There’s nothing worse than witnessing what could be one of the scariest moments a parent could face with their children: a seizure. According to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, “seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Someone having a seizure might collapse, shake uncontrollably, or have another brief disturbance in brain function, often with a loss of or change in consciousness.”
Understanding seizures is a big step in taking control of these frightening episodes, both in the moment and long-term. Foremost, being able to recognize when a seizure is paramount for the healing process to begin. Symptoms of a seizure in children include:
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms and convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
- Unusual sensations
- Breath-holding spells or difficulty breathing
- Staring spells or unresponsiveness
In the event that these symptoms occur, it is important that you dial 9-1-1 as soon as you secure the child and safely remove them from harm. BayCare Health System advises the following steps when providing first aid for someone suffering from a seizure:
- Protect the head
- Help the victim to the floor if he or she begins losing muscle control. Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking
- Protect the victim’s head from injury by placing something soft, such as folded clothes, beneath it, and by moving objects away from the victim
- Avoid injury by restraining the person or by placing anything in his or her mouth
- Preserve dignity
- Clear away bystanders
- Reassure the victim, who may be confused, drowsy, or hostile when coming out of a seizure
- Cover the person or provide dry clothes if muscle spasms have caused a loss of bladder control
- Check for injury
- Make sure the victim’s mental state has returned to normal. One way to do this is to ask the person his or her name, the year, and your location
- Injuries can occur to the head, mouth, or body
When the time comes to sit down for a serious conversation with the pediatrician, it is important to note that seizures can be caused by a number of different factors including low blood sugar, infection, head injury, high fever, or more ongoing or serious conditions such as epilepsy and meningitis. Following the seizure, it is important that you not try to wake your child if they fall asleep or give them food or water during this time.
On their website, Florida Hospital publishes numerous accounts and case studies of children who suffer from seizures and their subsequent journey to recovery. This is Christian’s story:
“When seemingly healthy and happy 9-month-old baby Christian started to cry fervently one August evening, mom Marie Rivera knew something wasn’t right. ‘Christian wasn’t responding to me as he normally did,’ said Marie. ‘All of a sudden, his eyes rolled back in his head and he began to shake. He had a very distant look in his eyes—it was like I was losing my son.’ Mom immediately called 911, and Christian was rushed to the hospital, where she learned her son had experienced a seizure. Christian’s seizure was the result of a previously undetected brain Aneurysm that had ruptured, leaving him paralyzed on one side. The bad news didn’t end there. Christian was now epileptic, and could possible experience seizures for the rest of his life.
For the next seven years, Christian had seizures regularly, as many as a few dozen a day. He faced many challenges—it was difficult for him to understand his parents, follow along in school, and remember what he was trying to say and do. While he enjoyed trying to ride his bike, mom or dad was always close behind, worried for his safety.
‘I lived in fear of seizures everyday,’ said Marie. ‘I wanted so badly for him to just be able to be a kid.’
A sweet, affectionate child, Christian would always have a positive attitude and approach every challenge with a smile, and even, a sense of humor, despite his medical issues. He would torment his older sister with silly little-brother antics that, on many occasions, would leave mom and dad with nothing else to do but belly laugh.
After trying to three or more anti-seizure medications, Christian’s seizures still wouldn’t stop. ‘The doctor told us we would keep putting him on more medications, but he wouldn’t be Christian anymore,’ she said. The thought of losing everything that made Christian who he was was simply not an option. The Riveras needed help.
They turned to the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Florida Hospital for Children, Orlando’s newest state-of-the-art Level 4 Epilepsy Center with a team of thirty and growing, who have dedicated their lives to treating kids with ‘intractable’—our medically untreatable—epilepsy. ‘Dr. Lee told us that the majority of children who have the surgery end up seizure free. To me, the thought of going in for surgery was less scary than the thought of Christian losing who he was while on numerous medications.’
Christian underwent a hemispherectomy which involves disconnecting the one side of the brain responsible for causing the seizures from the rest of the brain. Using the state-of-the-art operating rooms with in-surgery MRI functionality, the doctors are able to check the precision of their work while operating, leading to less surgeries and improved successes. The technology also allows for the physicians to avoid disturbing key areas of the brain necessary for function, reducing the likelihood of deficits post-surgery.
Miraculously, Christian is now completely seizure free. He enjoys swimming, riding his bike, playing computer games, and snuggling with his dog. He is stronger, more alert, and more communicative. His teachers have seen improvements in school; he is listening and asking questions. Overall, he is a healthier little boy.
While the Riveras will always worry about their son as any parent would, they can let go of the bicycle a little more confidently now—and let him be free to be a kid.”
If a child you know suffers from seizures, there is help available, and though the road to healing can be lengthy and arduous, there are resources available that can foster a healthy and normal life for your child. The journey starts by being an informed parent, and it seems like you’re already ahead of the game.