The Scariest Moments of My Life

If being a parent has taught me anything, it’s that your scariest moments in life will always involve your children.  Thinking back to my pre-parent/pre-married days, my scariest moments involved asking a girl out.  It seemed scary at the time, but it was nothing compared to my children’s Top Four (listed below in chronological order):

1.  NHL’s Febrile Seizure:  It was July 2004.  We had just moved into our new house and we were one month away from NHL’s first birthday.  We were supposed to visit my grandmother downstate, but the weekend was *NOT* going well.  B’s beloved cockatoo, Moose, had taken ill suddenly and passed away literally in her arms.  We stayed up late that night digging a grave for him and B was understandably distraught, so we cancelled our trip.  In hindsight, it was a good thing.

NHL was playing on the floor like he usually did.  I picked him up and happened to brush my hand across his forehead.  It was burning hot.  I remember getting the feeling that, if I didn’t remove my hand from his head, it would be burnt.  Yes, he was burning up so much it triggered my "fire hot" response!  We took his temp and it was 103 (if memory serves).  We called the doctor and he said to strip him, give him Motrin and Tylenol, and put him in a lukewarm tub.  We did all that.  While I sponged lukewarm water on his body, B went off to find a towel.  I felt NHL’s forehead again and felt it get very hot, very fast.  I called for B and she came in.  He looked up at her, but there was no recognition in his eyes.  Then his eyes rolled back and his head slumped backwards.  I quickly lifted him out of the tub and SCARY MOMENT #1 began.

NHL was lifeless in my arms.  I seriously thought he was dead.  He began to turn blue as we put him on our bed.  Then he began to twitch.  B frantically called 911.  I felt useless.  There was my baby in front of me in serious trouble and I couldn’t do anything to help.  I searched my memory for something, ANYTHING that I could do.  I remembered something about not letting them swallow their tongue.  (Yes, now I know this can’t happen, but I didn’t know at the time.)  I pried his clenched jaws open and tried to move his tongue out.

By the time the emergency personnel came, NHL had started breathing again, though he wasn’t conscious.  We got into the ambulance and headed to the hospital, B in back with NHL, me in the front.  Hearing NHL scream bloody murder never sounded so good.  It turned out that he had Koksaki virus.  That caused the fever which triggered the febrile seizure.  That night B passed out from the sheer exhaustion of the weekend’s events, but I couldn’t sleep.  I’d look down at NHL sleeping next to us and could feel myself getting more anxious every time his fever went up and less anxious every time it went down.  Luckily, after a few days, his fever broke and he was ok.

2.  JSL’s First Febrile Seizure:  One night, last February, after NHL was asleep, we noticed that JSL was running a fever.  We called the doctor and B’s parents.  They got in first and the doctor recommended the same course of action that he did the night of NHL’s seizure.  I objected to the tub since that’s when NHL seized, but I was reassured that it would help his fever.  Nevertheless, I insisted that B have a towel at the ready and not stray from the tub.

JSL went in the tub and after some time splashing, my worst fears came true and SCARY MOMENT #2 began.  JSL began to seize.  We picked him up, but he decided to one up his brother.  Instead of turning blue, like NHL, he turned grey.  He also stopped breathing (like NHL did), but didn’t start breathing again on his own.  As my mother-in-law did rescue breaths on him, I ran from the front door (looking for the already-called-for-ambulance) and the bedroom where JSL lay.  My father-in-law offered to look out the door for me.  He meant well but he didn’t seem to understand.  I needed to *DO* something.  Even if that something was completely useless.  If I wasn’t doing something, then I’d be just staring at my baby’s lifeless body and I couldn’t take that at the moment.

Finally, JSL started breathing again and the emergency personnel came.  They took JSL to the hospital.  I followed in my car with my mother-in-law.  My father-in-law stayed at our house to look after the still-sleeping NHL.  We spent the entire night in the ER.  Literally.  At around 4am we were given a room at the pediatric ward.  They didn’t know what was wrong and wanted to keep him under observation.  It worried them that he didn’t begin breathing again on his own.  For the next 4 days, that room was B and JSL’s home.  Finally, an ear infection showed itself and could be treated.

3. JSL’s Fall:  JSL has had a lot of self-inflicted head injuries.  Whether it be him trying to head-butt someone/something, or just trying to run faster than he can, he seems to have a bullseye on his forehead.  This usually results in a gooseegg, a short screaming session, and then another daring-do JSL run.  This December 2008 night, though, was different.  We were at B’s parent’s house with a bunch of her family.  Dinner had already been eaten and we were playing for a bit before dessert.  JSL was running after B’s father with only socks on his feet.  They ran into the kitchen and we heard a loud klunk!  B’s father came in carrying JSL and said he went up in the air and hit the back of his head.  (This Charlie Brown and the Football.)

He cried for me so I tried to soothe him.  That didn’t work.  So we figured that dessert would be a good distraction.  He refused chocolate.  Now we knew something was definitely up.  SCARY MOMENT #3 was about to begin.  B’s grandmother mentioned that JSL looked pale and then, as the rest of us concurred, he spaced out.  Seriously spaced out.  We took him into the kitchen, kept NHL occupied in the family room with the TV, and called 911.  Tons of emergency workers came out of the snow outside and filled up my in-law’s house.  As they prepared to take JSL to the hospital, B slipped on a wet bootprint and jammed her hand.  It wasn’t serious, but it’d hurt her for some time to come.

B and JSL went in the ambulence while I went in the car.  As I pulled out, and the ambulence pulled away, a neighbor of my in-laws stopped me to ask what was going on.  I quickly told her but then excused myself because the ambulence was getting away.  The ambulence wound through a bunch of side streets and I did my best to keep up.  Did I mention that it had just snowed?  No?  Well, it did.  The roads were really slick and I was afraid that I’d wind up slamming into a parked car while trying to follow the ambulence.

By the time I got to the hospital and got in to see B and JSL, JSL was finally alert.  They examined him and determined that his fall had given him a concussion.  After awhile, he was walking around the ER both to our delight (he’s ok!) and fright (he’s wearing socks on slick tile flooring!!!).

4.  JSL’s Second Seizure:  This one is probably my scariest moment ever for the simple facts that it: Happened only a few days ago (Saturday night) and involved choking which scares me to death.  We had bought a new bike and helmet for NHL and were trying the helment on to see if it was too small.  (It is.)  While we were doing this, JSL was playing on the floor about 2 feet away.  Suddenly JSL leaned forward and grunted.  I first thought he was pooping.  He hadn’t gone all day and could be constipated.  Then, B realized that he wasn’t pooping.  "He’s CHOKING!" She shouted.  Queue SCARY MOMENT #4!  I ran off to get a phone while B did the heimlich manuver and administered back blows.  We had no idea what he could be choking on, but whatever it was wasn’t coming out.  I called 911 and told them my child was choking.  JSL wasn’t responding and was quickly turning blue.

NHL, spared from the previous JSL scares by sleep or TV, was a full witness to this one.  He saw his little brother go limp and lifeless.  He saw JSL foam at the mouth.  He saw Mommy and Daddy panic as JSL wouldn’t respond.  He saw Mommy try to pry open JSL’s mouth to work her fingers inside.  She managed to do it, but then he clamped down again, trapping her fingers in his mouth.

I opened the door and looked out for the ambulence.  No sign of them.  From experience, I knew they were less than 5 minutes away, but suddenly 5 minutes seemed like an eternity.  Finally, I heard a siren.  I ran inside to tell B that the police were here.  NHL ran to the door and shouted at the officer:  "He’s here!  He’s here!  My little brother’s right there!"  The officer didn’t seem to do much to help, but luckily the emergency room personell came soon after.  They flooded the room and I was quickly pushed away from B and JSL by the crowd.  I put NHL on the couch to get him out of the way.

In a display of 5 year old coping mechanism, NHL shifted from being worried about his brother’s well-being to being upset that he couldn’t see the TV.  Then, after B’s parents arrived and were getting him ready to go to their house, he began crying.  He was upset that he’d miss Hebrew school tomorrow!  5 year old coping again.  Your mind can’t handle the big issue so focus on a small one.

B’s father took NHL to his house while B’s mother and I went to the hospital.  By this point, we knew he wasn’t choking.  After all, he would have been unconscious long before the first responders showed up.  In hind-sight, the seizure signs were all there:  Clenched jaw, convulsions (though seizing up muscles, not twitching which threw us), foaming at the mouth, etc.  Our only question was whether this was a febrile seizure (he didn’t seem sick before) or due to some head injury (see SCARY MOMENT #3).

At the hospital, we got our answer.  They took JSL’s temperature and it was 103.5.  That pointed to a febrile seizure.  They listened to his chest and looked in his ears but couldn’t figure out why he had a fever.  After some prompting, they looked in his mouth, but didn’t find anything.  They also didn’t do any blood tests.  Instead, they gave JSL some Motrin and sent us on our way.  Rest assured that an angry phone call is planned.

That’s the end of SCARY MOMENT #4, but not the end of the story.  For the rest of the story, head on over to B’s blog and read: 13 Months later – the nightmare returns, Two febrile seizures in less than 30 hours, and Spring FEVER update.