I had spent two weeks over the past month in Houston; the airport with two toddlers had started to become quite fluid and routine. Though Baby K loved to make a habit of spontaneously throwing her diaper and cares to the wind from time to time in the main walkways. She’d smile with pride while embracing the freedom with mad dashes that shined her bum to hoards of people.
This morning Lil ‘A’ had awoken ill, and it concerned me to fly that day, hoping she was up for the transit, hoping she would not contaminate another child or someone who may have a lower immune system. (I’m married to a man with an auto-immune disease, it’s something I’m incredibly conscious over.) I could hardly coax my usually hyper active three year old out of bed, but my husband had been insistent, we could not afford to miss another flight.
I sat at the airport, ready to go back and face it. The flight was delayed 10 minutes, and then another 10, and then another. Little A, had taken on a new life after the hour nap on the way to the airport, her fever had diminished and her soul was effervescent. Baby K and Little A were running laps around the gate area, and I basked in their laughter. At the second announcement of delay baby K took a moment from her playing to crawl into my lap, it caught me off guard, she was hot to the touch. Like any mother, I know when my child has a fever without a thermometer, something an ER doctor didn’t understand this past May. I started to alter into a panic mode, you see baby K is prone to febrile seizures.
I needed infant Tylenol, immediately. I dragged the girls across the terminal to the shop that’s lined with magazines and the fixtures display an even blend of necessities and souvenirs. I looked at the medicines but found only adult tylenol and children’s Claritin. I approached the register where a young freckle faced brunette promptly ignored my standing before the register to ask a question, as she texted on her phone. I interrupted her conversation, “Do you have children or baby tylenol?”
With a permanent face of annoyance she looked at me as if that was the dumbest question ever, like why on earth would they carry children’s Tylenol. “No.”
“Does anyone in the entire airport,” I asked my voice strained.
“No,” again her face contorted into an obvious confusion over my questions. We stood at the gate, they announced our flight was about to board and my mind raced. Should I get on the plane? I already returned the rental, I can’t get anywhere very fast, and don’t really have anywhere near to go. Should I call the ER? No they were ugly to me for bringing K in with only a fever last time. I mean after all it is just a fever. I texted my husband, hoping he’d say not to get on the plane. Hoping his concern for K would override his need for us to be home that night. I was panicked, not to be taken seriously and he was dismissive.
After what felt like eternity I decided as soon as I got on the plane I would request a bag of ice and apple juice so I could cool K from the inside out. The flight attendant though was quite distracted and I didn’t want to make a scene of a baby with a fever on the plane, why, because I didn’t want to publicize I was bringing a potentially contagious child on board, that and, I don’t know, I’m an idiot. So I found my seat and decided I would ask for the ice after take off. After all there were all these passengers piling in the aisles, and the doctor at the ER in August said the likelihood of a repeat performance was, well unlikely.
K started to look drowsy and fell asleep on my chest, and the exhaustion from no sleep for two nights of Lil’ A being sick was wearing on me. My eyes were heavy and uncharacteristically were forcing themselves to shut. It was perhaps not only my lack of sleep but just the stress from the past two months, or really if we are really honest, year. The plane jolted as it shot down the airway I looked down at K, still sleeping soundly and allowed my eyes to close in a blend of mediation, prayer, and just over all drowsiness.
When we reached our altitude the flight attendant came over the PA. I opened my eyes and noticed K hunched forward towards the aisle, her back towards me. I pulled her so I could see her face but her body flopped back, her eyes rolled back into her head. Her tongue slipped in and out between her lips and her body began to convulse. A cold shiver shot through me, I felt as if I was drowning in a static electric sea of shock, is this really happening, is my baby really having a seizure 36,000 feet above the ground? I wanted my husband, I wanted any other adult, anyone other than my three year old daughter who attentively focused her eyes on my old refurbished iPad.
Considering A was sitting in the seat beside me; I didn’t want to alarm her. I pressed the call button as the flight attendant continued her announcement, “the weather in Huntsville is…” I turned K to her side as I pressed the button again and she went on. “we will be landing in one hour and thirty minutes, ” she concluded and I hit the button twice more as she complacently sat, the symbol of obedience in her seat staring out blankly at the cabin.
Not wanting to cause a scene I whispered gently, “help. Can I get some help?”
K’s feet were pointed out into the aisle and her little legs revealed evidence of the convulsions to a man diagonal to me. Just minutes before he had just been teasing me and the kids, which of the two girls would fall asleep first ? This time his face was not so jovial. His stature was large, but with alarm he leapt with grace and finesse out of the tiny airline seat. “Ice, I need ice. I need baby tylenol, I need ice.” A man with such stature does not move so out of turn and with such explosion without gaining some sort of attention. Suddenly I had at least seven passengers running up and down the aisle in attempt of aid in the situation. The flight attendant acquired a leaky bag of ice, while someone approached a passenger with an infant to inquire about infant tylenol. One kind business man offered a tylenol which a young man in jeans and t-shirt cut and ground the pill and placed a third of it in hot water to dilute it. He then blended it with apple juice and handed me the toddler cocktail.
By this time the seizing had ceased and K’s eyes refused to open. The flight attendant was eager to shake her, while the man who sat behind me said there was little use for such a tiny body to bounce back as fast as adults. Finally the terrifying silence was disrupted as K regurgitated a stream of red fruit punch, it oozed silently, like lava all over my blouse, all over her kitty cat shirt, and all over the seat. I smiled in the sticky mess knowing we were near the end of this nightmare as she opened her eyes.
“Offer her the bottle,” the man behind me kindly nudged.
I suddenly felt a bit of panic dosing my 18 mos. old with adult tylenol, and I hesitated, “is there a doctor or nurse on board?”
“I’m a medic,” his smile was genuine, patient, and kind.
I fed her the bottle in doses I didn’t want to risk her throwing it all up once more, and I held the bag of ice off and on against her temple. Throughout the flight.
“That was a short one,” he announced.
The flight attendant approached, “would you like to turn the plane around? Do we need to call an ambulance?”
“It’s done,” I spoke calmly, “there’s nothing anyone can do but feed her tylenol and monitor her temperature. I would rather do that with my husband by my side.” My doctors in Atlanta had told me that unless the seizure took longer than 15-20 minutes don’t bother bringing her in. And though in the time frame of this blog it may have come off as taking longer, there were many overlapping sequences, and in my panic that time seemed far more drawn out.
But did I tell her no for the right reasons? Was it perhaps I have this major fear of media? Was it perhaps I didn’t want my family watching the news to see that my flight had grounded due to an unknown cause? Or due to an infant having health problems on beard? And then that self-doubt set in and I looked up at the medic who sat intently watching K, “right?”
He let out another kind smile. “Let her just go home,” he spoke.
It’s been nearly a month now, and thought the burn has worn off, I’m still not okay. It started with that first week, anytime K rolled her eyes up to look up at the Christmas tree, or let out small coughs in her sleep my entire body iced over in panic. If I heard her kick repeatedly in her crib (her favorite past time), or if she jolted while I was holding her I would be sent into an internal tizzy. In fact even if she was simply facing away from me, still, while I held her I panicked. It was uncomfortable, and still can be, for her to sleep on me, the most heartbreaking loss of this trauma. I didn’t feel her seizure, I didn’t know for an entire thirty to sixty seconds, she showed no signs until she flopped back to reveal her face. I’m on her nerves, checking her temperature regularly, realizing this bout hit in less than an hour, and that thought makes for sleepless nights and unproductive nap times.
The house has grown into disarray, and my writing has fallen by the wayside. With time, life is growing more overwhelming in every direction. This post alone took two weeks to complete. I spend each moment she is awake chasing her, attempting to keep up with her, wishing she would sleep and allow mommy some rest. Then I spend every moment of her napping and sleeping listening still and intently, waiting for signs that she was awoken to see yet another day.
With winter upon us, I am forced to bundle her in coats and winter hats when we are out, though those concern me, I wonder if they will raise her temperature too much. Am I keeping her too warm, or then am I keeping her warm enough to keep her from catching some cold or flu that would lead again to fevers. There is no winning, there is no rest.
A nice trip to Whole Foods yesterday to find dairy free products for her lactose intolerance was ruined by the heightened warmth of her forehead. This was most likely caused by her winter hat, but all the same I spent a good amount of time casually hanging in the freezer checking out each and every frozen pizza. I don’t want my husband to know my alarm, he mocks me and rolls his eyes. He calls me dramatic, and his insensitivity to my concerns just make it worse, on my worries and for our marriage, so I have to be subtle. Though the freezer didn’t seem to lower her warmth, which of course I could no longer actually check as my hands were so cold from the frozen parcels I had been handling in my rouse. The panic began to sink in, and I grew dizzy, disoriented, and physically ill. Our family outing was cut short because, “I just simply not feeling very well.”
I was awoken at five this morning with the dreaded though of when K would begin preschool, what then? Could I handle her being away, out of my sight that long? Can I trust a teacher who has so many other children to supervise to notice within an hour’s time K’s temperature? No use trying to sleep now, and so I decided to take an early start, and embrace this time to write. Though in the silence, I heard a constant shuffling in K’s crib and upon check on her, only awoke her so that I was forced to pull her out of her crib so that she did not also wake up her sister.
I do intend on looking into vital technologies for cribs. I hear those are a thing. Anyone have any experience? What is your best suggestions? Any other mother’s experience similar experiences out there? How do you cope with the fear over febrile seizures when we aren’t in the room? I don’t want this to consume who I am as a person or define me, and I’m sure with time these moment of panic will fade. In the meantime, have patience with me, and give me time to heal.