and also (secretly) because I wanted to read Bossypants (I also recommend this, btw). She was a perfect angel, fell asleep promptly at 7 and woke briefly at 8:15 but was quiet and happy. At one point, she let out a little giggle – like “I’m so silly! – and turned her head to stare out the window. We thought it was adorable.
Then… bam. I looked over and she was convulsing. She was quietly shaking, wouldn’t focus on me or anything, wouldn’t stop or be comforted. My first thought was she was choking on something so I shoved my finger in her mouth. Scott somehow pulled over amid 4 lanes of intense 95N traffic in DC area. We called 911, frantically. (Sidenote – I’m jealous of you if your last name is “Smith” or “Fox.” I had to spell McQuiggan while my kid was having a seizure.) After we got past that, the 911 operator was helpful, told us the right things to do and the ambulance was there in 5 min. It was all a little amazing, and I’m thankful these services exist and are functional.
The seizing stopped after maybe 45 seconds, before the ambulance arrived. She was scary after that too, unresponsive and limp when we picked her up out of her carseat. Oh, and also BURNING hot. So, that was news to us. You’ll remember she was fine at dinner an hour and a half before. The medics stabilized her, and she and I took our first ambulance ride to the hospital. Somehow Scott found us (they gave him iffy directions and he had to somehow deduce where we were, you know, in whatever town we were in. Major UNTHANKS to the pharmacy who didn’t know where the nearest hospital was. That happened.) It was hard on us ALL not to be together through this. I felt bad for Scott stuck driving in *wherever we were* and I was also all alone in an ambulance. If you’re going to go through a traumatic emergency, I think you should be able to be together.
So, the diagnosis was that It was a febrile seizure, which kind of sounds worse than it is, I guess. It also looks worse than it is. They explained it to us as the body’s way of cooling down a high body temperature. They can occur when the body spikes a high temp, which would jive with the whole “she was fine an hour ago” part of our experience. Her temp in the ambulance was 102.8, and they said a febrile seizure can cool your body temp up to a whole degree. It’s a totally benign seizure, not causing any permanent damage or putting her at risk for more seizures or other diseases.
So, what did we learn?
- If you’re experiencing a febrile seizure, take off the child’s clothes, lay her on her left side where she can’t hurt herself and monitor her. You can’t stop it. (This is what’s amazing to me: I never said the words febrile seizure, but the 911 lady somehow knew the exact things to tell us. Great Work.)
- If you’re going to call an ambulance from the side of the highway, get off at an exit. We didn’t, and looking back I’m not sure how we could have possibly gone the .2 miles to get to the exit, because it seemed *that* serious and life/death at the time.
- If you’re going to drive behind an ambulance (not being able to, you know, turn on a siren to run red lights and stuff), get a street address for the location they’re taking your most valued family members.
- Think about who you’d want by your side in a traumatic event, and then marry that person. (My husband rocks.)