A Woeful Wednesday

I was running before I ended the phone call.

For the last half an hour I had been occupied with a group of ten excited and eager Year Seven boys who were trying their handing at ‘pulling’ an Ultimate Disc (think throwing an old school Frisbee). We had just finished a warm up activity and they were preparing themselves for a practice match to finish off the afternoon sport session.

I felt a vibration in my pocket and checked quickly to see who was calling me during school hours.

It was my mother.

For a split second I assumed that she had forgotten I was at work, but then I knew that was unlikely. She wouldn’t ring unless it was important. Somewhat alarmed, I answered. Her voice was stern and I immediately felt my stomach lurch as I heard it:

‘Shannon you need to leave work, Ashie has had a huge seizure and you need to go to Georgie to mind the baby while she goes in the ambulance with him.’

As I heard her words I immediately looked towards the other two teachers near me on the oval and the small group of students they had with them. My mind became immediately clear and I began to run. Hanging up from Mum, I threw over my shoulder a request to my two colleagues to please watch my class. Phoning my Principal as I made my way across the oval, I stumbled to get the words out… His immediate instruction to me was ‘Go now, I’ll take your class’.

I raced towards the other side of the school to where my car was parked.

My nephew, Ashton, had experienced a couple of seizures already during his short three years, the cause of which wasn’t clear. While several major ‘ailments’ have been ruled out, it still causes us, his family, anxiety.

I knew nothing of the circumstances surrounding this seizure, so my mind was a complete mess during the short ten minute drive between my workplace and my sister’s house. Georgie and her wife Penny have two children together – Ashton is three and his little sister Scout is just six months. Having a nine year age gap between us, I have often felt more like a second mother to Georgie growing up than her older sister.

Scout is the spitting image of Georgie at her age and looking at her makes me remember her mother as an infant like it was yesterday.

As I arrived, I caught sight of my baby sister, who is now 31, sitting upright against the house in front of her front door. Ashie was on top of her whimpering and shaking, and being cradled by her with one arm, and Scout was sitting facing outwards being cradled by her with her other arm.

Georgie’s tear stained face greeted me with such a look of relief that it was all I could do not to burst into tears.

I immediately grabbed Scout out of her arms and tried to help her calm Ashie. I had no idea how to help her. I had pictured, for some reason, Ashie not being conscious when I arrived. I really know absolutely nothing about seizures and was clueless about what to do.

All of a sudden I noticed Georgie’s car was still running. I asked her why she hadn’t gone inside the house and she said that she was shaking too much to be able to get the key in the front door to get it open. I felt the tears beginning to well. Ashie was in a state of distress and I could see it was killing my poor sister not to be able to calm him.

In that fleeting moment I was so very proud of my littlest sister. She kept her cool and focused on nothing other than reassuring her little boy that all was ok and that he would feel better soon. It must have been the most frightening experience in the world for her.

Thankfully the ambulance arrived almost immediately after I did.

I wondered why they weren’t running to my nephew’s aid. They made their way calmly to us and they seemed measured in their concern. My initial indignation turned quickly to relief. Obviously they didn’t consider it an issue of life and death. Phew.

Unbeknownst to me, Ashie had been sick before this. His temperature was 40.4 degrees by the time the ambulance arrived. The ambulance staff believed Ashie had experienced a febrile convulsion due to his extremely high temperature, but given his history of other seizures in the past, they wanted to take him to the hospital for further observation and testing.

While he wasn’t ‘out of the woods’, seeing the ambulance staff so calm and reassuring made both my sister and me relax significantly. Ashie was still plainly very unwell, but his shaking began to slow and he appeared more at ease. As they drove away in the ambulance, I prayed all was going to be ok and that nothing more sinister was on the horizon. None of my five children (touch wood) have ever experienced a febrile convulsion, so my experience with them is negligible.

I’ve learned since yesterday that they are relatively common in young children during a temperature spike and are usually harmless.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH), ‘Young children between the ages of about 6 months and 5 years old are the most likely to experience febrile seizures; the risk peaks during the second year of life. The fever may accompany childhood illnesses such as a cold, the flu, or an ear infection. In some cases, a child may not have a fever at the time but will develop one a few hours later.’

Ashton went to daycare with no sign of a temperature that morning. At 1:30pm Georgie received a call from the child care centre saying that he had a temperature of 37.7 degrees and to come and collect him. He was collected at 1:45pm when his temperature had risen to 39 degrees. 

Upon arriving home, Georgie left the kids buckled in the car and immediately rushed inside to get Ashton a dose of Panadol. He then wanted his toy blanket which Georgie located for him. By this time, he was having a full blown seizure. Terrified, my sister immediately called 000.

For anyone else who finds themselves in this position, the advice she was given was to administer basic first aid. Georgie was told to unbuckle him from his car seat and to put him on his side in the recovery position, tilting his chin up in case he vomited.

I am so incredibly pleased to report that our darling little Ashton seems to be feeling well and truly better today than he was yesterday.

Which is just such a relief as this little sad face kills us…

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