It was only days before Christmas last year when 7-month-old Blake had his first seizure. Read his story here:
It was only days before Christmas last year when 7-month-old Blake had his first seizure. He was at home with his family – Mum Rachell, Dad Sam and 20-month-old brother Mason. Living in the North of the Chatham Islands and 40 minutes’ drive from the township and hospital, they are highly vulnerable when it comes to emergency care.
“We were just like every other family prepping for Christmas,” Rachell explains. It was in the morning and Blake was playing in his walker. “I looked away for only a second, and when I looked back he was hunched over and shaking. I tried to lift him, but his leg muscles had clenched – he was frothing at the mouth with his eyes rolled back, turning blue and was going limp.”
Rachell screamed for Sam to help, and they faced the unimaginable – the thought they could lose their precious baby boy.
Mercifully, his seizure stopped and they raced to the hospital on the island, where doctors explained Blake had what they thought was a febrile seizure: convulsions that affect about one in 20 young children, often linked to a fever. Usually, the fever is caused by a viral infection, such as chickenpox, flu, a middle ear infection or tonsillitis.
Blake seemed to recover after the trip to the hospital but was still tired and lethargic. They took him home so they could watch over their little mate, but the next day, on Christmas Eve, Blake flopped to the ground and started shaking again. His seizure lasted for more than a minute.
The family rushed once more to the hospital, where they were told the seizures often happened in clusters. Blake was discharged and the family returned home to try and enjoy their first Christmas as a family of four.
Christmas morning arrived and the boys were both filled with excitement – their faces lighting up at the lights, colour, and presents under the tree.
“We had just finished opening up the presents and I was changing Blake’s nappy when he suddenly went limp in my hands,” Rachell says. Blake’s eyes rolled back, and he shook for just over a minute. A few minutes later, Blake had a second seizure.
“This time he turned blue and didn’t appear to be breathing,” Rachell says. Sam blew air into his mouth to open his airways as the seizure continued for more than one minute.
Terrified and in shock, the family headed to the hospital for the third time in three days. On the way Blake had a micro-seizure and became unresponsive.
“He was finally admitted to hospital, but doctors struggled to put an IV in his small, chubby arms,” Rachell says. Blake was administered his medication orally, and eventually fell into a deep sleep – exhausted after his first very eventful Christmas.
Rachell and Blake were flown by the Life Flight helicopter to Christchurch Hospital on Boxing Day, where he had further testing and checks, including a CT scan. The pair stayed at the hospital on their first night, before being welcomed into Ronald McDonald House the next day.
When they arrived at the House, Rachell felt she could finally relax with Blake after their ordeal. “It was just lovely – the staff were so accommodating and happy to help in any way they could. It was a peaceful place for myself and Blake to catch up on rest in between tests and hospital visits.”
Blake’s diagnosis was confirmed by doctors at Christchurch Hospital to be febrile seizures, most likely caused by an infection such as an ear infection and the corresponding fever.
He has had a cluster of seizures on two occasions since leaving Christchurch, and the family are working with doctors to continue to test and monitor Blake. Rachell and Sam are hopeful the seizures will clear up on their own and that their gorgeous little boy is on the mend. Rachell says she will forever be grateful for the hospitality and care from the team at Ronald McDonald House South Island.
“The House was set up in a way that we could have a feeling of being home away from home. The facilities were amazing and being able to borrow things like a pram and child seat made our experience so much easier.”
She felt as though she could focus properly on Blake as everything else was taken care of, saying, “the staff showed so much kindness and generosity that it made a stressful situation so much more manageable. We cannot thank the team enough.”