The day we had our first ambulance ride

And, I hope it will be our last, and I hope this will the first and last time I have to call 911 for an emergency response. Come to think of it, that was his first time at a hospital too, since he was born at home.

A couple of evenings ago, our little one had a febrile seizure. I didn’t know that was the name of it at the time, but I had two fleeting thoughts: – what was it that I read about seizures in young children during illness – was this it or something else? and – I hope I don’t have to ask for our hand-me-down baby clothes back. During the episode, I felt so helpless watching his limbs twitch, his eyes roll back repeatedly, and his lips turn blue. Shortly after we laid him down on the floor, during the call with dispatch, the seizure stopped but his eyes looked glassy, his gaze off in the distance; he fell asleep despite us talking to him and he didn’t even notice his sister jumping to get his attention. I cheered inside every time his chest rose up and then down, confirming that he was still breathing.

And for those wondering:

What was the ambulance ride like?

The inside of an ambulance is surprisingly spacious, with ample room to seat at least 5 passengers with seat belts, and there’s a child-restraint system for ambulance cots! Though, with rather limited windows and with the small view whizzing by when I tried to look out to see whether we were, I found myself getting a bit motion sick. We were the first call on their shift. As the ambulance door closed, I could only offer a weak smile to the neighbour who walked out to see what was going on (I found out later, they asked j.w if everything was okay and invited them over and offered to babysit if needed). If the $45 ambulance bill is not covered by OHIP or extended health, it’s a fairly reasonable cost: $755 cheaper than having a fire truck come on scene, and $35 cheaper than for one in our area in BC.

What happened at the hospital?

We were placed in our own room with a bed to rest on in the acute care department of the emergency ward  – I guess that’s one advantage of arriving via ambulance: you don’t have to sit in the waiting area and deal with triage directly. His temperature was noted at 38.8C (which isn’t the highest it’s been). One of the paramedics instructed me to put him on the bed and wanted me to stand or sit in the chair, but thankfully, the nurses let me pick him up, which calmed him down (and kept him from falling off the bed!). For the most part, he wasn’t too miserable – I mean, you’d feel uncomfortable and probably want to cry too if they poked you, put you in some confining x-ray contraption, and put a catheter in you. The blood work showed low bicarbonate which may be related to his crazy 💩 episodes in the past couple of days (diarrhea, the doctor thinks), and chest X-rays suggest something viral in the chest, possibly early pneumonia, which might have been from his cold a couple weeks back and could explain the wet cough they overheard. The doctor consulted the pediatrician and decided that no antibiotics were needed at this time since he’s still himself, for the most part anyway (thankfully because antibiotics can cause a bunch of side effects including yeast infection in the diaper area – but I’ve supplemented with probiotics anyway since he had diarrhea). Pee dip test came out clear. Overall, we had a nice mother-son bonding time once I was given the okay to pick him up and hold him.

Despite us having to wait 5 hours for tests and results to come back, and with little updates unless I asked, towards the end of the evening, a nurse held my son while she faced the other way in the washroom so I could relieve my relatively full bladder, and even gave me a sandwich, some juice, and some fruit for us to eat, when I asked where I could buy some food to fill our rather empty stomachs (the little guy promptly fell asleep once he satisfied his hunger)[1]this episode happened just as we were sitting down to eat dinner so we missed it.

Towards the later parts of the evening, one distressed and very vocal fellow ended up in the same ward as us. One of the nurses told me that on weekends/Saturdays especially, and during later parts of the night, they often see people who don’t know where they are, or are elsewhere mentally because they’re either drunk or on way too much drugs, and sadly, the many of the latter are young people.

PT took us home as it was late by the time we left and j.w had stayed home with Bean. Since then, DS has symptoms of a cold in addition to the fever, which comes and goes.

Overall, I am very pleased with the response rate and care that we received the other night by Grand River hospital and by the paramedics.

What are we to watch for now?

The doctor instructed me to bring him back if he had another seizure within 24 hours, if we see him have any difficulty breathing, or if the fever doesn’t dissipate within 5 days. I was also advised to make a follow-up appointment with our family doctor the next week. If we notice less wet diapers, she suggested 1:1 apple juice to water ratio as a cheaper and tastier but equally effective alternative to pedialyte.

Will it happen again? Does it affect their development? Will they get epilepsy?

Sadly, the chances of another febrile seizure happening in the future is 1 in 3 (33%) now that he has had one. Both the internet and the doctor tells me that it’s fairly common in young children in response to a fever past 38C and it doesn’t seem to harm them. Our relatively laid-back child now has both allergy and febrile seizure risks (to balance out his easy-going nature?).  His chance of developing epilepsy according to the doctor is double, moving from 1% to 2%, which is still quite low: it won’t happen 98% of the time.

What happened before all this started?

Before the seizure, he seemed like his usual self, though he has seemed sad after every time he soiled his diaper for the past day or so (every one was was poopy) especially when I asked him about it, and he vomited once while crying on the toilet (I thought it was from crying, not from being sick). He hadn’t quite shaken his cough from a couple weeks back, but it didn’t seem to bother him and it was only on occasion, so I thought it was just residual coughing. He was maybe a touch warmer than usual, but I’m usually able to tell if he has a fever just by feel, so I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it; it probably didn’t help that he was wearing a wool cardigan. He woke up from his late nap after being transferred to j.w so I could make dinner, and shortly after j.w put him in the high chair, I heard, “I think he’s having a seizure”. I suggested moving him onto the ground (which the doctor assured me that was the right thing to do), called 911 since it was his first time and we weren’t sure what to do – I figured I could use the verbal coaching if I needed to do infant/baby/child CPR. He definitely felt and looked a lot hotter by the time the seizure stopped and woke up crying.

What to expect if it happens again in your care?

Start timing it – it’s probably going to feel longer than how much time has actually passed. Falling asleep is normal as long as breathing is happening, and as long as he is responsive and “comes out of it” within an hour of happening, it’s really nothing to be concerned about[2]I’m sure I’m going to be concerned every time it happens anyway. Put him down on the floor and turn his head to side in case he vomits. If the seizure continues for more than 4 minutes, call 911. If it doesn’t last for more than 10 minutes, we don’t need to bring him in to be assessed but since it takes a few minutes for the ambulance to come, preemptively calling them after 4 minutes is okay.  Paramedics advised us to strip him down to diaper to bring down his temperature as well. The pamphlet the hospital gave us also told us not to put him in a bath to bring down his temperature and don’t put anything in their mouths; they will not swallow their tongue. If he’s feverish, give him the correct dosage of Tylenol / Advil to avoid peaking over 38C.

P.S. As usual, God’s fingerprint was all over this.

He prepared me for this in two ways:

  1. I was supposed to be out that evening watching a movie with a friend but because I forgot to arrange the logistics with j.w (dinner, rides, car, etc.) and because the kids were still napping past the time, I missed it.
  2. I have been on a long wait list for a LTE WiFi hotspot router from the library. My hold finally came up the day before this happened and j.w managed to pick it up for me. I was thinking, “I’m not going anywhere this week, why would I need internet on the go?” Well, he thought to throw it into my hospital bag as I was rushing out, and thankfully I had it because I wouldn’t have paid $10 for internet for the 5 hours that we were there. It enabled me to keep family and friends up-to-date, and I was encouraged to learn that so many were praying for us – and asking if we needed any help! Thank you, as always :)

I pray we won’t experience this again, but if it does happen, at least I know what to expect -sort of; I feel one can never be “ready enough” to get married, to get pregnant, to have kids, and now to parent, but I know I’m never alone in this journey.


  1. ITL

    April 10, 2017 at 12:12 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Em. And thankful for God’s hand in this, too. Praying for you and the family. Love you lots!

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