I thought my son was dying

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I thought my son was dying in my arms.  The stone of panic that lives in every parent’s heart dropped into my stomach and I was consumed with dread, torment and pure physical agony as I tried to get my brain to function through my fog of panic  . . .

I was on the phone to my Mum.  Master 21 months was a bit grizzly and annoying and I suspected teething but he was not feverish or unwell.  One minute he was sitting watching TV with his brother and when I looked over next he was face down on the couch.  For a split second I thought he was playing.  But he was not playing.  I rushed over to him and screamed his name.  His face and body were mottled blue and he was stiff but shaking all over at the same time.  He had bubbles coming out of his mouth and was making a humming sound and his eyes were glazed over.  His limbs were cold and his face and head were burning hot.

I remember screaming his name and shaking uncontrollably.  I was hysterical but he was unresponsive.  I picked him up and yelled down the phone to my Mum to call the Ambulance.  But I was shaking with panic and could not work my phone and had not yet hung up on her.

Hearing the whole thing but not knowing what was wrong caused her to panic too though she had the presence of mind to call a friend and my husband.

I somehow pulled myself together and remembered my first aid training and got him outside on our verandah and in the stable side position.  He vomited and was still shaking and I realised he was having a convulsion of some kind.  I managed to ring 000 and my husband while Master 21 months shaking subsided to twitching.  He was breathing but I was struggling to believe it and kept my hand on his ribcage to be sure.

My husband arrived home to my sobbing, hysterically loud voice and his silent son.  Master 21 months had still made no sound by the time the Ambulance arrived. The Medics put a tiny oxygen mask on his face and gently explained to us that febrile convulsions are common and are caused by a sudden increase in body temperature.  They are terrifying to see but children usually make a full recovery.

Master 21 months started crying as they lifted him into the Ambulance.  The Medics assured me this was a good sign and I was never so relieved to hear my child’s cries.  I had never experienced such a medical emergency and found it confronting, especially with my own child.  I was well prepared with first aid knowledge but still I panicked.  I was comforted by understanding medical staff who assured me this was a normal response.  But I honestly thought my son was dying because of something I didn’t do.  Was he bitten?  Was he allergic to something?  Why wasn’t I checking his temperature?  Why did I always find his whinging annoying when he was trying to tell me something?

Riddled with guilt and shock I could not eat for days afterwards.  My body ached from the surge of adrenaline and my knees were bruised from kneeling beside him.  I still cannot sleep properly and am consumed with the thought that he might have another convulsion in his sleep and choke on his vomit.  I get up about four times a night and do the rounds of checking my children.

Master 3 was not bothered by the event which was good and he was, characteristically, excited to see the Ambulance.  Master 11 weeks slept through the whole thing but I know I will be scarred for life and will never forget this day.

Has anyone else experienced a febrile convulsion or other medical emergency at home?  What did you do?  Is your first aid training up to date?


8 thoughts on “I thought my son was dying

  1. Last Sunday night/early hours Monday morning, I thought were loosing Master 3 as well. I woke up to him coughing a couple of times. I got up to check on him, as he has had a history of bad coughs and head colds that led to severe ear infections, plus possible asthma (which he still needs to have assesed – he still a bit too young to get a proper diagnosis). By the time I got from my room to his side, he was coughing quite badly and was trying to suck in air. My first thought was asthma and give him ventolin immediately.

    I had initially kept calm until 5 minutes later he was still struggling to breath and appeared to be getting worse not better (even after giving him 4-5 puffs of the ventonlin through a spacer). He was now becoming more upset and more upset, which made his breathing issue worse. I went into panic mode and I just dialled 000. Dad was on night shift duty so I was on my own and he wasn’t necessarily contactable.

    By the time the ambulance had arrived the ventolin appeared to start to kick in and start to work to some degree for Master 3. A trip to the hosptial via the ambulance was the call of the night. Miss 5 had slept through the past chaotic 15 minutes, but I had to wake her up to come with as I had no one to ask to come and stay with her.

    Apparently Master 3 had a very severe case of Croup – man did it come on quick. He has had mild cases before, but he showed some of the symptons normally associated with this, running nose and temperatures. But with this case – there was no warning, nothing!

    I managed to get hold his dad and once we were released got a lift home in the Police car, as dad was still on duty.

    The severity situation did not really hit me until the next day, and I realised how close we got to possibly loosing Master 3, or for him to have some disability because of this. I came home from collecting his medication and then just burst into tears, as the realisation set in how close we had got and how quickly it kicked in.

    I too now get up to two or three times a night to check on Miss 5 and Master 3. I had been considering retiring the baby monitor, but I think I will keep for a bit longer yet – as this was the only reason I heard him like I did that night.


      1. Thanks Haylz, no repeat of that incident yet, and I pray we don’t have another any time soon. As a result I have his vapouriser going everynight since then – he appears to sleep better. So I think this will be norm until the weather definitely warms up and the humidty picks up as well here in Katherine.

        Hope your middle little man is doing well and has no side effects from his incident. I was going to let my first aid lapse (as I would have to pay for it), but after this I am going to do my refresher. It’s too scary not to.

        Love to you, Aaron and the boys

        Flukey (Fiona).


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