Let me skip to the end: Lauren is back home with us tonight, and God willing, all is well.
Now let’s start at the beginning:
Monday morning Lauren threw up her bottle of milk. Not really a big deal, but then later that afternoon I noticed her getting warm and whiny, took her temp and it was 102.8. I gave her Tylenol, and stayed up with her as she tossed and turned most of the evening, giving her Tylenol a couple more times when her fever got high. She had no more vomiting, no runny nose or cough.
Tuesday she was somewhat lethargic – she took several naps throughout the morning and early afternoon, which is unusual for her, but wasn’t too worrisome given that she hadn’t slept much the night before and she was still not feeling well. I gave her Tylenol without taking her temperature when she started feeling hot around 3pm, then we packed up and did our grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, where she was very happy and interested in everything. When we returned home I fed her a bottle and she fell asleep, so I put her down in her bassinet.
Between 6:30 and 7:30pm (not sure of the exact time) she woke up crying while Dave and I were cooking dinner. David got her out of the bassinet and brought her to the kitchen where I was cooking. He left her standing in the floor and went back to the grill. She stood next to me crying for about 30 seconds, then out of the corner of my eye I saw her fall backwards, hitting the left rear of her head on a closed cabinet on her way down. She immediately stopped crying and just laid there, so I scooped her up and took her to the bedroom with the intention of checking her over, taking her temperature and giving her more Tylenol. While carrying her to the bedroom, I realized she was 100% limp, and started getting an inkling that something was very wrong. Lauren is never 100% limp, not even when she’s sleeping. So I laid her on the floor and took a closer look at what was going on.
Her eyes were open, but looking to the right and not tracking or responding to anything. I called for David, and by the time he got to us, the fingers on her right hand had started twitching, but the rest of her remained limp and unresponsive. David told me to get the phone and he called 911, and while he was on the phone with them the twitching in her right hand gradually got more severe and spread to her arms and legs until her whole body was seizing. She never stopped breathing, and never vomited, but I am so, so thankful that David was here when this happened. Saying that I was hysterical would be putting it mildly. I don’t know how he spoke so coherently with the 911 people, but he was amazing. The sight of my baby not responding and twitching was enough to drive me mad.
Neither Dave or I had ever heard of febrile seizures before…and since she hit her head falling we thought she had broken her neck or something. We thought she was seizing because of that, and that she was going to die or be a vegetable. I have never prayed so hard, felt so helpless, or been so horrified in my entire life. Waterboarding has nothing on the torture of putting a parent through this kind of ordeal. At least not in my book.
The first officer on scene quickly moved to Lauren’s twitching body and examined her while radioing to the rescue vehicle. A few minutes later, the firemen arrived, followed quickly by the EMS guys with the ambulance. All of this took minutes, but seemed like an eternity. By the time that EMS arrived (roughly 5 minutes?) and started strapping her to the body board, she was becoming alert and starting to cry again. They took us down the street to a helicopter and the helicopter took us to Sacred Heart in Pensacola. I never thought I would get in a helicopter, but I did not hesitate last night. That bird was not taking my baby without me! I sat up front next to the pilot, and Lauren was in the back with the paramedics. There was a canvas divider up, so I could not see what was going on, and they put earphones on me with the explanation that I would be able to speak with the pilot, but I think the main idea was that I wouldn’t hear Lauren and freak out. Freaking out in a helicopter with all the buttons and things at my fingertips…well, the ending of this story would be much different!
The chopper pilot and crew were awesome, kind people. The pilot tried to make nice talk with me, but I was not an attentive audience. I do remember him saying he has a 4 month old daughter named Katherine Elizabeth. Other than that, I sat frozen with my hands clasped, idly watching the nighttime bird’s eye view of the world beneath me, begging God to let Lauren be OK.
When we got to the hospital, I was greeted by a sea of medical faces and questions that were all a blur. Lauren was taken to an ER room, where the somewhat disinterested, shaggy haired doctor ordered a CT scan, and Lauren was wheeled to yet another room for the scans. She was very alert and very angry and scared at this point. Apparently she was not cooperating with the “lay still for the CT machine” direction, and the doctors tried to get me to stand with her, until I told them I was pregnant. They quickly shuffled me back out, where I waited for what felt like eons. Finally they were satisfied with the images, and brought Lauren back out to the ER room and told me that everything looked normal. Words that meant nothing to me at the time, such as “febrile seizure” were thrown around, Tylenol was administered, paperwork was shuffled, Lauren cried much and at some point the shaggy haired doctor poked his head back in to say something that meant nothing to me. Then David appeared, and so did a nurse, who spent the next 20 minutes unsuccessfully attempting to draw blood from my baby. Torture for Lauren and for us, although I was so, so relieved to have my crying baby and not the limp, unresponsive girl who laid on my bedroom floor.
My wonderful in-laws arrived, our church pastor arrived, and the shaggy haired doctor returned to complain that the doctor who read the CT scan thought he found something indicating developmental problems, and that she would have to wear a neck brace all night until a neurosurgeon could take a look at the CT images. The guy was ready to walk back out – David basically had to be all, “Excuse me?? Developmental problems? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” And Dr mumbled something about it having nothing to do with the seizure, which was more than likely febrile in nature (again, WHAT? and he explained) but might cause other problems down the line, the neurosurgeon would explain it all in the morning. UGH.
Long story shortened, all the nurses and doctors and everybody that we saw once we were taken up to the infant/toddler ward were awesome, caring people. I still love the Sacred Heart hospital system, even though the ER doc left much to be desired. The neurosurgeon arrived at 7am, had us briefly recount the evening, advised us in no uncertain terms that Lauren had a febrile seizure, which was not to be worried about. Then she looked at the CT scan and said that what the ER doc was looking at was the result of Lauren not being still for the scan, but ordered x-rays to be safe. The x-rays did not show anything, so there is no developmental issue in her neck, and everyone at Sacred Heart agrees that Lauren had a febrile seizure.
Her blood work showed her white cell count was normal, so that ruled out infection. They also tested for RSV, although not for influenza, which kind of bothers me. The Sacred Heart folks said she has a virus that is causing the fevers, and the fever caused the seizure. She had a Febrile Seizure which the doctors tell us is common (1 in 20 children between 6 mos and 6 years old will experience one) in infants and toddlers when they have a sudden and drastic rise in temperature. I do not know how many of you have witnessed someone, much less an infant, having a seizure, but that was the most frightening thing I have ever witnessed. The blank look on her face, the rolled eyes and the jerking limbs will haunt me forever…
Lauren is sleeping soundly at the moment but we’ve been holding and hugging and watching her relentlessly. It’s funny (or just sad) how we can go days just running through our schedules on autopilot without fully appreciating this precious little girl we hold in our hands. I love my daughter more than my own life but I rush around the house too much, I get bored with her games too quickly, I forget what a gift I have been given too easily. I regularly pray for Lauren’s safety, spiritual life and health, and do my best to trust God with her life but this experience really brought home the fact that my own sense of control is an illusion.
Tomorrow we have a follow-up appointment with our local pediatrician, who we hope will determine exactly what this virus is that’s causing the fevers. I’ll keep you posted!
Cherish every moment together,