Febrile Seizures: "This is the Seizure You Want to Have"...Wait, WHAT?

"This is definitely the kind of seizure you want your kid to have."


She was an ER resident with an icy, direct gaze and a no-frills haircut.  At that moment, I couldn't remember her name because I was busy trying to get my wife to drink something as she held our daughter, who, an hour before, had just had a grand mal seizure in our downstairs bathtub.  An hour or so later, our other two kids were at a friend's house, my car had a Check Engine Light because I flogged it so hard getting to UK Hospital, and we were both trying to process what happened.

* * *

Scalett Fever.  Those two words hit me like a ton of bricks the previous day when Whitney came home from Georgetown Pediatrics.  Immediately my mind sprang to two movie scenes:  One from Oh God! You Devil with George Burns where the mom pleads with God to not let her baby die because its fever was so high.  Another was some dead-people movie where a kid gets thrown into an icy bath and dies anyway.

Scarlett Fever is serious business.  The doc didn't seem to think so, as he gave us some Amoxicillin and recommended alternating Motrin and Tylenol ever 4 hours.  We needn't cancel our vacation plans, just watch it and keep on the regimen throughout.


Fast forward to Sunday night.  We were going to head out to Gatlinburg the next day, all 5 of us in our Ford Fusion Hybrid.  Yeah, the one with 25% less trunk space.  I was concerned how I was going to get everything packed, how we didn't seem to be ready, how I was going to handle my two eldest bickering in close quarters for 6 hours in the backseat.  Mostly, I was afraid of me, if I'd act out like I've done countless times before, ruining everything for everybody.  Whitney and I both agreed I needed a break.  In any case, Grace seemed to be on an upswing, her fever stabilized and she had quite the appetite when I left.

So, I headed out around 5-ish, got some ice cream, then hit the Georgetown theaters for a showing of The Amazing Spiderman.  I'd heard it was a good movie, and that the interplay between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy was worth watching in a totally not Romantic Comedy sort of way.  Movie started 7ish, so I was just getting to the climax--Lizard dude was attacking the school--when my phone rang.

Not texted.  Not Google Voice or Google Chat.  No, Whitney was calling me.  Offhandedly, I took note that my phone was also almost out of battery.  Damn, I thought, must not have plugged it in last night, or some Android app has gone haywire and drained it.

I declined the call, doing the "I'll call you back in a few minutes" auto-text response.

So she texted me back: "Your daughter is having convulsions."

I texted back "OMW"--on my way--and hit send and the phone died.  I didn't even know if the phone had gotten the message out before it died.  Another problem: I had no way of communicating with her as I'd left my car charger in her car.

I sprinted out of the theatre to my car.  It's about 10 minutes or so to get from the theatre through central G'town to my house.  I made it in ~5, trying to staunch my panic.  I've been here before, you see, same scenario:  Away from the family, something goes down, trying to get in contact with Whitney and can't.

Anyway, I get to the house, just in time to see the ambulance (!) pulling out the other way.  Every light in the house was still burning so I screech into the back carport and try to get in.  Every door is locked and--#fail again--I didn't seem to have a key.  Peaking in, I didn't see anyone in the house, so I assumed my wife and all 3 kids must be in the ambulance.

I assumed they'd go to the closest hospital, so I burned it into the Georgetown Hospital ER, but she wasn't there.  I waited behind a fat woman who was giving the triage nurse 'tude, until I finally--wild eyed with urgency--went to the poor intern/candy striper who was also behind the counter.  "I need to find out where my wife was.  They let me use their landline and call the EMT dispatch, who promptly put me on hold.  The triage nurse took pity on me and called somebody I didn't see or hear, then came back to me and whispered, "U...K...." 

I tore out of there and tried making speed down US25 to UK hospital.  I missed my E30 325 and its manual transmission.  Actually, I yearned for my GTO and its 350 hp, or possibly a helicoper.  My poor, tired Camry shunted between 2nd and 3rd  gear, rarely straying below 3000 rpm as I passed people as much as I could.

I got into the Pediatric ER at UK--much nicer than it had been in 2007, your tax $ at work--and the triage nurse there pretty much waved me in to room 14 where I was surprised to find Grace alert and awake, in Whitney's lap.

Whitney was very chatty and random, a sure sign she was nervous and stressed.  She was also holding tight to Grace talking to the hospital staff who administered Motrin and checked her vitals.  I took Grace and tried to get Whitney to drink some fluids and calm down.  Then I learned what had happened...

Apparently, after Grace destroyed a bowl of ABC's & 123's, Whitney put her into a bath.  The bath had neither been too cold nor too hot, and Grace seemed to enjoy playing in it.  Then she became unresponsive.  Then her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to convulse all over, a classic Grand Mal seizure.  She seized for ~17 minutes, during which time Whitney texted me and then she called 911.  As luck--or God's plan--would have it, some people from our church were driving by and saw the EMT's out front, then grabbed Joey and Maria.

Our piercing-gazed resident interviewed us pretty extensively, and we were to learn why:  There's a certain type of seizure called a Febrile Seizure.   "This is certainly the type of seizure you want your child to have," they said.  This seizure type has pretty strict criteria:  Must be related to a fever or change in body temp, must last for a certain period of time, must have a short recovery period, and it must be a whole body (Grand Mal) seizure.  Ergo, if your feverish kid has a scary-as-hell convulsion for a relatively short period of time, it's probably okay.  There's something like a 40% chance they'll have a second one throughout the remainder of their life, and only a 20% chance of 3 or more.  There's only a slightly elevated risk of epilepsy or other seizure disorder.

Reading the literature, it seems to be correlated to people with genetic neuronal hypteractivity (read: ADD/ADHD).  Ah, makes sense, then. :-)

So, no neuro consult, and we got home and collected our kids a tad after midnight, and collapsed.  We watched G improve all Monday, then set out on our vacation on Tuesday.

Scary stuff, but everyone's been very supportive, and several have shared how they went through similar things with their kids, only to never see a relapse.


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