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The Scariest Moments I’ve Ever Had As A Father

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Abigail missed spending Christmas with us this year (2014). She was working a trip and got home the day after Christmas. Most of the time she spent away Mr. Dude and I had an uneventful holiday. We hung out at home on Christmas Eve with movies and snacks. We visited my mom & sisters on Christmas Day. Friday was a different story altogether.

Friday morning we had a nice relaxing morning. I made breakfast. Eggs, bacon and toast. He had some eggs, yogurt and one of those frozen toaster waffles. Bacon is not his thing. Weird kid. The rest of our morning was spent with bath time, playing in the living room with some toys and Christmas movies on in the background. There was time for a FaceTime call with Abigail before lunch and then a nap followed our meal. Abigail and I talked some more during Mr. Dude’s nap and I got the clean laundry from Thursday put away.

Mr. Dude woke up from his nap with a fever. It was 102 and he was cranky. I don’t blame the poor fella in the least. I took his PJs off and got him to drink some fluids. His fever started to go down for a while. I kept Abigail updated on his status as the afternoon turned into evening via iMessage. His crankiness would only subside when I was holding him or next to him on the couch. We watched “A Muppet Christmas Carol” and repeated the part where Rizzo jumps from a fence and Gonzo doesn’t catch him what had to be a million times. It was the only think I could do at the time to make him laugh instead of feeling so miserable.

His fever spiked again after Abigail’s flight home had already taken off. It was back up to 102 F from as low as 99 F. The cause of the fever was clearly his two new teeth coming in down front. One had broken through already and the other was trying. His gums around the one took were swollen. Out of frustration I called my mom to ask what else I should do at around 6:30 p.m. I had tried to give him some of those ice teething things, the toddler popsicles with electrolytes, yogurt (he loves yogurt) and everything else cool/hydrating I could think of with no results.

My mom suggested a few other things and as we chatted on the phone Mr. Dude fell asleep on me while just in a diaper. He was super warm still, but I didn’t want to move and risk waking him up to check his temp. He’d been fussy all afternoon/evening. He twitched once and then again. It was similar to what he does as he’s falling asleep sometimes, but it was different. I was already concerned after the day we’d had so I tried to readjust to see how well he was sleeping.

That’s when he started shaking uncontrollably. The next few minutes were a blur. I remember lifting him up off of me and trying to get him to look at me. I couldn’t get his attention. His eyes were glazed over and he was non-responsive. I ran to the bathroom while repeating his name over and over again. His body kept shaking. Still no response to my voice, nothing. That’s when I turned the cold water on in the tub and called 911.

His skin was starting to turn a blue grey and his jaw was locked. He wasn’t breathing. They asked me what sort of an emergency it was, my address, my address again, what was going on and so on. I remember answering the questions and thinking “Why do they need to ask all these questions? Why can’t help just be here!” I didn’t want to lose my son. The thoughts kept flooding into my head, “Oh, my god, I’m gonna lose my son! This can’t happen. I can’t lose him. Please come back!”

Everything was happening in slow motion. All the sounds around us were muffled. The water coming out of the faucet. My son’s body twitching and then going limp. His clenched jaw and me splashing that cold water on his body. I kept saying “I love you son, breath. Breath. Please breath!”

Mr. Dude finally took a deep breath and started to scream. His extremities were limp, but his voice was strong. I picked him up and squeezed him tight. He threw up on my shoulder and grabbed me around the neck with his arms. He continued to scream and tears began streaming down his cheeks as we waited for the EMTs to arrive. A couple police officers arrived first, then the EMTs a few seconds later with a couple of firefighters close behind. They bombarded me with questions and did all sorts of checks on Mr. Dude. He was still upset, but stable. Everything checked out: heart-rate, breathing, blood sugar, etc.

Several minutes after they arrived and gave Mr. Dude the all clear everyone but the paramedics had left. They were explaining what happened and reassuring me that I did the right thing. “I’d rather come out 10 times and it not be a big deal then only show up one and have it be something bad” said one of the guys. That’s when I broke into tears. “Hey its, okay” he continued “Take a deep breath. Your son’s fine.” They then gave me the option to let them take him to the hospital, drive myself to the hospital or have him checked out by a family doctor in a day or two. He was stable again and the fever was going away so they weren’t worried. I signed some paperwork and the whole ordeal was over.

It has been a few days now and everything is back to normal. We saw our family doctor and she said just what my mother-in-law (a nurse) and the EMTs did, that this sort of thing can be normal in small children. Why didn’t anyone tell me this?! Not that it would have helped in the moment, but maybe it would have just a little afterwards. It was a short simple febrile seizure. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (bold added by me for emphasis):

Approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, and more than one-third of these children will have additional febrile seizures before they outgrow the tendency to have them. Febrile seizures usually occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and are particularly common in toddlers.

He seems absolutely fine now. I hope that’s the case. I’m worried about him now, but know its probably just the overactive imagination I have that’s making up all sorts of things not based on fact. We’re getting a referral to a neurologist just to make triply sure everything checks out okay. I love my kid and want him to outlive me by decades. Those moments of him in the tub and me on the phone with 911 will be with me for the rest of my life. I don’t know what I would have done if things didn’t work out like they did. Simple seizures in general have been known to last up to 15 minutes! I love my son and would do anything to keep him safe. I pray he has a long and wonderful life ahead of him. I needed to get this whole episode processed and writing this long, rambling blog post helped do just that. Thanks for reading.

P.S. Remember, I was on the phone with my mom when I ran to the bathroom calling out my son’s name and saying “Are you okay? Wake-up buddy!” I didn’t get a chance to call her back for about 45 minutes after the event started. I called her after the paramedics left and filled her in on the details. Poor Gigi, she must have been panicked as well.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. It seems like you did the right thing during this emergency. This happens so much more than people are aware. This is a natural response to high fevers, usually it’s caused by a virus or bacteria.

    The medic also see.s to have responresponded very appropriately, calming your nerves will in turn calm your sons.

    Glad to here everything is better, make sure you still advise your pediatrician, it’s something that is noteworthy!

  2. Also, just a question, when your son developed the fever did you try any Tylenol or Mortin? It would help the fever and any pain associated with the incoming teeth.

    • I did not this time around. He’s had fevers from shots/teeth before without any issues or meds. I will from now on with any sort of fever though. I didn’t know anything about febrile seizures before this, but have been reading up on them like crazy in the last couple of days.

      After the EMTs gave the all clear that night and the following day we alternated Little Remedies (acetaminophen) and Advil until the fever stopped coming back.

      • Very good, it’s great to be knowledgeable, just make sure you’re reading reputable info.

        Again, glad to hear he’s doing better!

  3. Wow Joel! I can’t even imagine the panic. My sons are turning two in a couple weeks, and after the heartbreak of almost losing one of them after birth (they were both preemies) it’s probably one of my biggest fears. Glad everything is ok. There should be more information about febrile seizures given to new parents.

  4. Glad the little dude is ok. My pregnant wife passed out on me and repeatedly went I to episodes of convulsions. Watching something so unexpected in someone you love is extremely tough. I hope it’s the last time you have to witness such a thing.

  5. Oh wow!!! What an experience! I can’t even begin to imagine how you felt.The worst experience I had was when my son stopped breathing during a severe asthma attack. But I was well-prepared for what to do should that have happened. But I can’t even imagine my son having a seizure. You sound like you did very well, though, and I’m hoping your son is much better now. Wishing you the best!

  6. Fatherhood is so scary at times, the first of many I am sure. Wes is so lucky to have parents who love him so much. My son was in his mid-twenties when he had his unexplained seizure. Still scary. Good thing you were there and responded so well. Happy New Year!

  7. Wow, this has been my fear for so long. My son gets very high fevers. We have seen him get to 105 several times and the doctors can’t always figure out what is wrong with him. My husband has epilepsy. My mom, sister and mother in law had epilepsy. My sister in law had a stress induced seizure and my father in law had a febrile seizure. I always thought this was going to be our nightmare. Our Christmas nightmare ended up being anaphylaxis from an egg allergy that we didn’t know he had when he had just turned 1. I had to kick my husband out of the emergency room because I was worried he was going to have a seizure. It’s never easy. My daughter ended up having meningitis at 10 weeks and carried 103 fever for about a week. Neither of them has ever had a febrile seizure and I’m so grateful. Watching my husband have seizures I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience one of my children going through that. You handled it perfectly and getting as educated as you can about it means you are continuing to handle it perfectly. Glad to hear he is now doing okay and now you know what to look for in the future. I can recognize my husbands preseizure personality right away. Anyway, now that I’ve finished writing a book in your comments section…I hope you have a very uneventful New Years!

  8. Normal? That is a far from normal as I can think of. Scary as hell. Neither of my children had that and none that I ever saw. I can’t imagine how scared I would have been.
    So glad he is okay and hope that is fine in the long run.

  9. I went through the same thing myself with my daughter at age two, I was at work and mother in law called to inform me something wasn’t right. I beat the ambulance to the hospital, scariest moment in my life when my daughter wouldn’t respond to me as I was practically screaming at her in the E.R.

  10. It happened to me yesterday with my thirteen month old. He was with the nanny when it first happened. The scary part is I didn’t realize it was a seizure till it struck again when we were at the doctor’s, about 2 hours 45 minutes later :'(

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