had a seizure yesterday and it was the scariest day of my life. I am emotionally and physically exhausted and the details of the past 2 days are now running together in my no-sleep induced walking comma but I will try to update everyone…
Beware of saying it: “I am just so tired. I cannot take anything else.” I uttered those very words a couple days ago at the breakfast table. It was lots adding up. Too much for me. I was feeling that un-nerved feeling inside like I was only reacting (and poorly) to what was happening around me. That I am doing lots of “jobs” right now but none particularly well. Half-ass if I am being honest. I was about to get the “something else.”
Then Tuesday night Evy woke up at 12am crying and covered in vomit. We rallied, cleaned her up, gave her some fever meds as she had a slight fever, I nursed her, and we got her back to bed. Maybe something she ate? Maybe a tummy bug? But she did not seem listless or really that sick. Around 4am she awoke again crying but after nursing her back to sleep she slept until 7am. Once she got up for the day she was doing much better. No more throwing up and her fever was only around 99. I cancelled some plans to go out and hung back with her to make sure she was ok. She also had a great appetite so I was pretty sure she was on the mend. She ate, played, and took her morning nap. When she woke up she was a bit tired and still had a slight fever so I gave her a bit more Tylenol. But truth be told we were not that worried about it since the hot season is upon us and I am fairly certain all of us have fevers at various times during the day. It is just that hot. Plus, honestly at least one of us has ‘some’ illness every week. It is like constant sickness here. We at least rotate who is the sickest but sadly it has become sort of the norm around here. Evy had a bad cold last week and was still recovering from massive amounts of snot. I have said it before the viruses here are wicked. And we deal. Because we have to. And we try hard to not let it get us down. To continue with life.
She seemed to be doing much better and with no more fever I put her down for her afternoon nap around 1:20pm and headed out to the Vocational Training Center to teach English. Usually I am back before or right around the time she wakes up and Marta (our house helper) and Jason were at the house with her and Anni. I taught my class and after we finished some students hung around afterwards to discuss problems they had, ask questions, and discuss issues. I should have just left and said pole but I hung back to try to help answer some questions. Then my phone rang. I picked it up and Mama Lusi was crying and screaming in Kiswahili that Evy was really sick. That I needed to come home right now. I could hear other kids screaming and yelling in the background.
I could not understand everything she was saying but all I know is everything from that moment on was in a sort of slow motion yet blurred state in my memory. Even now as I type I am shaking and feeling sick to my stomach. The next few minutes were probably the worst of my life. I only knew my baby needed me. And I was not there. Guilt does not begin to cover it. I hollered at my students to go home and threw everything in my bag and yelled to Jason who was teaching next door that I was going home because something was wrong with Evy. I drove the 4 blocks home so fast I do not even remember turning on the car, steering, or arriving. The gate was already open and I jumped out, slammed the car in park, dropped all my stuff and ran to Marta and Mama Lusi who was holding a soaking wet, pale, and convulsing Evy. They were both crying and trying to tell me everything. I honestly cannot describe everything because I don’t remember much. I was in shock. After about a minute she stopped convulsing and was just shaking. She did not recognize me at all. She was just moaning. It was terrible. A crowd of some shule kids were gathering while we stripped off her wet clothes. I called a nurse and Mama friend who is staying here for a few months to study Kiswahili and asked her to come now. She did not even ask why and arrived in less than 5 minutes (I guess all panicked Mama voices sound the same and no questions are needed). Thank God for His provision. I called Jason and told him to come home right then. Evy was nursing by the time he arrived 2 minutes later. Again, I do not remember trying to nurse her but it must have just been instinct to calm her down. She was so hot to touch and her fever must have spiked while she was sleeping as it was raging. Jason made some calls; his sister in the US (thanks Jorie) who had been through this with her boys, our team leader, etc). I just nursed, bounced, rocked, and prayed. In Kiswahili and in English over and over and over. Anni rubbed my back and prayed too with Lusi. I remember that being so sweet. I also vividly remember asking Annikah why in the world in over 100 degree heat she had decided to put on 2 shirts and a pair of long pants. The kid is weird 🙂 But still: weird with a heart to comfort and pray. all good.
We heard and pieced together the full story from Marta about what happened. Evy had woken up from her nap fine (Jason was still home when she woke up) and Marta gave her some juice and then let her play with Anni, Lusi, and Mika on the floor in our front room while she swept. Everything was fine and Jason left to teach. About 5 minutes later Evy started crying so Marta picked her up and carried her around while doing her work. She said she was crying and sad and all of a sudden she looked up, grabbed the window curtains, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she started shaking uncontrollably. Marta freaked out and called for the neighbors to help and they doused Evy with water to “wake her up” and cool her down. It was then Mama Lusi called me. I felt so sick that I was not there when it happened. I am literally with her about 22 hours of everyday and the 2 hours I was away this happens. I am still struggling with the guilt. By the time I arrived, she calmed down, was able to nurse, and regained some energy it was about 10 minutes. But it was the longest 10 minutes of my life. The next hours were a fog but I mostly just held her, nursed her, and cried.
After talking with the nurse and checking online list of symptoms we are pretty sure she had a febrile seizure brought on by a spike in her fever. Last night after the seizure we watched her so closely, slept with her, and gave her overlapping doses of Tylenol and ibuprofen. It was a rough night. I have never seen a baby that sick and this whole thing has been very traumatic for us.
Hearing from lots of friends has been so helpful as we know understand more about this type of seizure. It really is the body’s way of protecting itself from brain damage caused by a high fever. But understanding that does not really help in the midst. Holding your child when they are listless and that sick changes you. I had many deep breathing exercises last night to avoid having a panic attack. Being here away from family, friends, doctors, 911 just makes the reality of how fragile life is be more real. But no matter where we are we know who we depend on.
We have ruled out Malaria, ear infections, and this morning since she still has a fever tested for a urine infection. It was positive for white blood cells and our friend believes she has a kidney infection. We are treating her now and the improvement in just 4 hours has been amazing. She finally was able to take a nap this afternoon after feeling better and her fever is now very low. She is eating and drinking and nursing. Miss Evy is even beginning to get her smile back. We are watching her closely and tonight we are so grateful that He was with is. I cancelled everything today and just held my baby all day. Our team has been amazing in checking in and offering to help. And our friend the nurse was over again to check on Evy (she will be leaving in 3 days but I cannot help to be so thankful she was here (thanks Shannon!)). I now know the Kiswahili word for seizures as some of my neighbors came to check on us and make sure we were ok. That meant a lot. One neighbor suggested we put black sheets over her and liner on her face to protect her from the evil. I told her Jesus was protecting her. And I meant it. And I know it. We are tired. No exhausted. But we are grateful too. Holding the girls a little tighter today. Overwhelmingly thankful.
Thank you to everyone who sent emails, left comments, FB messages, and called. For your thoughts, prayers, and love. It was and is so helpful to hear from people who have gone through this and “lived to tell the tale.” Helps give perspective that she will be ok and we will survive this. Thrive even as I can already see the purpose after some reflection today and some saying “no” to other important needs today in lieu of the better. So, again thank you. You really will never know how much we feel lifted up and loved. By you all and our Father. And even though the circumstances were difficult we are so grateful we know that He is in control. Always.