What parents should know about febrile seizures: A mum's true story
Febrile seizures are so common, but spoken of so little. Malaysian mum, Merryn, is sharing her story because no parent should ever have to see their baby convulsing in their arms and not know what’s happening
Merryn is a mum of 2 adorable boys, Ayden (aged 2.5) and Ethan (aged 8). Big brother Ethan had been down with a high fever for 5 days, and upon recovery, Ayden fell ill as well. This happened just 2 weeks ago.
“Noticing that the fever was as ferocious as Ethan’s, I pestered my husband to drive us to the hospital to get Ayden tested too. The doctor took samples from Ayden for all the tests required. My husband dropped us back home, and returned to work.
I put both my feverish little boys down for a nap, and started to prepare dinner for the family. A while later, I went to check on Ayden and realised that his body was extremely hot. I took his temperature and the thermometer readings showed 39.6 degrees!
Terrified, I quickly grabbed a wet towel to sponge him. As I was frantically sponging him down, he asked for milk. Before I could give him my breast or managed to do anything, he slipped into a fit.
It was the scariest sight I had ever seen! My poor baby’s entire body was curled up and shaking so hard, with his eyes rolling back into his head. Only the white part of his eyes were visible.
I went into total panic mode. I knew something was very wrong, and then somehow, even though I really knew nothing about febrile seizures, I realised that’s what it was. I laid him on his side, firmly pressing him, praying that he would stop jerking. He did not. I started yelling loudly so he would perhaps snap out of it.
“Ayden! Please stop!”
My terrifying sounds woke Ethan up. Ayden’s lips started to turn blue. I cannot even describe the level of fear I was at in that moment. Seeing my little one in that state- it’s not something any parent would want to witness. Upon seeing his brother like that, Ethan started to cry.
I carried Ayden and pressed him hard against me, hoping that it would stop the seizure. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally stopped shaking. His body went limp in my arms. I went totally berserk and starting crying out “Ayden come back to Mummy! Come back to Mummy!”
But he didn’t respond to me. His head hung low, his arms and legs dangling lifelessly. His body turned an eerie pale of yellow and his mouth blue-black. He was not breathing. I wailed like crazy. I thought I had lost him.
Then, instinctively, I started to perform CPR on him. After several tries, he gasped out and breathed! I was overwhelmed with relief, placed him in recovery position, but my happiness was short-lived – he was still not responding to me.
I shouted for Ethan to call my husband. He told his daddy that Ayden had stopped breathing. Going out of his mind (as any daddy would), my husband drove back home immediately.
Soon after, clear liquid started oozing out from Ayden’s nose and mouth. I hugged him tight and called out his name over and over. I held his head firmly with my two hands, made him look at me and kept asking him if he knew who I was. But all he did was a blank stare, then closed his eyes again. My heart sank but I remained strong, hoping for the best for my little boy.
I got up, grabbed the car keys (while carrying my non-responsive Ayden), led my crying Ethan and jumped into the car. I got my driver’s license after high school but never drove around much.
I buckled Ethan up, placed Ayden on his lap and told him to hold to his little brother as the car seat was in my husband’s car. I plucked up the courage to drive steadily, and told my husband to meet us at the hospital.
While driving, Ayden finally called out to me, “Mummy!” I cried tears of joy, and told Ethan to keep talking to him even though he wasn’t answering back after that.
Click on to the next page to see what happens at the hospital.
The doctor said they will need to admit Ayden for observation. I stayed with him, and persuaded hubby to take Ethan home as he was still recovering from his illness. They both didn’t want to leave Ayden, but I made them go to get proper rest.
I did not sleep that night- I stayed up to monitor Ayden’s temperature. Around 3am, his temperature rose again.
Even after taking the medicine given by the nurse, his fever did not subside. I kept sponging him but his temperature remained at 38 to 39 degrees celsius. I requested for the suppository pills (the one you insert through the anus to reduce fever rapidly), but the next dose was due at 6am- it was too early to give him another dose (his first was at 11pm). At 5.30am, I argued with the nurses that half an hour won’t make much of a difference, and to give him the suppository medicine quickly. They looked at me like I was a really kancheong mum, and told me not to look at the thermometer, and to ‘just wait’.
At 5.40am as I was nursing (and still sponging) Ayden, he got into a fit again. I ran out of the ward with him in my arms and shouted for the nurse. They hurriedly took him into a room and tried to force a tiny oxygen tube into his mouth.
This was happening yet again. I was fear-stricken, seeing him shake vigorously again, and not respond to me or the nurses. Two minutes later, he stopped shaking. The nurses checked his pulse and pumped in more oxygen. I just stood there, holding his hands- I didn’t want to let him go. I kept praying for him to come back to us.
Ayden then fell asleep, but I tried to avoid that from happening. I needed to see him respond to me first. I kept calling out to him. The nurses finally inserted the suppository pills into him – his temperature was still 39.2.
The next 40 minutes seemed like forever. I kept saying to him, “Grab mummy’s hand if you can hear me”, “open your eyes to look at mummy”, “nod your head if you can feel mummy’s hand rubbing your head” – but he just wouldn’t say anything.
A whole hour after the fit attack, Ayden finally opened his eyes. I cried to the nurses, telling them they should have just given him the suppository when I had told them to. They were regretful.
Since both Ayden’s seizures happened within 24 hours, he was required to undergo a brain scan. He was given a sedative during the MRI scan. Witnessing him go into a state of unconsciousness is so very heartbreaking. We’ll have to go for a follow-up with another doctor for this later.
How does this story end? Click on to the next page.
The following 3 nights, I stayed awake to monitor Ayden’s temperature. The doctor stopped his medication on the fourth day and as he remained calm throughout. He was discharged on Day 5.
I am thankful for all the prayers and well wishes everyone sent our way. And mostly just grateful to have my baby back.
This scary incident taught me a few things: Never under-estimate a viral infection. Also never take a fever lightly. I’ve heard of febrile seizures lasting for a couple of minutes- Ayden’s lasted for far too long, and I was not prepared for anything like this.
Keeping our children safe is our top priority. We need to learn how to protect our kids inside the house and out, what to do in an emergency, how to stock a first-aid kit, where to call for help. If I didn’t do the things I did that night to help him, things would have taken a very different turn. I will never forget this horrific night, and I hug my kids close to me every chance I get now. These moments together are precious and I want to make them last.
*theAsianparent obtained Merryn’s permission to share both her story and the beautiful photographs of Ayden at the hospital.
Life deals all of us certain cards. My lesson from Merryn’s incident is that life can be lost in an instant. I can also relate to her story because this too happened to my first son, when he was less than a year old. It was as scary an incident, but his lasted for only a few minutes. My encounter with it made me realise the importance of knowing what to do during an emergency like this. No parent wants to come face to face with such unfortunate moments, but what happens if you are?
Images source: Merryn’s blog
Has your child ever experienced a febrile seizure? What did you do? Please share with us below.