Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Febrile Seizures

I was completely taken off guard the first time CB had a febrile seizure.  She was 16 weeks old and weighed a little over 10 pounds.  I remember having no clue she was even sick or feverish. I was taking her out on a walk in her stroller on a warm September afternoon. It was an ordinary day, as they always are right before you are blindsided.

One in 25 children under the age of 5 will have a febrile seizure.  I recently wrote an awareness-raising piece on SheKnows offering febrile seizure facts, information, and first aid.  I hope you read it and, more importantly, pass it on to other mothers with young children.  You can jump down to the bottom of the post for the article link. 

Below is an account of CB's first seizure; an excerpt from my nearly completed memoir about unexpected motherhood. 


...Sitting in my daughter’s stroller, wearing her clothes, was a baby with features twisted into someone almost unrecognizable.  Her body was a plank of wood, neck arching backward, chin pointing to the sky. Her arms were folded at the elbows like a skiier tucking in their poles with fists the size of silver dollars clenched into tight, vibrating knots.  Most disturbing of all was her face. Her skin had gone ashen and her gummy little mouth looked like a ventriloquist's puppet, opening and closing without sound.  Her eyes were rolled back so far that her blue irises were lost somewhere on the other side of her skull.  All that remained of her hallmark azure eyes were two alabaster marbles.  The only blue I could detect was the soft ring painted by anoxia forming around her lips; lips that sucked the air like a fish on sand.

Panic is an interesting feeling.  It pierces you with a volt of electricity and either mobilizes every cell in your body or paralyzes them.  It can jumpstart you into herculean action or unravel your mind like a ball of yarn.  My panic didn’t rise within me like a deluge, but crashed upon me like a tsunami and I struggled to right myself in its undertoe while the cold waves numbed my emotions and movements.  Through a fish eye lense I fumbled with the safety buckles around the waist of a 16 week old baby the size of a doll.  A voice was screaming loudly and though I knew it to be mine, it felt entirely disconnected from my being, as if two nightmares had collided and I could not distinguish which was mine. The neighbors heard my cacophony through their open windows as I freed her with trembling hands and lifted her tiny rigid body into my lap, cradling her the best I could though she shoke violently from head to toe... 


... I waited to hear the distant sirens slice through the still air.  Waited for the convulsions to stop.  Waited on the red brick stoop of that row house, the crumbling mortor scraping the backs of my bare legs.  Waited in that dense parcel of time that panic slows down into sludge.  I waited and waited for an ambulance that never appeared. Thirty-five minutes after a neighbor placed the 9-1-1 call, still no sirens echoed down the alley, no lights blazed heroically through the narrow city streets and the seizure’s ferocious grip continued without any sign of waning.  

This wasn't stopping and no help would come.

Dread filled me with helium and suddenly I was floating above the red brick steps.  I watched myself from above, a new mother whose pre-pregnancy jeans still did not fit, bent like a comma over a baby whose soul looked as if it were being wrestled away from her.  An eerie calmness fell as I realized that I was truly watching her die.  Complete numbness shrouded me in those moments I waited for a rescue to never come and a seizure to never relent.  Numbness, as her parlor changed to the horrid color of still born babies. A frantic goodbye crescendoed in my head. A goodbye to a little girl I hardly had the chance to know but loved more than I ever believed was possible.  This, I thought with the calmness of a corpse, was the end and so I released a thousand silent I love yous like white doves in to the cloudless dome of sky and hoped it would carry her up into the heavens...


...I had always fancied myself as being calm under pressure and thought I’d stride through the sliding doors of the E.R. and down the slick tiled hallways poised and efficient. Instead I ran wildly, hysterically barking at the first person who made eye contact with me, exuding all the dignity of a crazed mother bear protecting her cub.  I honestly don’t know if that woman was even hospital personnel but she must have called a doctor because suddenly a tall young man with thick jet black hair in a starched white coat was in front of me with his arms out-streched and I was reflexively passing my baby's spasmatic body to him like a football.  My arms stayed cradling the empty air for the next few moments before hanging impotently at my sides.  

My baby disappeared with that dark haired stranger who ran down the hall followed by a flock of nurses in teal scrubs.  I saw a pale curtain with a faded pattern of dancing teddybears pulled across the doorway, the metal rings scraping across the steel curtain rod with preciseness.  With that efficient motion, I lost sight of the one being I loved most in this world and was escorted to a waiting room where a congregation of people cleaved from their loved ones were left in rows of hard plastic chairs to silently pray to gods and doctors.   


You can find my article Febrile Seizures: What Every Mother Should Know 
on SheKnows HERE. 


Tanya Savko said...

The excerpt from your memoir is so beautifully written and just wrenching. You have rendered a terrifying experience with such grace.

Elizabeth said...

Just wow.

Kristi - Finding Ninee said...

Oh my gosh that is so scary and so well written. I was gripped and read through it twice trying to figure out how you got to the hospital. You have a gift and I can't wait to read the entire memoir. WOW. I'm going to go check out the other post, now. Thanks so much for sharing! said...

Oh my heart aches for that new mama that you were. How beautiful you tell such a harrowing story. I'm so sorry you and your daughter have gone through so much.

Richelle said...

I love how you write, so descriptively. I was hanging onto every word! I can't wait till your book comes out!!

kario said...

I am sending that new mother such a wealth (a tsunami?) of love and light. I can't imagine the terror she must have felt but the fact that you are sharing your experience with other parents out there is so important.


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