I rocked my sick toddler in my arms. He’d turned 2 just the day before.
Suddenly his warm and peaceful body jolted forward gasping for air. I stood up, panicked, trying to see his face, when he began violently seizing.
I was completely alone this Saturday evening. My husband’s brother was getting married, and we’d cancelled our ring bearer plans due to a strep diagnosis earlier in the day. I’d opted to sit the wedding out and stay home to care for Finn. As sudden chaos developed, my husband was in the middle of his brother’s wedding ceremony.
I held Finn for several seconds as his body shook, and I realized this wasn’t ending. I laid him down on the rug and grabbed my phone to call 9-1-1. I screamed my address to the dispatcher & again to the second person they connected me with. By the time I was repeating my address for the 4th time, I could hardly find any breath, but was somehow yelling hysterically.
Finn lay on the floor continuously shaking. Spit began to fill his mouth, his normally bright pink lips started losing color, and the only person I had there with me was a stranger on the other end of the line. I have no experience with seizures, other than a very small febrile seizure Finn had almost a year prior that lasted less than 10 seconds- so I had no idea what was life-threatening and what was normal (So in other words don’t judge my level of panic). But here I was watching my tiny son shake endlessly, with blue lips and glazed eyes. I hovered over him, helpless, waiting desperately for the seizure to end, knowing I could do nothing. After several long minutes his head rolled to the side, the seizing slowed, and only his left arm twitched every few seconds. I thought at this moment, genuinely, that I was watching life leave his little body. A panic unlike anything I’d ever felt flooded through me and everything in me silently screamed “NO!”
And I begged God in that moment for this not to be happening. My eyes moved to the site of blue lips and I begged for a single breath. A million thoughts ran through my mind in a matter of seconds, and I hoped more than anything that I wouldn’t have to be the one responsible for bringing breath back into my son’s lungs. “What if I failed? What if I can’t do this?” my mind raced as I was so certain I was watching the process of life ending.
I laid my hand on his chest. There was breath. And then another, and another, and another. Continuous and steady, there was breath.
And after every breath, I begged anxiously for another. And with every breath relief filled me. Every time there was a break in his rhythm of breathing, fear welled up inside me until again I would feel a breath.
I was unable to wake him up, but there was breath.
For over 20 minutes after the seizure I waited, alone, leaning over Finn, rubbing his hair and counting each breath, desperate and afraid. Never had I wanted something so badly, than for my son to just breathe.
Roughly 30 minutes into the whole ordeal, a sheriff and EMTs arrived. We got Finn to the hospital, and I was able to get ahold of my husband and other family who met us there.
Although we are awaiting an MRI and EEG to double check everything, the doctor feels sure this was again a febrile seizure caused by a sudden spike in fever.
For over a week I have thought nonstop of this event. When we finally got home from the hospital, Finn fell asleep on our bed and I held him around his little toddler belly and all I could do was focus on his breath.
I realized how uncertain and terrifying those 30 minutes were, and how much I truly didn’t know from one second to the next if another breath would come. For 30 minutes I sat and begged for one thing: breath. And here we were late into the night and I had breath still, and Finn had breath still, and we lay side by side breathing. Alive. Ok.
And every day since then I have watched Finn breathe. I have become aware of my own breath and I have become thankful for the breath that gives life to all of the people that I hold so close.
There’s something so important about just noticing that you’re breathing, I’ve learned. To me, it’s an unavoidable thankfulness, a total focus on the fact of being alive here and now.
As with any traumatic experience, there’s usually a shift in outlook or mindset. These events shake us and change us and depending on the outcome of these events we either tend to have a temporary change or maybe we create a new way of living under new circumstances. I am forever thankful that nothing permanent changed this terrifying Saturday evening. But I hope that as the raw emotions wear off and my mind slowly stops replaying the event, that I will not lose this newfound love of breath.
I hope that months and years from now amidst the craziness of children and messes and life, that I will stop to be thankful for the breath that fills my lungs and the precious lungs of those I love. And that I’ll let the frustrations of every-day life melt away as I focus on the gift of breath- even if for just one small moment a day.
I wonder what could change if I lived my entire life thankful for breath?