It’s been one year since the scariest night of my life and I wanted to talk it.
One year ago, Max had two febrile seizures. It. Was. Terrifying. And hopefully by sharing this story, some of you mamas will be better prepared for this super common event. Because I know I wasn’t. And I thought I was.
Okay….so the story began with one year old Max getting a fever. It was not anything out of the ordinary. In a house with four boys under 7, fevers are super common and usually we just let the low grade ones ride out. Sometimes they were accompanied by other ailments but in general, I didn’t really ever freak out about illnesses. In fact, our pediatrician knows me as one that I don’t bring the boys in unless they really do in fact need treatment or a prescription.
The day that the fever began it was nothing of note. The next day was a hot one (as most August days in Georgia are) and Will had baseball practice during which Max was especially clingy…sitting in my lap the entire time. He was lethargic and hot but he tends to be my cuddle bug anyway so I didn’t think much of it. When we got home, we took his temperature and it was 101….still low grade so we decided to go to my mom & dad’s house to take the boys swimming. We figured that it was a good way for everyone to cool off.
I noticed that he did not want to be submerged so his feet and lower legs were the only thing in the tempid water and I ended up walking him around for a few minutes. That’s when I noticed him acting odd. I thought most seizures started with a noise, a cry or a notable action or shaking. But his was different. His head fell backwards like he was looking at the sky. I could tell his eyes weren’t exactly focusing on anything (I seriously looked around for an airplane thinking he was just watching a bird or a plane or something) and he didn’t respond to me calling his name. I started saying “Max, Max, look at me baby. Max. MAX.” over and over. My dad was standing there and he is like me when it comes to emergency situations so immediately I looked up at him and he said “BOYS. GET OUT OF THE WATER.”
I was holding Max in a prone position above the water as I tried to get out of the pool and noticed that he was turning pale and a little blue. Soon I could tell he started breathing normally again and Jeremy was down by the pool at this point. I explained what happened and told them that I think Max had a febrile seizure.
I called the pediatrician (the office was closed so I left a message) and then called my friend Carrie. I knew Carrie’s daughter had febrile seizures and she is always a good person to ask about medical stuff because we approach things similarly. And I also called my friend Karen who is a nurse.
Long story short, we (Max and I) got into the bathtub with room temperature water and cooled off and decided to head home to get the thermometer (we didn’t have one with us at my parents house) and some Motrin. Carrie told me that Motrin worked faster and better than Tylenol for this situation and I think she was right.
So we got home and Max was exhausted but we thought that his first seizure was overall very uneventful.
We administered Tylenol (it’s what we had!) and that night he was staying with us in our room. The pediatrician called back at this point and told us that we should have called 911 and that if it happened again, then we should go to the hospital because seizure clusters are sometimes indicative of more than just a fever. She also warned us of any seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes and I asked her a few more practical questions and that was that.
As he laid in our bed, we took his temperature about every five minutes. Roughly four hours after his first seizure, I noticed his temperature was starting to spike….it went from a 100.5 to a 104 in about 60 seconds.
Max opened his eyes very wide and looked at me with a face of panic….like he knew it was coming. He let out a whimper and then a shrieking scream that I won’t ever forget. I had asked the doctor what I should do if it happened again….so I knew that I should hold him facing me on his left side and make sure to check his tongue every few moments to ensure that it wasn’t blocking his airway.
Jeremy was in the other room so I called out for him “It’s happening again Jer!” He started the timer and I asked him to quickly call 911 and then video Max because I knew that I would forget everything that was happening.
The second one lasted much longer….roughly five minutes. Compared to the first which was only about 30-45 seconds, it felt like an eternity. And yes, I freaked out….which is unlike me but like I said….scariest night of my life. I hesitated to share this video with you guys but I decided to go ahead because if it helps one of you identify a febrile seizure and better understand the stages of one (onset, length, end and what happens afterward with the extreme exhaustion) then it’s worth it.
WARNING – This video is of an infant experiencing a simple febrile seizure. It’s not edited in any way. If your child experiences a seizure, please contact your pediatrician or an emergency medical professional immediately.
After Max’s seizure ended, the paramedics arrived and did an exam of Max and told us that it was our decision whether to take him to the hospital. Because it was the second one that occurred in such a short amount of time, we decided to head to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (instead of our local ER). My mom came over to be with the kids as they slept.
Due to Max’s age and the fact that he technically had two seizures (called a seizure cluster) in a short amount of time, they wanted to find out what the reason was and if it was epilepsy related, or a viral or bacterial infection. We checked in to the hospital and they started running the tests.
Since he had no other indicators at the time, the fear was that it could be very serious – a neurological abnormality or an acute illness.
After many hours of testing and results coming back negative, we still had no answers. They took blood samples and a poop smear and decided to let us go home. It was a very long night.
The next day we basically were on high alert baby watch the entire time. I must have taken Max’s temperature about a million times. We had picked up a bottle of baby liquid Motrin on the way home and the next 24 hours were painfully long.
Max is normally a very happy boy – always smiling and cuddling – but during the next day, he didn’t want to nurse or smile or cuddle. We would try to get fluids in him….we did a body-temp bath…and then lots of naps. He was exhausted from the seizures but also from being in the hospital all night.
It wasn’t until the very next day that we found out the reason….Max had salmonella. The way he got it is still a mystery. But we are SOOO glad it wasn’t something more complicated or serious. Within the week, Max was back to himself and we have not experienced a seizure since.
The reason I wanted to share all this with you is that you fellow mama’s can be ready for if something odd (like a fluke case of salmonella) strikes your little one. Here are some of my best tips for you if your baby gets a febrile seizure….
- have a good thermometer and take their temperature very frequently (we have this one now and like it)
- keep liquid Motrin in your medicine drawer
- a febrile seizure can not be prevented (the seizure is caused by a drastic spike in temperature. Motrin is not for prevention…it’s to keep them comfortable and lower the fever.)
- seizures can look like fainting, convulsions or twitching…some babies lose consciousness. Here is a good site for info.
- if a seizure occurs – call your doctor or 911.
- during a seizure, hold your baby on their side and check for blocking of the airway.
- dress your baby in light loose cotton clothing if they have a fever so that you can keep them comfy
- time the seizure and take a video to show the medical professional (we were asked repeatedly if the twitching occurred on both sides of the face and at what intervals….we would never have known the answer without the video)
- prepare your other children to understand what happened and how they should respond if they see a friend or family member having a seizure….all the boys saw the first one and we had lots of conversations later about it.
Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional….but I do encourage awareness of what to expect and how to prevent other repercussions and how to address it because obviously I made mistakes from being unprepared. We always recommend talking to your doctor about this before it ever happens!