A Seizure and a Trip to the ER

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About a month ago, the Dumpling had a seizure and was rushed to the emergency room. I knew nothing about seizures prior to the incident, so it was hard for jigg and me to helplessly watch our child go through this. We learned from the doctors that seizures are actually not uncommon in young children, so sharing our experience could be informative for other parents who may have to go through something similar (although I hope not!).

The seizure happened on a Sunday morning when the Dumpling slipped while circling around the living room coffee table. It was hard to imagine that a tiny fall could have affected the next 24 hours so drastically. The Dumpling looked ready to seize the day when she woke up that morning. She actually had a high fever the day before from a viral infection but our pediatrician cleared her to resume normal activity as long as we kept her fever in check.

I thought it was odd she didn’t get up or make a sound.

“Oh my God, Look at her face!” I screamed as I bent down to check on her. The Dumpling was twitching uncontrollably with eyes rolled behind her head. jigg immediately ran over and laid the Dumpling on her play mat.

“Mui Mui!” He called her by her nickname. The Dumpling remained unresponsive. “She’s having a seizure!”

I dialed 911 and was connected to someone who gave me instructions on what to do while the paramedics were on their way.  I repeated them aloud so jigg could hear as well.

  • Bring her to a clear area
  • Take off her clothes
  • Loosen her diaper
  • Lay her to her side
  • Don’t put anything in her mouth
  • Open the front door and wait for the ambulance

The whole call lasted about three minutes. During that time, Dumpling had a spit up and soiled her diaper. By the time I hung up, the seizure was over as she was beginning to whimper, but still unable to get up. It seemed half of her body was paralyzed.

jigg and I quickly took turns changing and grabbed the Dumpling’s diaper bag, which was already pre-packed with essentials and extra sets of clothes, before the paramedics arrived. They seemed hopeful that we would be back from the hospital within a few hours.

jigg wrapped the Dumpling in a towel and carried her into the ambulance.  The Dumpling has already regained full consciousness and was crying inconsolably during the five minute drive. Her tantrum would continue on and off for the next three hours in the ER and her behavior was unlike anything I have ever seen – she backed herself into the corner of the room like a scared animal and swatted everything and everyone away.

jigg and I must have recounted what happened to 10+ doctors and nurses, who asked very specific questions.

Did she have a fever? How long did the seizure last? Was her entire body twitching or just the head? What were her arms doing? Right side? Left side? Was she on medication? Any delivery complications? Any family history?

In hindsight, we should have recorded the episode.

The neurologist wanted to keep the Dumpling overnight and monitor her brain for the next 24 hours via  electroencephalogram (EEG). To get her set up for the test, we spent another excruciating 30 minutes with the technician gluing wires onto the Dumpling’s head while she clawed, kicked and screamed. Her head was hooked to 20+ wires that were attached to a small machine box connected to a 30 feet cord inside the hospital room. A live camera would monitor the Dumpling’s every move for the next 24 hours.

The Dumpling reminded me of Professor Xavier with Cerebro.

By evening the Dumpling was slowly returning back to her usual self. She was getting more agitated from being confined than the aftermath of the seizure at this point. All jigg and I could do was follow her around in circles to make sure she didn’t trip on the cord or pull out the wires.

By morning we found several wires ripped off despite our best efforts and were terrified that we might have to stay another night. jigg and I both gave a sigh of relief when the scans came back normal and the neurologist released her. But there seemed to be more uncertainty than answers, the most important one being that the doctors still didn’t know what caused the seizure. The hospital initially admitted the Dumpling for a febrile seizure, which is a seizure caused by high fever. That was ruled out since the Dumpling was not running a fever before, during, or after the event. (jigg was 100% sure on the “before” period since he took the Dumpling’s temperature 20 minutes before the incident.) The diagnosis was then changed to a partial seizure, which is a seizure caused by partial brain abnormality.

The neurologist, jigg and I agreed that the best approach was to “wait and see” before putting our daughter on medications or further testing since this was the first incident. The most we could do is now is monitor her and educate her caregivers on what to do in case it happens again.  The steps would be the same instructions that the 911 responder provided us over the phone. The biggest danger to the Dumpling (or anyone having a seizure) would typically be falling and hitting a hard object, so we’d just have to keep her safe until the episode passes.

We also learned the seizures are not a disease but rather a symptom of another underlying cause (like a fever is a symptom of an infection). The doctors informed us that seizures are not painful and generally non life-threatening, so we would only need to bring the Dumpling into the emergency room if a future episode lasted for more than five minutes.

The Dumpling luckily hasn’t had another incident since, and we’re hoping she stays that way!

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