Monday, August 21, 2006

Febrile Seizure - Alec's Story

This was originally written back in Jan 1998, for the 'Stories for Alec' that I've been keeping for him over the years.


When I left work yesterday afternoon, I knew I wasn't going to make the 5pm ferry. As it happened some days, I'd have to take the 5:15. On my way out, I realized another girl from my dept. was taking the same ferry, so I offered her a ride home when we got to the other side.

Depending on what's happening at work, there are days when I can't leave in time to catch my ferry, so my husband and I have a system. If I don't arrive on the 5pm ferry, something came up but I'm definitely on the 5:15. If I'm not on the 5:15, I had to work late, couldn't get in touch with him so he'll call me at work. That's our system ... works well.

So, Chris & I get off the ferry... Paul, my husband, is not there. I'm a little embarrassed as hes usually waiting in the parking lot with our 18 mo. old son Alec, but I tell her that he probably left the sitters late and he saw I wasn't on the 5pm ferry, so he went for coffee before the 5:15 got there. So we wait.

The 5:30 ferry comes, still no Paul. Now I'm really embarrassed, Chris could have taken a bus and almost been home by now, so I'm saying "I'll Kill Him!!" He KNOWS I hate to wait. However, in the back of my mind, there was this little voice saying, "you're right, he knows you hate to IS he?" Chris says she doesn't mind waiting with me, I think she knew I was starting to get a little worried. So we continued to wait together.

The 5:45 ferry, no Paul. By this time, we had walked all around the building (outside in the freezing and I mean FREEZING cold) thinking he may have parked around front (not there), and had made our way back to where we started. We decided to go up to the second level of the building where there was a wall of glass windows overlooking the entire parking lot and entrance. We'd definitely see him come in from there. At this point, I called the sitter to see what time they had left her house. She was surprised they weren't there because they had left at 4:45 and all was well. Now I was REALLY worried. I called work and told the girl on night shift, if my husband called there for some reason, to please tell him I was still at the ferry terminal waiting for them. Then I went back to where Chris was watching at window.

The 6:00 ferry arrives, no Paul & Alec. I'm still not frantic but extremely worried. Chris and I are looking out the window and see a police car cruising the parking lot. Paul and I have seen them doing this often so it didnt hold our attention for long. At this point, I start telling Christine about the night we had one of our housewarming parties and how Paul had taken his mom's car to get the food and drinks and had an accident. While I was getting ready at home, I heard the sirens and thought, That wouldn't be for Paul, and shrugged it off, and it turned out it was. It was the ambulance on the way to get him at the accident. While I finished my story to her, the police car below left.

A few minutes later, we noticed an ambulance drive through the parking lot. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, they wouldn't be looking for ME?! And shrugged it off, Paul would be here soon, and boy would he have an exceptional explanation!!!! By now I had already called home a few times, thinking we may have gotten our wires crossed at some point and he went home to wait for a call from me.

6:15 ferry. No Paul. I'm panicked now. All I could say was, He has to be home soon, he has to feed the baby!!! I went to call home again. As I was on the phone, I saw a police officer walk into the building. He looked around, walked up to a woman and asked her a question. She shook her head no. He looked up to where I was on the phone, we made eye contact, I hung up the phone and turned away to walk back to my post at the window. When I got back, I told Chris what I saw and said JOKINGLY, I wonder if he was looking for me?

Part of me wanted to run down those stairs and ask him. Part of me didn't want to know. By this point, the only thing running through my mind was.... car accident. Then I thought, that woman looked nothing like me, I'm losing it here. What I did instead was go to the info booth to see if anyone had called or left a message for someone fitting my description. The guy looked at me like I had two heads and said no.

Finally, Chris was able to talk me into going home. She knew I was getting ready to snap and thought I might be more stable in my own environment. At least there, I could freak in the privacy of my own home. She was going to take the bus home and because I didn't have a cent on me, only my bank card, and there was NO bank machine in sight, she gave me $10 for a cab home. This actually meant alot to me coming from a girl I had only worked with a couple of months and didn't yet know really well. On impulse, I gave her hug, thanked her and she was off.

She hopped on the bus and I went to the payphone to look up the number for a cab. I'm standing there with the phonebook in hand, phone to my ear and the guy from the info booth comes over and says...

Excuse me; are you waiting for your husband?
Do you have a little boy?
YES (my heart stops)
He had a seizure while they were waiting for your ferry. The police have been here looking for you. He's been taken to the IWK.
I drop the phone.

At 5pm, Paul & Alec are sitting in the car at the ferry terminal waiting for me. That morning, he (Alec) had woken up with a fever. He had been showing signs of teething all weekend. Rash on his chin, diaper rash, diarrhea, and he hardly ate, so we added the fever to the list of symptoms. We decided to bring him to the sitter's with the strict instructions of: No milk, no going outside and if the fever gets any higher, call us and we'll come and get him. Throughout the day, Paul had called and he was doing fine.

Now however, at 5pm, while waiting for me, he wasn't drinking his juice or eating his snack, so Paul figured, as on many other nights, that Alec was getting ready to fall asleep.

Paul turned back around, checked to see if my ferry was on its way, picked up his book and started reading. That's when he heard the strange noises coming from Alec.

He whipped back around again and saw our beautiful, almost two-year-old son, stiff as a board in his car seat, twitching, his eyes rolling back in his head and frothing at the mouth. Although he had never experienced one before, our baby was having a seizure. Paul grabbed his hand and called his name, Alec was un-responsive. For a split second, my husband panicked.

He could see my ferry 3/4 of the way across the harbor, almost there. There were people standing around. Should he roll down the window and ask them to look for me and tell them what was happening? Was I even on that ferry or did I end up having to work late? Then he threw the car into gear and sped to the hospital. Trying to keep an eye on Alec and drive at the same time, Paul drove over curbs, had the four way flashers on, the headlights flashing and he was laying on the horn. Not dangerously, but the fastest, most direct way possible. Most people pulled over for him but when he passed one guy, he gave him the finger. If only he knew...

When they reached the Dartmouth General, Alec was unconscious and not breathing. Paul ran through the doors and said, "He's having a seizure". A nurse came out of nowhere, whisked Alec away and told Paul to give the other nurse the information needed. After a couple of minutes, he asked if he could see Alec and was told where he could find him.

When Paul got to Alec, he was stripped down to his diaper and they were trying to control his fever, which had spiked to 105, and debating whether or not he needed an IV. This fever was the cause of the seizure he had, which is known as a Febrile Seizure. My husband laid his head down next to our little guy and finally broke down.

The nurses were a bit concerned about Paul also, so they had him hold Alec while giving him oxygen and also using a bit for himself. They then decided he should be taken by ambulance to the IWK Childrens Hospital over in Halifax. So off they went. Paul rode in the ambulance with Alec.

While at the hospital, Paul had called the police to let them know our situation. They said they would send someone over to the ferry terminal to find me. They went twice. These were the police cars and men I had seen at the terminal.

While on the way to the IWK, the ambulance did a circle around the parking lot of the ferry terminal, it was on the way and Alec was stable enough to take the extra few minutes to do this. They were looking for me. This was the ambulance I had seen from the window.

After speaking with the doctors and being reassured that this was not an epileptic seizure and that he did not have brain damage, Paul began walking with Alec (still only in his diaper) through the halls, singing to him his favourite song. All the while... waiting for me...

My heart was pounding. This wasn't happening. I had not been waiting there for an hour and 45 minutes for Paul and Alec and I had NOT just been told my son had had a seizure. I started crying immediately. The info guy called the police. The officer told me the readers digest version of what had happened, and told me they would send another ferry over for me, send a police cruiser or I could take a cab to the hospital, I opted for the cab.

While the info guy was calling me a cab, I called one of my best friends, to tell her what had happened and to ask her to explain to my manager that I wouldn't be in the next day, (we worked together at the time) and I wasn't sure when I would be back. Then I called mom and dad. Not that they could do anything being 4 1/2 hrs away, but simply to share my moment of fear. I needed to hear my mom's voice.

While I was on the phone with them, my cab arrived. I jumped in and immediately told the driver what happened and where we needed to go.

Needless to say, I was a mess.

So, we're off to the hospital. A couple of minutes into the drive, the cabby says, "I haven't driven a cab in six months, where exactly IS the IWK? What street is it on?" I almost lost it. I leaned over and said "Listen, you're not talking to someone who's in her right frame of mind right now, I DON'T KNOW what street the hospital is on, JUST GET ME THERE!!!" He then proceeded to tell me about how the Virgin Mary keeps appearing all over the world (like I need to hear this) and after asking if Alec had been baptized and I said yes, assured me he was going to be fine!!! I couldn't believe this guy!!!

He manages to drop me off at the wrong part of the hospital, but I'm still able to get to the children's emergency through the building. I finally approach the nurses station, drop everything and ask, "How can I find my son?" The nurse asked for his name and when I told her, all the nurses gathered there turned and pointed to Paul and Alec and said, "He's right there". For the first time since this nightmare had started, over 2 hours ago, I saw my husband and my little boy.


I ran to them, buried my face into my husbands chest and just sobbed. He managed to guide us into a corner and after I'd calmed down a bit; I finally had the chance to take a good look at Alec.

He was still only in his diaper. His little eyes were drooping; he looked disoriented and utterly exhausted. I immediately took off my winter coat and held my baby. The doctor very quickly reassured me that Alec was going to be ok. He gave us some quiet time alone.

I took my son to a rocking chair, while Paul called my parents, and there Alec and I sat, him looking up at me and me looking down at him. Every now and then he'd reach over and hug me and this would bring on a fresh batch of tears. I was so devastated that my baby had gone through this, but even more so, because I wasn't there for him when it happened. I can only thank God that his father was.

Paul's mom arrived around this time and then the doctor asked if we would watch a slide presentation on Febrile Seizures to hopefully answer any questions we may have and to inform us of signs to look for if it should happen again. As long as Alec has the fever, he has a
50% chance of it happening again. It seems that Alec had a viral infection very common in children. This caused the high fever, which in turn, caused his seizure. The doctor also said to keep a close eye on him over the next few days because just because he was currently doing ok, that didnt mean he wouldnt get worse. He even said there was a possibility of pneumonia or meningitis.

By 8:30pm, they let us go. Since I had arrived at the hospital, Alec still had not said one word. Paul and I talked to him constantly but he wouldn't respond. Just before we left, as we were dressing him, I whispered to Alec "Mommy's going to stay home with you tomorrow and we're going to do something you really like." At that moment, Alec looked at me and said in this tiny little voice "Barney?" I was never so happy to hear that blasted purple dinosaurs name.

Betty (Paul's mom) drove us back to the Dartmouth General to pick up our car and from there, we headed home.

On the ride home, Paul told me something that went through his mind while getting Alec to the hospital "Kim will never forgive me if this boy dies while he's with me". It just tore at my heart to hear him say that, and at the same time, made me love him all the more.


Today, Alec was better; his fever had gone up and down all day, but never surpassed 100. That is, until 4:30 p.m., then it went to 101. By 5:30 p.m. it had climbed to 102, I started getting nervous. We stripped him down to his undershirt and looked for the signs that had come with the last seizure (now that we knew what to look for), rosy cheeks, and a rash over his stomach and back. He definitely had the rosy cheeks and what looked like the start of a rash.

Paul and I decided to give him his Tylenol and put him in a lukewarm bath. If, after the bath, he still had a fever of 102, we were calling the IWK.


It is now 12:47 am. Alec's temp has been fluctuating all night, I just checked on him and he's still warm, however the thermometer reads 99.7, much better, but still not out of the woods yet. I don't think I'll be getting much sleep again tonight. Paul has set the alarm to get up at 4am to check his temp and give him more Tylenol. If this fever hasn't broken by tomorrow he'll be back at the IWK.

Epilogue: Its been five years since Alec had that febrile seizure. Although hes still prone to high fevers, hes never had another one. I realize that Alec is a very lucky boy, things could have been much worse had it not been for my husbands quick reaction. I also realize that there are many other children, who go through much worse than what he did every day of their lives. I guess the reality of how easy it is to lose a child really only hits home, when that child is one of your own.

1 comment:

sd said...

thanks for sharing your story..i have experienced this horrible event only 4 days ago with my 22 month old boy and having sleepless nights thinking its all my fault as i didnt check his fever and missed medicine and worrying that if this will happen again.after reading your story it has given me some assurance that he will be fine and i need to keep his fever in control if it ever happens again.