Our First Ambulance Ride

It’s an interesting feeling hearing sirens in the distance and knowing they’re coming for your baby. It’s ominous because of the sense of crisis, but it’s also a relief knowing that help is on the way.

The evening had started normally. My 14-month-old daughter had been fussy from teething, but after some ibuprofen she’d be back to her energetic self, playing with the dogs and pushing her toys around. I took a video of her playing before dinner which of course I watched and rewatched later, wondering if I’d missed any signs. Nope, just normal Hannah.

After she’d been asleep for about an hour, we heard a strange moan from her room and went in to discover her having a seizure. I’d never seen anyone have a seizure before, but I could still tell immediately what was happening. My baby didn’t look like herself; it had completely taken over her body.

All I could remember about seizures was from a first aid class – make sure the person is in an open and safe area, and don’t put anything in their mouth. So we took Hannah out of her crib and put her on the floor. Since we didn’t know what was causing the seizure, we called 911.

While we waited on the emergency vehicles, just a few minutes, Hannah’s body relaxed. She was able to look around a little bit. I began to pack the diaper bag with her blankies and an iPod.

Soon there was a fire truck and an ambulance in front of our house and paramedics coming in through the front door we’d been instructed by the dispatcher to unlock. They measured Hannah’s temperature at 101 and suggested she’d had a febrile seizure. I’d never heard of that!

They explained a febrile seizure happens when a fever suddenly spikes. There are no lasting effects and are unlikely to happen again, but there was some concern that Hannah’s fever could be caused by an infection. Since this was her first seizure, they recommended transporting her to the children’s hospital to be accurately diagnosed.

My little one was put on a stretcher wearing the tiniest oxygen mask I’d ever seen and rolled into an ambulance. That was surreal. Even after going through almost two weeks in the NICU when she was born, it was hard to watch.

Since it wasn’t an emergency, we didn’t have to race across town with the sirens blaring. Just a normal drive. I was hoping this would be my only trip inside an ambulance, so I asked the paramedic as many questions as I could.

By the time we got to the children’s hospital ER, Hannah was back to her normal self but tired and bored. They checked her out and ran some tests, attempting to identify an infection that could have caused the fever. Everything came back normal, so the consensus was that the fever was caused by teething.

It was a relief to head home. We were all exhausted.

There was a possibility she could have another febrile seizure, but the likelihood decreased with age. But we watched her carefully every time she had a fever, and if she was in anyone else’s care we made sure they were knowledgeable about seizure response.

We found out that ambulance rides are usually not covered by insurance, so we agreed that if she had another seizure, we would just take her in to the pediatrician for a possible infection instead of calling the most expensive Uber ride of our lives. Now that we were more informed, we didn’t consider possible future seizures as emergencies.

I was thankful for my CPR/First Aid session in a previous job that included seizure training. Some general guidelines are:

  • turn the person on their side if you are able
  • clear the area of hard items
  • put something soft under the head if you are able
  • do not restrain the person or try to hold them down
  • do not try to put anything in their mouth
  • pay attention to the length of the seizure.

The last one I added from experience. Both the paramedics and the ER nurses asked how long the seizure lasted, and I admitted I couldn’t answer accurately. Partly because we walked in mid-seizure and partly because it felt like forever but my logical self knew it was much shorter in reality than it felt.

It’s not one of the firsts, you anticipate like first word or first steps or first haircut. I will never forget that day of my first ambulance ride, and my heart goes out to all the mamas who have endured that ride in much more serious circumstances. 

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