Friday, March 25, 2011

Tacking a Not Fun Topic: Breath-Holding Spells

First, as a precursor, I'm just going to post the most relevant pieces of info from the following 3 articles/fact-sheets. Better than my trying to explain upfront...

Breath-holding is very common in toddlers and can sometimes occur in young babies. It affects about one in twenty children. A breath-holding spell may happen after a child has a minor accident, has a fright or gets upset. The child will then cry and hold their breath. Breath-holding spells often occur as part of toddler tantrums although the spell is a reflex reaction to an unpleasant stimulus and not a deliberate behaviour on the child's part

A breath-holding spell is when your child holds his breath when he is suddenly injured, frustrated, angry, or frightened. Breath-holding spells begin between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. They occur only while the child is awake

Breath-holding spells are usually caused by either a change in the usual breathing pattern or a slowing of the heart rate. These reactions may be brought on by pain or by strong emotions, such as fear or frustration.

• Your child may make 1 or 2 cries and then hold his breath in expiration until he becomes blue around the lips and passes out.
• Your child may stiffen and may have a few twitches or muscle jerks.
• Your child will breathe normally again and become fully alert in less than 1 minute.

*References at bottom of entry*

Now, why am I writing this? Well, let me go back to Elyana at ~14 months old. She was running around the house, Jonathan was watching her, I was making dinner. She, still being a clumsy walker, fell right into an outer-facing corner, hitting her temple directly on the baseboard. Jonathan ran to scoop her up, I was in the next room waiting for her loud cry/wail that would come... And didn't. Too many seconds of silence, and Jonathan was rushing her into the kitchen as I was rushing to them. He was cradling her head, and and she was limp and pale and passed out. We absolutely freaked! We yelled her name at her, and firmly patted her face (I think!)... What seems like forever, but maybe was 15-20 seconds (?), she finally took a startled breath and cried. Weakly. NOT what we were expecting. I held her as we rushed her into the car to take to the ER. But less than 3 minutes down the road (if that), she was pointing out birds out the car door, acting normal as ever. We (rationally) drove back home, and I called the after-hours pediatrician. The recommendation was for her to get a CAT scan of her head, since we weren't sure whether the fall caused her to be unconscious, or whether the pain triggered her to intake her breath so sharply that she could not breathe out, and thus she passed out. So we gathered our things and spent the next few hours getting her examined. Praise God, everything looked fine and she acted absolutely normal!!! We "forgot" the incident, or rather, dismissed it as a random occurrence...

Now, right at the 2 year mark, just 2 days after starting antibiotics for her ear infection this January, we were all 3 in the kitchen, and Elyana was playing with a drawer. Jonathan scolded her for something and she made a little cry, then in-took her breath for a real loud wail... that never came! Jonathan scooped her up, cradling her head and holding her semi-upright, and we were terrified. We yelled things like, "Call 911, where's your phone!" in the space of 15-25 seconds. We didn't know what was going on, but it seemed so random, it seemed like a real threat! As I ran to get the phone and Jonathan close behind me with her, she started to breathe and cry (loudly) this time. We were so relieved, and crying, and had that kicked-in-the-gut feeling. Like, "What was that?!" Jonathan especially, since he felt the initiator. Obviously, when a child is sick, they fall apart at the littlest thing, but we expected nothing like that. While we loved on her and watched her closely, I scoured the baby health books/internet for answers. And came to the sites/articles above. It really described to a "t" what we saw. But it never takes the fear away! She in no way acted odd after that at all - and we were careful to be very gentle and non-corrective the next few days/weeks.

But it bothered us so "little" - in terms of needing an explanation - that I never mentioned it at her 2 year well baby checkup.

Then, weeks later, sometime in February, Elyana was walking up the stairs, and she hit her chin against the carpeted stair . (For the record, she's walked up stairs proficiently since she was 21 months, and we have split-level stairs anyway.) I was at the top, Jonathan was walking with her, carrying something (a laptop?). It was bedtime, so she was obviously more tired/cranky. Jonathan said something to her about, "Oh, it's ok, come on baby." (He said it was a very easy bump, which she always takes in stride.) As he walked up, and I was at the top, it was silent enough and without a cry (again, maybe 3 seconds, but enough when you're expecting it!) that we both rushed to her... Jonathan of course, being closer, got there first. She was on the split-level, but passing out. Only God's grace, as she *could* have fallen. He scooped her up, cradled her head, and held her rigid body as her lips were blue. This time, I felt only slightly calmer, trying to remember the techniques (breathing in her face, calling her name) to try to bring her about. I think it was maybe 10 seconds, not a lot, but enough to cause a parent to absolutely panic inwardly still. We loved on her and made sure she was ok, played with her extra long and delayed bed.

And that's it. Since then, I've pieced the first piece of the puzzle together, meaning that first fall at 14 months. I think it's a proclivity for her. I do want to get her checked for iron-deficient anemia, since I struggled with that at least during pregnancy. But we have been extra, extra careful to watch that all emotional situations for her (pain, anger) are treated very pro-actively. When she gets hurt, I especially make sure she feels comforted as fast as possible. It seems the quicker I can head off her getting that upset, the better. I've seen her lips turn blue as she cried and I just work my best on comfort. Same thing when I have to correct her for something, I make sure I'm loving on her, touching or holding her, as I have to tell her what's wrong with what she's done.

I guess I'm posting because I want this documented, but I also want any other mothers to see this if they need it. I also think it's good to be real, and although I think we live a very wonderful life, it's not without its challenges and fears......

I thank God everyday for our precious baby girl, and her life, and her health. I think this is so minor compared to so many things I could be writing about in regards to her. God has gifted us more than we deserve. My heart is filled to bursting with love for her so many times, and I am just grateful He's entrusted her to us.