Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not a typical Monday

This happened last month and was posted on my Facebook account but I never got around to posting it here.

It all started out as a quick outing before lunch on Monday to our local fruit and vegetable farm to pick some strawberries with the kids and my mom who was visiting. It quickly turned into a three-ring circus after punching three numbers into our cell phone.

We had no sooner arrived at the strawberry fields armed each with a white picking basket and Baby K settled into her stroller when I realized that she had twisted herself around in her stroller and was half hanging out. I immediately straightened her up and told her to "Sit". However, looking her over, I realized her movements weren't normal. I unharnessed her from the stroller and took her to a shady spot under a tree and sat down with her on the grass. She then proceeded for the next few minutes as we sat there to involuntarily jerk her head and chin over her right shoulder and arch and turn her whole back around to the right. Then she would relax for about 15-20 seconds, take a quick breath and repeat the same movements. Her eyes remained normal and she didn't appear to be in much discomfort even though her body was contorting. My mom and son had headed to the end of the rows which were out by a treeline and were beyond calling distance.

I grabbed my mother's car keys from the stroller and Baby K and I headed to the car which was in view to call Shane at work on the cell phone. As I carried her, she continued to thrash around in my arms, but not crying. I described to Shane what she was doing and we discussed the one other time on a Sunday morning at church that she did this for a few minutes but then proceeded to be fine downing her bottle with no difficulty.
We agreed that I should take her to the ER at the children's hospital here in Ontario and get her checked out. I hung up and placed her in the rear-facing infant seat only to have her completely twist and turn so that she was basically face down in the seat. I readjusted her and she kept twisting and flipping. I realized then that I was not going to be able to restrain her and drive the 40+ minute trip to the ER.

I took her out of the seat and called Shane back. We agreed that I should call 9-1-1 and have her go in by ambulance. I hung up again with Shane and dialed 9-1-1 this time, looking at the phone go into "Emergency Mode". Just as the dispatcher answered and asked, "Fire, Police or Ambulance?", Baby K began to cry in my arms still turning and twisting still uncontrollably. Then came the moment that I had forgotten to think about: giving our location. I gave the dispatcher the name of the farm and then floundered while I tried to remember the main crossroads. This is the beginning of rural Ontario and the roads are numbered by "Line" or "Concession" and make it difficult to remember. Then it hit me, I have their card in my wallet, so I dug quickly, managing to dump part of my wallet in the grass next to the open passenger door. I read off the address to her and waited on the line until she confirmed assistance was on the way. Baby K was still crying off and on and still squirming as I held her sideways trying to put my wallet back together, and redial Shane at work. After telling him that help was on the way and explaining that my mom was still at the far end of the strawberry field completely unaware of what was going on, he and I hung up with the knowledge that he would be at the farm in about 15 minutes, whether or not Baby K and I would still be there was uncertain.

I decided I better walk up to the barn where the farm store was and explain to the owner that I had called 9-1-1 for my daughter and that I just wanted them to know to expect an ambulance showing up shortly. After speaking to one of the ladies, she followed me back to where my mom's car was parked while I sat back down on the grass with Baby K to see how she was faring. The lady asked if there was anything she could do and after hesitating for a moment to think, I said, "Yes, my mom and my son are still picking in the field. I can see them from here but haven't notified them yet. Would you mind flagging them down? My stroller is parked at the end of the row right there as well."
She nodded her head and then said something that was quite laughable later. "What do they look like?". I quickly described my mom as a woman in her sixties with a six-year old boy. I think there may have been one other person in the field at the time, but possibly they might have been the only ones as well. So as mom and I talked about it later, we laughed over the lady's inquiry as the place was very quiet and empty at that time.

My mom and son showed up in a few minutes as the rumble of a fire truck entered the farm's circular driveway. I saw a man waving the truck towards our direction and I also waved one arm from where I was sitting in the grass next to the car. Two firefighters immediately ran to where were and pulled out a little oxygen mask and other medical things. Baby K was now sitting up in the grass looking around very unsure but not crying or turning as much. Her shoulders and head would still turn to the right but she appeared more calm and controlled. A blue blanket was produced for her to sit on and the process of removing her little shorts and oneies shirt while still taking her vitals began. I think by now, the first ambulance had arrived and had produced more paramedics who needed to be caught up on the facts. I answered more questions and so did the initial firefighter paramedics who were now joking about baby clothes and who had kids and who was used to handling snaps and buttons. I stayed right down on the blanket with Baby K, talking to her and rubbing her back and reassuring her that I was right there and everything was okay. For the most part, she handled all the strangers in her face very well and only cried briefly once or twice.

The next thing I remember there was a quick discussion about the helicopter and then I heard the sound of the blades approaching. As I turned, I realized that Shane had arrived and was crouched behind me looking at our daughter. It's blur, but I remember someone saying, "There's going to be a lot of stuff blowing around when the chopper sets down." Someone tried to cover us as pine needles, leaves and dust showered and swirled around us on the grass next to the driver's side of the car. At some point a second ambulance had arrived as well and a police car that I never noticed.

A female paramedic from the helicopter was now kneeling next to me and they were asking us who was going to ride with Baby K to the hospital. Shane and I looked at each other and we both knew that it would have to be me as I would be able to answer the questions and explain the symptoms at the ER. But then I remembered I'm pregnant. So I asked if it was okay for me to fly as I only have six weeks to go. The female paramedic and the others assured me it was fine and that she herself was pregnant. I was helped up off the grass and the paramedic said she would carry our daughter to the chopper. I was handed a large set of military green earphones with a dangling mouthpiece to put on. As I slipped the set on and adjusted them, Shane and I briefly shouted back and forth what the rest of them would do and what to bring for Baby K to the hospital.
I hugged our son goodbye and told him I loved him and that Baby K was going to be okay. He was standing next to the driver's side leaning on the hood area and he seemed fine, just overwhelmed by all the action. I then was taken by the arm by the other helicopter paramedic and told to duck my head down as we ran towards the open helicopter. I was helped in and found a seat and given instructions on how to fit the seat belt harness. Baby K was laying on a stretcher next to my seat and after I was secured I could still reach forward and touch her.

Then the safety instructions began: Your seat belt releases with a right turn of the dial. Here's how this emergency handle works, just turn it like a van door and then slide this. The other door opens like a car door. If necessary, pull this lever and the window comes out. There's also the two doors up by the pilot's seats. By this point, I was now praying with every breath, "Please Lord, don't let the helicopter go down." I also was starting to rethink this whole chopper ride and wonder if I was placing Baby K and I(and the baby) in unnecessary danger all in the name of shaving minutes off the trip. Too late, we were lifting off and I was waving to my mom and son who were now sitting inside the passenger side of mom's car and Shane who was standing outside the driver's side taking a video with the camera. I didn't know if they could see me through the window as it appeared to be tinted. And then we were off.

It took me a couple of minutes to remember to look out the window as I had been focused on Baby K and how she was doing. The paramedics continued to check her and take her blood pressure and she seemed relatively comfortable. So I divided my ride time between leaning forward to comfort her, answer the paramedics' questions, ask a few of my own and sneak some peaks out the windows. It seemed like we were traveling slow and as the vibration of the chopper continued the female paramedic explained that most kids drift off to sleep due to the rhythmic motions. And sure enough, Baby K's eyes began to flutter and close. But only for the last two minutes of the trip as we began our descent and the noise of the engine changed. Very quickly we landed on the helipad which is just outside the main entrance to the ER. I was helped out, Baby K was placed in my arms and I walked across the concrete landing zone and outside the fenced-in area and up to the automatic doors of the ER. We were here and she seemed fine.

Inside, still in just her diaper, her temperature was taken, she was weighed and her blood pressure taken again. And then we told to have a seat in the empty waiting room. Kind of anti-climatic after all that had just transpired. I checked the cell phone that we had decided should come with me. Wrong decision. I had no service in the hospital and my mom's cell phone is long distance for the free parent's phone inside the hospital. So as I sat there wondering how to get a hold of Shane to remind him to get Baby K's car seat from my mom's car, shebegan to nod off in my lap. She stirred every time the PA system made a sound and we sat there for about 10-15 minutes before we were given a small room.
Inside the room, I placed her on the bed, pulled the safety gate up and decided to just crawl up and lay down next to her. A support staff woman came by within a minute and asked if there was anything she could get for me or Baby K.
I said not really, but could she stay with her while I used the bathroom right across the hallway?

Baby K seemed to be just fine with me gone and the staff woman left and brought back some bubbles and a small hand toy. So for the next little while, we sat on the bed and played with the bubbles. Fast forward to a resident doctor showing up at least an hour later to ask questions and discuss the details. Fast forward again to Shane, our son and my mom showing up with a bag of stuff for Baby K. Within minutes of their arrival, a senior staff doctor and the resident doctor came to discuss what potentially had just happened to Baby K. We agreed that it did not fit any of the types of seizures and so an acid reflux syndrome called Sandifer's Syndromewas mentioned as mostly likely what was happening to our daughter. This was briefly discussed about a year ago with her Down Syndrome doctor but just in passing. We are now scheduled for a Monday morning EEG and an appointment with a neurologist immediately following. (which turned out to be normal)Her DS doctor's office has already received the ER report and I briefly discussed the situation with one of the nurses over the phone on Tuesday. We are quite sure that it will not be considered a seizure and instead will probably be looking at an antacid to prevent any future acid attacks.
All in all, Baby K is doing fine, like it never happened. (She takes a small dose of antacid everyday before her last bottle of milk and so far so good.) We are so thankful, especially about the helicopter not crashing part. :)


  1. Oh my goodness!!!! what a story!!. //////////////i'm glad K is OK. Who took the pictures?..

  2. Shane took that one.


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