My Toddler's Fever Led to a Seizure — What You Should KnowSelena Mills
Having a sick toddler: Is it harder on them or us? Obviously they’re the ones hurting. I know this. Yet as I watch my little pneumonia-ridden 2-year-old run around, laugh, giggle and cause her general ruckus, I have to wonder, as I rub my eyes and take a big, desperate gulp of black coffee.
We spent hours upon hours at the hospital last night with Abby, who was rocking a fever of 104° F. Normally, we wouldn’t go to the hospital at the onset of a fever. Kids get fevers. They’re normal, and letting them ride out a low-grade fever is supposed to be good for them.
Not in this house. Not anymore. Specifically for my daughter. This past July, she had a low-grade fever which hadn’t even hit 100° when she had a febrile seizure. (A convulsion in a child caused by fever.) These are apparently normal and for the vast majority, not harmful and short. You know, except when they stop breathing during the seizure, which is what happened.
We didn’t know enough about febrile seizures then, when we were in the middle of it all going down, while driving down a dark country highway on our way home from the cottage. The seizure wasn’t short, and we didn’t know enough. We didn’t know that 1 in 25 children have febrile seizures. If they’re so common, why didn’t I know about them? (Since this has all happened, more parents that I’ve talked to DON’T know about febrile seizures than the ones who do. The ones who do know about them know someone with a child who had one or has them. I’ve yet to speak with someone who’s been taught about them from their family doctor or pediatrician. Why is that?)
Abby was convulsing, eyes rolling back into her head, lips turning blue, and face pale. Lethargic (aside from the convulsing) and unresponsive. By all appearances, she appeared to have stopped breathing. Freaky stuff, let me tell you. When you see your child like that, you loose the ability to think rationally, but you try. You search your brain for what it knows, but when it knows nothing about seizures, you react instinctively.
Which is precisely what we did. I vaguely remember looking at the clock and timing it. When the 30 second mark passed and she still appeared to not be breathing, I called 911 and my partner pulled over to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
So to the parents who may encounter a febrile seizure, or recurring febrile seizures — cool your jets. I know it’s hard as hell, but it’s not as scary as it looks (them) and feels (you). Having said that, it is of my personal opinion that a seizure of any kind, especially when your kid stops breathing, warrants a trip to the hospital.
When the ambulance arrived, Abby’s seizure had passed and she was in what is called the postictal state of a seizure. This is an ambiguous period wherein there are visible signs of cognitive and behavioral impairments. With febrile seizures, these are natural and do not necessarily represent any real damage. It’s just their little bodies and brains recuperating, slowly returning to a conscious state. All of which I, of course, knew nothing about until our very kind paramedic filled my ear with all sorts of information it so desperately needed to hear. All I knew was that my little girl wasn’t responding to me and was completely out of it. However “normal” the postictal period may be for a child after having a febrile seizure, a child should always be checked out by a healthcare professional afterwards.
It’s hard to believe that there was a moment that I actually thought my daughter was dying and then, that she had suffered brain injury from the seizure. This happened months ago, and it’s taken that long to be able to write about it.
It was late that summer night when we arrived at the hospital. My strongest memory of that hazy time was the frequency with which the doctors and nurses told us that febrile seizures were normal, except not in this comforting, reassuring way. It was more like they see them all the time and we needed to chill out. Not that we were freaking out or anything. We were treated as if we had overreacted because febrile seizures are common and generally non-harmful. They briefly agreed that is wasn’t as common that a child stops breathing when having a seizure, but it honestly felt like lip service. We were given very little information on febrile seizures (except that they’re common and come from fevers) and no fact-sheet to go home with. They ran all of the proper tests and gave us enough information to move forward on our own.
It’s safe to say I’m not the biggest fan of doctors. Nurses, however, I LOVE.
I’ve had doctors tell me I was infertile for years. One in particular belittled my desire to have my body thoroughly checked out and to get whatever tests it took to try and find out why and what I could do to have babies. His reasoning was that I wasn’t married or even looking to have babies then. Apparently I didn’t have the right to try and discover what was going on with my body until I was actually trying to get pregnant. And I had to be married to do that. I get that he was old-school and that he was trying to instill some “values” into me, then a wild and lippy 19-year-old. He was still out of line, though. When I brought my niece into a walk-in clinic, I had another doctor ask me when I was going to “get all fired up (you know with SPERM) and have some of my own.” In fact, only yesterday the x-ray technician at the hospital “joked” around about her boobs (when Abby reached for them) not being as “big and juicy” as mine. I shit you not my friends. Which I guess was funny, but I wouldn’t have thought it as funny had it been a dude who said it, so what does that even mean? It probably means that I’m an undercover sexist who hates doctors.
I really do try and not let my prejudice shine through when encountering a new doctor, because I know there are many good ones out there. I just can’t shake the fact that I personally have had better luck with my health in the care of alternative, naturopathic and homeopathic practitioners and midwives. Friends who are nurses. I’m not so stubborn, however, to know that western-trained doctors have a time and a place. We see a doctor when we absolutely need to, which is more frequently now that we’re wading through the knowledge that Abby is prone to febrile seizures when she gets a fever, even low-grade ones.
Which is why, when late yesterday afternoon Abby’s daycare called and said she had a fever of 104° F, we rushed straight to the hospital. I’m not there yet. I’m not in a place where I don’t panic when Abby gets a fever, especially a high one like that. My gut was telling me something was up with my girl — and my gut was right.
Several hours and many tests later, including chest x-rays, she was diagnosed with being in the early stages of pneumonia. If it weren’t for my PTSD over her having seizures with a fever (I guess that’s what it is?), we never would have gone to the hospital. I’m glad we went and caught it early. I don’t care if doctors see these sorts of things all the time and they think I’m overreacting. This is MY daughter, and I’m not desensitized to these sorts of things the way they are.
On a side-note: the care we received last night was top-notch, aside from the juicy boobs remark, so …
I highly recommend you read up on febrile seizures; what they are and what causes them, what to do and what NOT to do. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. It can make you feel safe during a time of helplessness and keep you from doing something that may make things worse.
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