So we all know how I feel about flying with tiny tots…it's the worst.
No matter if you are the parent trying to wrangle the kiddos and their totes and backpacks, sippy cups and strollers... or the innocent victim seated next to the pint size passengers, it is a sorry mess.
It's sweaty and sticky and nerve wracking even if everything goes right. It almost always involves tears and sometimes poo and spilled m&m's and always, always a mother teetering on the edge of insanity the entire god forsaken time wheels go up til wheels hit the ground.
I travel enough with mine to know how to pack the smallest amount of necessities in the smallest of bags. I know what snacks are the kryptonite. I know to pick the window seat. I know to check every non-essential thing. I know the amount of liquid I can get through security and that TSA will wave a white strip of teeny tiny paper over each sippy cup and bottle. I know my kids don't have to take off their shoes or jackets and that I will be patted down. I know that every single time Tiny's stuffed Minnie Mouse has to make her way through the X-ray machine, Tiny will start to cry. I know that my thermos straw cups full of milk will spray everywhere when opened for the first time after take off.
I could write a book on how to travel with kids. (Chapter 1: Leave them home…just kidding! Kinda.)
But, this weekend I learned that none of it really matters. No matter how prepared you are the unexpected can happen, and I'm not talking about a poo blowout requiring outfit changes for the entire row (yes, this has happened to me.)
After this weekend, I can make one more notch on my travel belt. I now know what to do when my baby has a seizure at 30,000 feet in the air exactly half way through a two hour flight.
Do I have your attention?
Our day started fine. We had a nice breakfast with family, said our goodbyes, and trekked to the airport in less than ideal weather conditions. Once checked in and half way to our gate, our flight was delayed. We sat and passed the time staring out the window at the dozens of snow plows trying to out pace the falling snow. My matching duo kept the other waiting passengers entertained with their singing, shouting, and general silliness. At long last our plane and crew arrived and the boarding began. Pops seemed a little tired and snuggly but I thought very little of it given the flight and consequent nap delay.
Once on board we got settled. Liesee the astute traveler, whipped out her iPad, strapped on her head phones, buckled her seat belt, popped her ring pop and hunkered down for two hours of purgatory. I stared out the window saying my ritual pre-flight Hail Mary and made small talk with the woman next to me..she was on her way to see her own grandchildren. Pops nestled herself in the crook of my arm and fell asleep. Almost an hour passes without much event…save the woman directly in front of us that decided to paint her nails.
Shortly after the drink cart passes and the first sweep of garbage has been collected, things start to go wrong. Our seat mate crinkles her water bottle, and its just loud enough to wake my sleeping lap child. But when Teeny sits up she doesn't look right, and doesn't feel right either. She's warm. Impossibly warm. I try to get her focus and wake her more, assuming she is still sleepy, but she's unresponsive. I hold her a bit away from me and here is where she collapses in my arms. I immediately say to the grandmother next to me, "something is wrong with my baby, I need help." And she bolts down the aisle.
It was seconds, but feels like forever. Inside I am screaming and praying and desperate to help my baby...I stand up and yell again, "something is wrong with my baby, I need help." Poppy goes from limp to eyes rolled back to one side and then her arms and legs begin to shake.
The announcement comes over the intercom, "We need medical help in row 7, if there is a doctor or nurse on board please help." It's a scene from a bad lifetime movie…we have become that airplane medical emergency. I am immediately surrounded by a stewardess who instantly recognizes that Poppy is having a seizure, a doctor and two nurses. The doctor takes over, he strips her down, the crew is bringing cold wet napkins and everyone is telling me there is nothing we can do except get her temp down and wait until she stops seizing. I am hanging onto their every word, but inside I am a mess of panic and fear…so much fear. The questions are flying, the captain is on the phone with medical on the ground, and all eyes of this Frontier AirBus are on my sweet Poppy.
I'm later told the seizure lasted 3-4 minutes…but to me each excruciating second felt like a year. The first stewardess to help us has a seizure disorder and she knew to time Poppy's. When she comes out of it, Poppy looks a little drunk and dazed. She is pink all over. I always carry Tylenol when I travel and the doc has me give her a dose when she is fully conscience. We try to get her to drink, and still the number one priority remains getting her temp down. It is at this point our makeshift medical team is talking Febrile Seizure.
I'm told to take Poppy to the bathroom. I need to change her diaper and give her a cold bath in the lavatory sink. While a steward is helping me in the bathroom, the other is sitting with Liesee, folding Poppy's clothes and more than anything bringing calm to one of the scariest moments of my life. Liesee, for all her crazy, knew I needed her and stepped up. When I explained what was happening in the simplest of terms and told her she was going to have to be good and sit with this nice lady she looked me in the eye and said, "Ok Mommy, I'll do it." She was brave, and somehow understood that this moment wasn't about her. I could still cry thinking about her little determined and concerned face.
As a half naked and wet Poppy and I make it back to our seat, I'm still somehow holding it together. That is until one of the friends we had made during our long airport delay, grabbed my arm and asked me how I was doing. At this, the tears I've been holding back fall, I can't answer and begin to tremble.
I collapse back in my seat and just hold my sweet babe. I am rocking and I don't know if its for her or me. She is exhausted and pink and still too warm, and I am scared. The decision has been made to keep flying. The seizure is over, it is collectively believed to be a Febrile Seizure, and I agree it is best to press on to Dallas where my hubs and a team of paramedics will meet us. But the time can't pass fast enough. There is paperwork to be done, bags to be collected, and procedures to go over, and I am still scared.
By the time the plane lands, Poppy is looking around, she's even given our fellow passengers a little serenade. But, no one is too quick to put on their headphones and ignore us, because right now her cries are the sweetest sound. It is time to call hubs. He's meeting us in the airport, and he knows nothing of the last hour. He answers, and at the sound of his voice, mine cracks. "Hi hon, Everyone is ok, but we had a medical emergency on the plane. Poppy is fine now, but she had a seizure. I need you to get to the gate as soon as possible." I can hear the panic in his breath but before we've even hung up he has found someone to get him the security clearance necessary to meet us.
The paramedics come on board, and help us off the plane. Poppy's temp is back to normal. The tylenol and ice have worked. We are advised to call our doc, and go to Dallas Children's Hospital. The hospital will confirm for us that it was a Febrile Seizure and that the underlying cause of that seizure is nothing more serious. The fever was caused by a viral infection and the sudden spike from no fever to a high fever is symptomatic of this type. For as impossibly abnormal as the whole situation was, Febrile Seizures are relatively "normal." Turns out almost 1 in 25 kids will have one before they turn 3…my kid just has a flair for the dramatic and wanted her first to be a real story to tell. I can see her years from now playing two truths and a lie…"When I was one I almost grounded a plane full of people…"
In all seriousness, I wish I knew the names of everyone that helped me. If I could go back I'd hug them all... from our seat mate, to the crew, to the doctor and nurses, I cannot express how deeply and truly grateful I am. Their calm and immediate action was nothing short of heroic. Especially that attendant that stayed with Liesee and timed the seizure and brought me a Ginger Ale, and when everything was over and her work was done took it upon herself to tell me, "Hey mama, I just want you to know you did everything right. You did good." It didn't have to be said, but damn she understood my mommy fear and knew from one mom to another that I needed to hear that. If your faith in humanity has ever wavered let me tell you, people are good.
After Saturday my definition of a good flight has changed too. A successful trip used to be we get to our destination without tears and poop. Now and forever more it will be, we arrive at destination without a team of paramedics waiting to escort us.
To that end, squeeze your babies extra tight, thank God for doctors and nurses, be really nice to your flight crews and say a Hail Mary at every take off.