The day he turned two, Isaac woke up with a fever. He’s prone to ear infections, and a high fever is usually the first sign of one. Isaac’s parents had taken the day off work for his birthday. Patty and Ken put their little boy on a regimen of Tylenol and Motrin, and drove from their home in rural Dennison to the pediatrician’s office in Northfield. Yep, it was a double ear infection – his worst yet. The pediatrician prescribed two antibiotics, and the little family headed home. On the outskirts of Nerstrand, Ken glanced back from the passenger seat and told Patty, “You’d better pull over, Isaac looks like he’s going to throw up.” Patty looked in the rearview mirror. “He was kind of hitting his head against the car seat. That freaked me out.” Patty pulled over and jumped out; when she opened Isaac’s door, he was just staring straight ahead, completely non-responsive, and his lips were turning purple. Ken grabbed Isaac out of his car seat and cleared his airway while Patty dialed 911. The call was routed to Goodhue County, Patty recalls. “I said, ‘We’re right outside of Nerstrand,’ and the dispatcher said, ‘Well, where’s that?’ ” Patty’s heart sank. “I told my husband, ‘They don’t know where we are,’ and he said, ‘Get in the car.’ ” Patty sped towards Northfield Hospital while Ken held Isaac in his lap. Isaac was breathing, but was still not responsive. “He hadn’t come back to us yet,” Patty says. On the outskirts of Northfield, Patty and Ken saw the ambulance coming towards them. They pulled over and ran towards the paramedics.“It’s the scariest scenario, as a medic and as a dad, to have a parent run up to you with a child that’s not responding appropriately and hold the child out to you,” said Joe Johnson, one of three paramedics responding to the 911 call. The paramedics quickly assessed Isaac and asked Patty and Ken “a million questions,” she says. Johnson suggested this was a febrile seizure, triggered by Isaac’s high fever. “When he said that, that’s when I finally breathed again because I knew in that moment that Isaac was going to be okay,” Patty says. Sometimes when kids have seizures it looks like they’ve stopped breathing. “If you’ve never seen a seizure before, it would be frightening,” Johnson said. “With kids that age, once their temperature gets that high, the body tells itself to shut down and restart.” The ambulance took Isaac and Patty to Northfield Hospital, where the Emergency Department team was waiting for them. Dr. John Collingham and nurse Patrick Maloney worked quickly and calmly to treat Isaac and reassure his parents. “It helped to hear from Dr. Collingham that kids are tough and they go through a lot but they bounce back,” Patty says. Isaac had an x-ray to rule out pneumonia and urine tests to rule out a bladder infection in addition to blood tests that confirmed his infection. Between tests, Johnson stopped back with a gift for Isaac: a Dalmatian Beanie Baby, just like Isaac’s dog Daisy at home. “Isaac still sleeps with it every night,” Patty says. Isaac went home that evening and his parents monitored his fever; if it spiked again in the same illness, Isaac would need to see the doctor again. It didn’t. All children have a 1% chance of having a febrile seizure. Once a child has had a seizure, the risk rises to 2%. “The odds are still in our favor, but it’s something we’re going to have to watch forever,” Patty says. “The worry is always there.”
Weeks later, Isaac and Patty visited the paramedics to donate toys and coloring books for the ambulances. “I know that another ambulance ride is possibly in our future, and I don’t want him to be as afraid as he was,” Patty says. Isaac checked out the lights and sirens on the ambulances in the EMS garage. And this time, Isaac sat in the front seat.