Adventures in Parenting #47: "That Time My Kid Had a Seizure"

I really considered whether or not I was going to write this post for a couple of reasons. Number one, we’re not the sort of people to draw attention to our very minor misfortunes. We’re very fortunate and blessed and it’s rare that you’ll catch me posting something, whether in this space or on social media, that focuses on tough times and/or highlights whatever mild hardship that might have befallen us. And two, I like my jokes and for the life of me, I can’t find much humor in this situation. So I was just going to let it be. But I’ve had enough people ask me questions about the events described below that I felt like maybe it was important to get it out there so everyone who cares knows what happened. And I should start off by saying first and foremost, Cooper is TOTALLY FINE. A couple of weeks ago, Cooper developed a really bad cough. It wasn’t a constant thing or something that even seemed to be affecting him much; just 10 or 12 times a day, he would burst out into this horrific, hacking cough that sounded like maybe he’d spent the last 20 years managing and living in a shady bowling alley. But that was his only issue; no fever, no loss of breath, no general unhappiness that would lead us to believe there was something actually wrong. Finally, after a particularly bad night of coughing, we took him to the doctor where he was tested for whooping cough. (By the way, my grandparents call it “The Hooping Cough” and I think that sounds way better and move that we, as a society, begin referring to it as so IMMEDIATELY.) Even our doctor said he didn’t think it was The Hooping Cough whooping cough but, of course, lo and behold, when the test came back three days later, he did, in fact, have whooping cough.

(Please note: Cooper has been through all of his immunizations including those that are designed to prevent whooping cough. It is only 85% effective, partly because that’s how these things work and partly because so many people are refusing immunizations for their kids. This is neither the time nor the place for that “debate” but let’s just say this choice is not my favorite thing in the world right now. Regardless, we felt it important to note that your kid can get these illnesses even if immunized.)

Being that this is our first child, I had no idea what a big deal whooping cough was. I mean, I know that it’s something we vaccinate against, I know it has a reputation for causing damage to baby-babies, and I know it’s not the best but that’s about it. Within a couple of hours, the health department was calling and Lindsey had to give them the names and phone numbers of literally every single human who came in contact with Cooper in the last 10 days. All of these people had to be notified, warned, and encouraged to get on antibiotics. (It should be noted that during this period, we had gone to a birthday party for one of Cooper’s little friends so happy birthday to that kid, enjoy The Hooping Cough.) Still, it wasn’t the end of the world. We all got on antibiotics, we quarantined Patient Zero, and we moved on with our lives just fine.

Skip ahead a couple of days to Tuesday night. Cooper had been in bed for a couple of hours and I was heading into my office to record a podcast when Lindsey and I heard him make a weird sound on the monitor. I looked at the screen and saw him in the corner of his crib twitching and shaking in the midst of what would appear to be a seizure. When I got to his crib, I thought maybe his arm was stuck in the railing but when I pulled him out, he continued the twitching for another 15 or 20 seconds. He had spasms running through his little body especially in the limbs and just didn’t seem like he was in control of his movements. Worse yet, he wasn’t THERE. He wasn’t alert, wouldn’t look at us when we called his name, and didn’t seem present for five minutes. After the fact, Lindsey and I both said it was like our kid was suddenly just gone. Finally, he started to come around and Lindsey called the standby doctor who told us to take him to the ER.

We headed over to Cook’s around 10:15 that evening and thus began the longest 18 hours of my life. We sat in the waiting room along with every other child in the Metroplex. Seriously, if you have a kid under the age of six and you weren’t in the ER on Tuesday night, you might want to check the settings on your email; it’s possible the invitation got sent to your junk mail. We waited for three hours for a spot to open up, during which time Cooper acted like nothing had happened and tried desperately to get down on the floor to crawl around (gross). It was 1:30 in the morning before we finally got to go back and talk to an actual doctor. The doctor agreed with our assessment that it sounded like Cooper had experienced a seizure and ordered a series of tests to see if they could discover the source and rule out meningitis.

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At this point, the night essentially turned into something out of a Saw movie. First the staff conducted urine and blood tests. Horrible. Then they inserted the IV which Cooper fought quite dramatically to the point that his little hand had to be taped down in order to keep everything in place. Terrible. Then we were escorted down the hall for a CT scan, for which Cooper had to be wrapped up in the most pathetic bundle I’ve ever seen. Awful. Then back in the room he had to go through an EKG, which wasn’t so bad until the nurse had to remove the patches which resulted in a total meltdown at 3 o’clock in the morning. Yay!

Then the night took an even worse turn. I thought we were done and it seemed like the nurses thought we were done. We just had to wait for all the fluid from the IV to drip into his body before they moved us to a real room. So I turned off the lights and rocked Cooper to sleep, finally…and then the doctor came back in to do a spinal tap. With all the advances in medicine from the last 50 years, you would think that by now we’d have a better way to obtain the information provided by a spinal tap without sticking a shiv in someone’s back and extracting the essence of their bones. I had a meningitis-related experience when I was four and while an otherwise normal human being, I am still scarred by that; it is literally my first memory. Being in the room while my sweet little boy was subjected to that particular brand of torture is something I will unfortunately never forget.

When all of this was finally over, the little guy got a bit of sleep before we were told that he was clear on meningitis and we were mercifully moved to an actual room. At this point it was around 5:30 in the morning. In the room, we answered the same round of questions twice more, once for the floor nurse on duty and once for the floor nurse who came on duty 20 minutes after we arrived. Cooper ate a little, bawled his eyes out over his exhaustion and the immensely frustrating IV that was still in his arm for literally no reason (the new nurse cut him off the fluids as soon as she came in the room and acted like he shouldn’t have been on it in the first place, which was fun), and finally crashed for a couple of hours.

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In the morning, after answering the same questions another half dozen or so times (seriously, medical industry, how about a new policy where the first time you describe what happened, someone records you and each doctor/nurse/attendant/janitor who visits listens to it before coming into your room?), Cooper was hooked up to an EEG box and given a litany of tests that in and of themselves weren’t so bad but the taping on of 30 sensors onto his head was brutal. He was very sad, as you can see in the picture.

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We napped again (sort of) and finally after a few hours, the neurologist came in and told us, essentially, there’s nothing wrong with him, all of the tests came back normal, and he wasn’t concerned about any long term issues. This is both the best and worst thing a doctor could possibly say. On the one hand, OBVIOUSLY I’m thrilled that my kid is okay, that he doesn’t have meningitis or epilepsy or any other malady. On the other, though, it’s hard to accept, “Sometimes kids just do weird things” as a reason for a “seizure or life threatening event” (as it was described in his paperwork). The doctor hinted that the effects of whooping cough may have left his body so tired that this was his way of shutting down which totally makes sense but also is not the definitive answer we would like to have. And, barring another seizure, we’ll probably never know what happened. So…here’s to never having the occasion to dig any deeper on this issue.

We went home a few hours later, a bit shaken but healthy and whole. Cooper promptly slept for, like, 16 hours and spent the next three days resting more than usual but now he’s back to his normal, jovial, full-bellied self. Hopefully he’ll never remember any of this and hopefully I’ll run into one of the Men in Black in the near future and he’ll be able to flashy-thing this memory from my brain as well. Thank you all so much for your concern, your texts, your encouragement, and most of all your prayers as we went through all this nonsense. With a bit of blessing, this won’t be a common occurrence and will henceforth be known as, “That time my kid had a seizure.”

Are we even working on making the flashy-thing a reality? Brian