I think it has taken me so long to sit down and write this post because I get a little emotional just thinking back on the whole experience. I can blame the tears on the pregnancy, but this was the scariest, most traumatic experience in my life thus far.
Every other year we trade off between my family and Jesse's family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 2012, we went up to Utah to visit Jesse's parents for Thanksgiving and we couldn't have been more excited! We had such a strong feeling that we NEEDED to be there for some reason. With Jesse's work schedule and available vacation time it wasn't the most convenient and we really didn't know how well our little 17 month old would do in the car for 12 hours either. He rarely falls asleep in his car seat so we were prepping mentally for a very long and potentially tear-filled road trip.
I had been talking to Jesse a few days earlier telling him how grateful I am for our life that we share; that everything is so perfect! Yes, we have our trials but nothing really big. Life has been very good to us and I felt like we were past due for some hardship (call me a pessimist if you must!).
The trip started off so well: Calvin fell asleep in his car seat (thanks to some lullaby primary songs) and we were on our way to visit some of the most wonderful people on Earth. Since Jesse had to work on the Monday we left late in the afternoon and had previously reserved a cheap hotel room in Page, AZ so we could do the trip in two legs. A few days earlier I had decided to upgrade our room because I found a better deal! Yay for bargains! Little did I know how this would save our bacon! Calvin woke up crying about 20 minutes outside of Page but we really didn't think much of it since we all had been in the car for 5 hours and were all a bit cranky. I crawled into the backseat to see if I could comfort him a bit and not two minutes later a geyser of vomit came flying out of him! It was nasty, acidy stuff and everything that he had eaten for earlier that day. It was everywhere - filled up his car seat, all over me, the console of the car, and all over the back seat! Gross. Jesse quickly pulled over and we stripped down the kid in the freezing cold and wrapped him up in a blanket and continued towards Page as quickly as we could while ignoring the fetid stench of our toddlers stomach contents strewn about the car. We were both praying that we'd make it to Page without anymore throw up. No such luck. For the next 20 minutes we went through every blanket, pillow case, bag, coat or other that could possibly catch vomit that we had available in the car.
We were back on our way to Utah with a (finally!) sleeping toddler and a car that smelled like vanilla (thanks Walmart!) and barf. We kept a prayer in our hearts that the rest of our trip would be less eventful. I thought to myself, "Oh this must have been the terrible trial that I felt coming on." Calvin had never been this sick and I think it's stressful on a husband and wife relationship when kids fall ill but I was so grateful for Jesse. He helped so much and didn't even complain once through all of the cleaning and driving. I really felt that this had strengthened our relationship and was glad for the opportunity but was happy to have this "huge" trial out of the way.
Ha! I'm so funny. I think Heavenly Father must look at us sometimes and think, "Oh honey, you just wait. I've got a few more things in store." The rest of the trip Calvin slept a lot but was fussy. We made it to Orem safe and sound without the backseat full of vomit (although that smell took a long time to dissipate).
We arrived on Tuesday evening and went to bed early to recover from the drive. Calvin slept on and off and Wednesday and seemed to be doing a bit better; he was playing with his cousins a little and even wanted to help Jesse with yard work.
We got to the Timpanogos emergency room and we waited to see the doctor for at least a half an hour. Jesse's dad and brother-in-law, Mark, gave Calvin a priesthood blessing which gave us comfort and hope that everything would be okay. The doctors ran A LOT of tests which was almost more scary than the seizure itself. I think the worst one was a mucus test when they had us hold him down while they put saline solution up his nose and then sucked it back out again. Calvin got crazy wild eyes - I'm sure he thought he was drowning. He was freaking out so badly that I just started bawling! Of course, Jesse leans over and asks if I am laughing or crying; of course I was crying! My sweet baby boy is going through this traumatic experience, it was terrible.
After being in the emergency room for a couple of hours running tests they decided to release us from the hospital. All of the tests were showing that he was super healthy! They said that sometimes after kids get sick they will have a seizure. The only super weird thing was that he didn't have a fever, which is the normal trigger for seizures in little kids. So even though he was super sick a few days earlier the highest his fever was about 101 degrees. They let us go with the caution that about 33% of kids who have one seizure are prone to have another one within the next day or two so we should keep an eye on him. If he ended up having another one we were to bring him back for more tests. PROTIP: If a seizure is less than 5-10 minutes, although not fun to go through, it shouldn't have any long-term effects. Once a seizure gets into the 10+ minute range, brain damage is more and more likely the longer it lasts.
We went home completely exhausted and took a family nap. After resting for a bit, we took a shower and as I was getting Calvin ready he started leaning over like he wanted to take a closer look at something near the bathroom door hinge. I stood him up but he leaned right back over and did the same thing. I realized that he was having another seizure. It was happening all over again and my heart sank. I rushed him out of the bathroom and yelled for help. I started to count. 30 seconds passed, one minute passed, one minute 30 seconds, and it finally stopped. It was pretty much exactly like the first one and, once again, after the seizure he was super disoriented and wouldn't look at me but instead thrash around and fuss. He was quickly exhausted and went limp again. Jesse was still in a towel from getting out of the shower and I did not want to wait for him to get dressed so Mark took Calvin and I back to the hospital. They did warn us that this might happen so it wasn't as scary as before but I was still so worried for my little one.
Jesse arrived a few minutes later, fully dressed, and full of questions. The doctors ran more tests, some of the same blood tests over again, and sent us up to get a CT scan done (Calvin was a champ in the scanner, didn't even wiggle or fuss while Jesse held his hand and sang to him - the technician was a sweet lady that asked if she could hire Jesse to sing to all her patients while they got scanned). All the tests came back perfectly normal again and no abnormalities were shown in the CT printout. Why in the world was this happening? Jesse has had two seizures in the past but he is hypoglycemic so low blood sugar is his trigger. Calvin didn't appear to be hypoglycemic or even to have any sort of irregularity in his blood chemistry to even suppose that could be his issue as well. They put an IV on him to ensure that he was getting enough fluids (since he wasn't eating or drinking much due to trauma of the tests) and we were there for the rest of the day and into the evening for observation. The doctors advised since Calvin appeared to be in perfect health that we should take him home and keep an eye on him. Just as Jesse was filling out the discharge papers Calvin started into a third seizure! I felt cheated at this point: it's not supposed to happen more than twice! Three seizures is DEFINITELY not normal: Calvin was getting food and water through the IV, he had no fever, he had been sleeping and seemed to be his normal self. After about 45 seconds, a flurry of doctors and nurses, and some anti-seizure medication in his IV, Calvin's seizure stopped and he went to sleep.
There was absolutely no reason why this would be happening. I didn't know what to think. A whole stream of terrible questions ran through my mind. Is he going to have seizures for his whole life? Will he need to wear a helmet every time he gets the flu? Is he going to be able to hold a job or live alone or go on a mission? I looked at Jesse and saw an expression that I had never seen before: he looked scared. Those of you who know my husband know that he keeps his emotions under control and is very deliberate in his actions. The times I've seen him cry is when we're watching something about special needs kids or I accidentally punch him in the nose. He didn't cry at our wedding, he was even calm and collected when I had to have my C-section with Calvin, and even after Calvin was born the most I got out of his eyes were a little glisten. Jesse excels at keeping his cool in stressful situations and I was relying on him to not freak out or break down but the look on his face terrified me. I am an emotional person and tend to overreact in stressful situations but if Jesse, Mr. Stone Face, was scared then I knew we were up against something truly frightening. I looked at him and told him he wasn't allowed to be scared because if he lost it I wouldn't be able to hold it together at all. He smiled at me and said that he was scared but everything would be okay. This made me feel a little better. A few minutes later Jesse's brothers and parents came to visit us. There is something about those three Pettit boys. They have a funny relationship that I can't really explain. They are so ridiculous when they get together! They speak in circles and start to weave intricate jokes and make up voices and situations to describe whatever is happening. Half of the time I have no idea what they are even talking about but their silliness was very much needed and lightened the mood immeasurably. We were all laughing in just a few minutes and the stress became bearable. I am so grateful for that little visit. It meant more to Jesse and I than words can explain and gave both of us strength to keep smiling.
I got really upset thinking about the whole situation at that emergency room. They were going to release us right before that third seizure. I understand it was Thanksgiving and they aren't a children's hospital and they couldn't even get a hold of the on-call pediatrician but seriously, toddler seizures aren't super common, especially in a completely health kid so why in the world would you release us? Ugh. Anyways, about 45 minutes after Calvin had his third seizure we decided to take him to a children's hospital. Salt Lake City's Primary Children's Medical Center is one of the premier children's hospitals in the US. We also knew one of the doctors there and she suggested to transfer up. The on-call pediatrician for our current hospital finally showed up and it he said he had no idea what was going on and he would set up the transfer to Primary Childrens at U of U in Salt Lake. There was nothing more that they could do in Orem.
I rode in the ambulance with the EMTs and Calvin while Jesse followed in the car (his parents and brothers brought our luggage when they came to visit so at least we had toiletries and clothes). Jesse was praying the whole time while driving and said he felt much better about the whole situation when we got to the hospital. Hooray for prayer! When we arrived at Primary Children's they had a room and a doctor waiting for us. There was an army of doctors, nurses, and specialists waiting on us hand and foot - it was awesome. They were so kind, helpful, and understanding. They worked so hard to answer our questions and had a few ideas as to what could be going on. My favorite part was if they didn't know the answer they told us what they were doing to try and find out. We were up till 1 AM talking to doctors, doing the (long-winded) orientation of what the hospital offers and what we can expect from the doctors, and getting settled in. Calvin woke up shortly after we arrived (had been asleep since his previous seizure) and seemed to be perfectly fine and was smiling at the nurses and giving out high-fives.
We requested a normal hospital bed so we could lay down with Calvin and comfort him in this strange place. Jesse got the couch set up to sleep on and I didn't want to be even a couple feet away from my sweet baby boy so I decided to sleep next to Calvin in the bed. Unfortunately, I had caught the same barfing virus that Calvin had on the car trip up so I was getting up to vomit every 20 minutes. Getting out of the bed was nearly impossible due to my pregnant belly (and baby weight) so I struggled to make it to the garbage can every time. On top of that I couldn't even close my eyes without having traumatic flashbacks of Calvin's seizures so every wiggle or shift he made caused me to have a mild freak out. Did I mention Calvin wiggles like a worm on a hook when he sleeps? I decided that I needed sleep more than Calvin snuggles so I woke Jesse up (What the crap, Jesse?!? Can you sleep through ANYTHING?!?) and made him switch me places. I guess his ability to sleep through most anything finally came in handy.
The next day I was still super sick and it was hard to focus on what the doctors were saying so I relied on Jesse a lot. He took care of Calvin and I both. It's not like worrying about his infant son's medical condition wasn't enough but now he had to worry about his wife and his unborn child as well. Can I just say how much I love my husband? I couldn't imagine my life without him. He never complained or even made a face when I would ask for a drink of water or even help up to get up to go to the restroom. It was clear he was exhausted too but he never complained or stopped helping.
After a number of other tests the doctors decided not to do an EEG brain scan because everything looked so normal and it had been about 10 hours since his last episode. If there was any indication on the CT that something was off then they would have done it but everything was coming back fine. Some of the test results would take 48 hours to process but unless Calvin had another seizure the doctors didn't want to keep us for another day. Calvin had gone the entire night and a full day without any seizures and was his usual happy, smiley, playful self. Although we were glad to see him being so normal in an strange environment, he was seemed totally fine before the other seizures too so we were still wary. Late that evening, we signed discharge paperwork and made our way back to Orem.
We got back to Jesse's parents house around 8 PM and Calvin and I quarantined ourselves in our room for the rest of the evening. We didn't want to get everyone else sick. Yeah that didn't help very much. EVERYONE got sick. Every man, woman, and child who came into contact with "patient 0" (Calvin) came down with that nasty vomiting virus. We termed it "Calvinitis" since none of the tests had given any definitive results. It had reaped destruction everywhere.
The next day we relaxed and tried to recover from the events of the previous few days. What a vacation so far! We hadn't spent much time with family at all and that was the whole reason for the trip! I was also really disappointed because I was supposed to take pictures for my brother-in-law Tommy and his cute family but they were about to embark on their 4.5 hour drive back to Idaho. About an hour before sunset they decided to come and see us before heading out. I was so giddy to see them and I convinced them that there was still time to take pictures! They got all ready and with about 15 minutes of daylight left we got some fun family pictures in. Check them out here. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, which was a SO NICE. Jesse had been in contact with his job and had extended his vacation by a day so we could split the drive home over two days and stay overnight at his Grandparents house in Hurricane, UT.
A couple days after we got home we called the hospital and they said the only thing that those long lab tests came back with was a strain of the norovirus. It is very common and most people call it the winter flu. One of the rare side effects of this particular virus can be seizures without a fever so that looked to be the culprit! The doctor said that the combination of the viral infection, the stress of travel, altitude change, dehydration from vomiting and water poos, exhaustion form travel, and family history of seizures created the perfect storm for Calvin's Thanksgiving adventure. We were so grateful to get a clearer picture of why this happened. We've been seizure free ever since but are now super paranoid about it. Calvin scares us all the time! Most of these false alarms are due to Calvin zoning out looking into space or him dancing to upbeat songs which, with how he dances, look oddly similar to a seizure.
This Thanksgiving, I have never been more thankful for my family. Although this was a hellish event that still gives me nightmares I couldn't be more grateful that the Lord has taken care of us over and over again. He has given us comfort in our time of need and guided us to where we need to be, when we needed to be there. I am grateful for good doctors and nurses who spend their time finding ways to help others. I love my life. I love my family, scary events and all.