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Monday June 18, 2007 5:04 am

Alijah’s Trip to the ER (Or, What is a Febrile Seizure?)




Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Alijah, Personal

Alijah

On Friday afternoon, Monica and I got the scare of our lives. It all started when our son Alijah walked into my office after Monica asked me to check and see if he was warm. I felt his head, and let her know that he did, in fact, feel hot. Nothing abnormal about a three-year-old child having a fever. We would give him some Childrens Tylenol and things would be back to normal as usual we figured. A minute later, I am still in my office answering an email, and I hear a very loud “THUD.” I thought something huge fell from a high surface and I hear Alijah start crying, so I rushed into the living room to find Monica holding him. She said she walked into the room, where he was standing with one hand on the couch. She told him they were getting ready to leave, and he didn’t respond. It was as if he were looking through her instead of at her. Then he just fell straight backwards. The noise I heard was him hitting his head on the floor. That had to hurt. While Monica held him, I went upstairs to find the thermometer so that we could check his temperature - it was 101.7. High, but not horrible. The only oddity was that it came on so suddenly.

I then went to find him some Tylenol while Monica began to check on him. He wasn’t answering, but that isn’t completely abnormal for him, since when he gets hurt he tends to just want to be held, but left alone until he is ready to talk - but this was different. He wasn’t saying anything. He wasn’t looking at her. He was off in his own world. I came over and tried to talk to him, and his eyes didn’t even track towards my direction, which would be natural. He finally looked up, but not at me - instead he was staring at the top corner of the room, where the ceiling met the two walls. As Monica turned him back her direction, his head and eyes stayed fixed on that area of the room, and still, he was completely silent.

&tI immediately dialed 911, because we had no idea if him hitting his head caused some sort of immediate damage. I went to unlock and open the front door so that the requested paramedics could just come right in without having to wait for one of us to answer the door, and Monica began screaming that he was having a seizure. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I now had the job of remaining completely calm while on the phone with the 911 operator, because that would only make their job - which is to get help to our son - easier, all the while being completely panicked and frantic on the inside. I came back into the room to see what is probably the most horrific sight I have seen in my life. Monica was crying hysterically over Alijah, while his entire body was convulsing and his eyes rolling back and slowly shutting. I left the room immediately, because I had to get away from the situation to give the 911 operator more details about what was going on. Had I stayed, I am sure I would have started to become a bit hysterical myself. My wife had enough of that going on for the two of us.

The operator told me to go back and tell her to calm down. Right…a mother has her toddler in her arm, has no idea what is happening to him, and she has to be calm? I tried to tell her to be calm. The reason being that, despite the seizure, he still had an understanding of us and our emotions. If she spoke to him calmly instead of frantically, he would start feeling calm instead of frantic. Makes sense. I left the room again to continue the conversation, and wondering if I should just be in there with my son instead of leaving him. I just knew I wanted to do my part in making sure help arrived as quickly as possible.

Then Monica yelled to me that he was no longer breathing. I ran back in, and she said he was turning blue. I went to look myself, and sure enough, he was. So now I am thinking, did my son just die with me more worried about getting him some help in a quick manner instead of being by his side? It’s odd the way all these thoughts and emotions happen in an instant, and often make little sense. I started speaking in a bit more of a frantic tone to the operator, telling him that Alijah was no longer breathing and was turning blue. He asked if I was sure, and if so, we needed to start CPR. I told him we were sure. We were then instructed to lay him on a hard surface (we had him on the couch, laying in his side so that in case he vomited, he wouldn’t choke) to start. As soon as we got him on the hardwood floor, he started gasping for air. If you haven’t experienced this kind of thing with your own child, I have to tell you, I can’t imagine any greater fear or panic than seeing what you think might be your child’s last few breaths.

By this time, I started getting agitated with the operator. Looking back, it probably was about 7 minutes from the time I made the 911 call to the time the ambulance arrived, but it felt like I was on the phone for half an hour. Seeing Alijah go from fine (but feverish), to unresponsive, to twitching, to not breathing, to gasping for air - all in under 15 minutes - was more than anyone should have to bear.

The paramedics finally arrived, and I got off the phone…and I was just confused. I stood back and let the EMTs do what they needed to do to help Alijah, while feeling like I should be right in the middle of them helping him as well. I think that is just the mindset of a father. You feel like, above anyone else, you should be able to fix anything. After a few minutes, they determined that they needed to take Alijah to the hospital. The strapped him on to a board to make sure his head and neck were stabilized (since we told them he fell and hit his head), and told us that we could not ride with them. I figured they would say that, but thought that toddlers might be an exception. They told us to drive to the hospital normally and safely.

I had to drive, because Monica was in no shape to do so. Before we left, while they were preparing Alijah for the trip, I made a couple of phone calls to our Pastor and a friend asking for prayer, and for them to call others to get prayer support as well. Lastly, I left a message on Twitter for my friends on that service to see, also asking for prayer. We believe strongly in the power of prayer, and I wanted to be sure we got as much as possible for our little guy.

On the way to the hospital, we hit more obstacles than necessary, including traffic, insanely long waits for green lights, and even a train passing in front of us which meant all traffic had to stop to wait for it to pass. Ridiculous that there would be a train crossing on the way to a hospital, seriously. On the way, all I was thinking was that he had better not die on the way there, and if there was anything I could give him to save him, I needed to get there so that they could take it from me, whatever it was. Of course, this is all without us knowing what the heck just happened to our son.

When we finally arrived, they brought us into his room where he just looked completely out of it. They let us know if was due to the large amount of morphine he received on the way to the hospital…but it just felt odd for me to see him looking the same that he did when he was just staring through us right before his seizure. It looked like he had some sort of permanent damage done. I trusted what they told us, but his appearance was unnerving. He was still on the stationary board, where he would stay until he was able to get a CAT scan to ensure that there was no internal damage from his fall. He looked miserable, and finally began to look like he knew we were there. He was still zoned out, but he looked up at Monica and I, and his lip and chin started quivering and a tear fell from his eye as he lay there. He was frightened…he had no idea what was going on, why he was where he was with all these people, and why he was strapped into this contraption that stopped him from moving. We tried to comfort him as best we could.

He would stay in this state for hours, only saying “Ouch” and “No” when nurses tried to give him an IV line, and removed his IO line. Time passed quickly…before I knew it, it was 7:00 PM. Alijah, after napping on me for about 30 minutes, finally became “himself” again.

We were told that what he had was a febrile seizure. They are not harmful, and are fairly common among children that are Alijah’s age. Aside from the nurse with the absolutely horrible bedside manner - the one who told us about her son whose seizures started at 3-years old and haven’t gone away 13 years later - everyone made us feel that things were all fine…that seizures are scary to watch, but the kind Alijah had can almost be seen as run of the mill.

Would have been nice if someone would have warned us about this condition, since it is so common, earlier in Alijah’s life. That is neither here nor there though I guess. However, if you are a new parent, please know that if your child has a sudden change in body temperature - whether it is an increase or decrease - your child may experience a febrile seizure. They are horrible to experience, but everything we described - including the fact that Alijah stopped breathing and started turning blue - were all normal features. Here is the rundown, courtesy of Wikipedia:

...a simple febrile seizure - in which the seizure lasts less than 15 minutes, does not recur in the next 24 hours, and involves the entire body (classically a generalized tonic-clonic seizure). The complex febrile seizure is characterized by long duration, recurrence, or focus on only part of the body. The simple seizure represents the majority of cases and is considered to be less of a cause for concern than the complex. It is reassuring if the cause of seizure can indeed be determined to have been fever, as simple febrile seizures generally do not cause permanent brain injury; do not tend to recur frequently, as children tend to ‘out-grow’ them; and do not make the development of adult epilepsy significantly more likely (less than 3-5% which is similar to that of the general public).

So there you have it. We have Alijah back, as vibrant as ever, and I am so thankful that I was able to spend today - Fathers Day 2007 - with him cuddling up with me. A big thank you to everyone who offerred their prayers and support. We had our friends and some family there, all to see Alijah. We also got a lot of prayer and support from my friends in the blogosphere…here is just an example of the responses I got on Twitter asking for prayer for Alijah:

  • TeteSagehen @andruedwards: Just saw your updates about Alijah. You and family are in my prayers. Ping me if you need anything! about 23 hours ago from Facebook in reply to AndruEdwards

  • jmartenstein @AndruEdwards definitely thinking about you guys today; hope Alijah is getting better 09:31 AM June 16, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • INFECTEDPB503 @AndruEdwards couldn’t even imagine.. thoughts and prayers are with you and yours… 04:11 PM June 15, 2007 from txt in reply to AndruEdwards

  • JulieLeung @AndruEdwards - just looked at twitter and praying for you. 04:01 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • GamerAndy @AndruEdwards crap man, hope everything is ok 03:08 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • TrayD @AndruEdwards Man I hope things are alright. Like Mr Bewty I’m sending the positivity your way. 04:45 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • jromulo @AndruEdwards - My prayers are with Alijah and your family. 02:40 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • FalconGN @AndruEdwards, will keep Alijah in mind…I hope all is well 05:34 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • BrandonLive @andruedwards, oh my god! Am praying for him, please tell us he’s okay. 02:28 PM June 15, 2007 from web in reply to AndruEdwards

  • knight777 @AndruEdwards You got it man. 04:24 PM June 15, 2007 from twitterrific in reply to AndruEdwards

  • bryanzug @AndruEdwards you got it… 02:20 PM June 15, 2007 from Tweetr in reply to AndruEdwards

    All the support - both in person and virtually - helped out a lot. Thanks to everyone out there, and my hope is that someone finds this article helpful before their child goes through something similar.

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