It was Good Friday. My 6, 4 and 21 month old were home alone with me on Easter break. I’d had a fever since Wednesday but was waiting to see the doctor when the kids were back at school.
Vander, my youngest, slept in until about 8:30 that morning but I didn’t think much of it. We’d spent the day before at the library, getting ice cream, going to karate and then running around outside. No doubt, he was wiped out.
It was around lunchtime when Van and I walked toward the kitchen together. He was barely two steps behind me. That’s when I heard him hit the hardwood floor. In the split-second before I picked him up, I already noticed his arms and legs weren’t moving. When I cradled him in my arms and saw his face, his bright blue eyes, I realized he was having a seizure.
My four-year old daughter became hysterical. I will never forget the sound of her screaming. It rivaled my own heartbeat pulsating in my ears. I put Van on the kitchen island so she couldn’t see him seizing as I called 9-1-1. Holding him slightly upright so I didn’t restrict his movements, I was trying to make it easier for him as he struggled to breathe. Then I tried to remain calm as I explained repeatedly to the operator where I lived.
Our house is only two years old and confusing to locate. I was doing my best to give directions all the while watching my son and feeling utterly helpless. His movements had started to slow and he was drifting off. The worst, darkest thoughts were rushing through my mind. I don’t remember if I was calm anymore.
I kept repeating his age. My driveway location, then his age in months because he’s not even two years old. Like hearing that he was a baby would somehow get them here faster.
The operator asked if he was breathing and I honestly couldn’t tell. After what felt like several minutes of seizing he’d gone completely limp. No movement from any part of his typically can’t-catch-me-now tiny body. He was wearing light blue PJs with cowboy monkeys and cactus on them.
By the grace of God, my husband came home for lunch. He walked through the mudroom and saw me holding the baby. I had to ask him twice to take his truck to the end of the driveway to flag down the ambulance. ‘They can’t find the house. Drive fast.’
Seven minutes after my phone call began, the EMT walked through the door. He took Van to the ambulance and we left for the hospital. After some oxygen, foot tickling and the loud siren, he started to wake up.
His temperature was 105 when we got to the ER. A little over three hours of tests and monitoring they still weren’t sure what caused his fever. But they did determine he had a febrile seizure. And while everyone kept using the word ‘common’, nothing about this situation felt that way to me.
As a stay-at-home mom I am often just that—home alone with my three small children. We’ve never had an emergency like this one. So from one parent to another, here are some lessons that I learned from the worst day of my life:
1) Keep your phone close and charged. I like to disconnect when I’m home with the kids and my phone is a huge distraction. I’m always snapping pictures. But I have a bright red case so it’s easy to spot and I always try to keep it on the kitchen island. It was charged on Friday. I can’t tell you how many times my iphone goes from 35% battery to dead. Please, please keep your phone charged.
2) Take care of yourself. Parents are terrible with this one. We run on empty thinking that we’ll eventually get to ourselves when things slow down. But, they don’t. Had I not been so focused on not taking care of myself, I would have noticed my son’s body temp starting to rise. I might have even prevented his seizure by getting ahead of the rapid spike that caused all of this. When I went to urgent care the next day my own fever had blossomed to 103, and I was diagnosed with bronchitis and walking pneumonia. I’m a mom, not a superhero.
3) People react differently to stress. When my husband and two children met Vander and I in the ER, he snapped at me for not answering my phone. My daughter barely spoke. And once my son saw that the baby was okay he immediately asked if someone could pick him up for a play date. All three of them were coping with something really terrifying. No judging allowed. You’re all in this together, so cut each other some slack.
4) Say, ‘thank you.’ I barely recall the faces of the three firefighter/EMTs who picked up Van and me. But there was one sitting next to the stretcher who did everything he could to distract me. Keep me talking while he and his partner tried to wake Van up. I printed out a picture of the kids and am coordinating a day to bring in pizza. The chief’s contact info was easy to find on my city’s website. These men and women chose a profession to help people. That’s what they do all day—help others. We need to do a better job of letting them know we appreciate their choice.
5) Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does ease some anxiety. The closest my kiddos have been to a rescue mission is watching Paw Patrol. Seeing their baby brother and mom get taken away in an ambulance was not easy. It’s been almost a week and they still ask questions. We don’t just talk about what happened but what we will do if someone needs help. Do your kids know how to call 9-1-1? Mine sure didn’t. What about a place to meet outside if there is a fire? Sure the conversation is scary. But it’s far more terrifying experiencing it without having ever discussed it before. Kids are so gosh darn resilient and smart.
We’ve been back to the doctor twice for check ups with Van. I haven’t slept through the night because I just need to stare at his chubby little face and watch his belly move up and down. To remind myself how lucky I am that God was watching over us.
I know there are so many other stories out there and my heart just aches for you. Please share what’s helped your own family.