In my post My 5 Year Old Had a Seizure I mentioned that my daughter had “breath holding spells”. I had never heard of it when she was first diagnosed (at approximately 1 years old), but have since met several people (including my niece) who have breath holding spells!
The first “spell” happened at the end of September, beginning of October 2006. We had gone back home to Minnesota for a friend’s wedding and we were staying at my mom’s house. My daughter was a few days over 9 months old.
We were upstairs, hubby had gone into the bathroom (he’ll tell you that when he came out, my face was ghost white) and my mom, daughter and myself were chatting.
Buggy (my 9 month old daughter) was standing at the coffee table, holding on for balance when she fell. It looked like she had hit her forehead, but nothing major after all was said and done, there was no mark that she ever even hit anything.
After falling, she started crawling towards me (I was sitting maybe two feet away from her) crying when I heard this huge gasp for air, my daughter became super stiff, shaky and unresponsive.
Her arms and legs kind of went out to her sides and she lay on her belly, stiff as a board.
I scooped her up and could feel the tension in her body.
I laid her on the floor and just kept yelling at my mom what do to.
I have been trained in CPR and first aid since I was 11, but when it happens to your own child – you just freeze. You don’t know what to do. It was the first time anything had ever happened to my baby and my baby was my first. Needless to say, I was scared out of my mind!
Her lips had turned purple, eyes rolled back in the head and while I don’t like to describe it as a seizure, her body was shaking slightly. It wasn’t full on body and violent like most seizures I have witnessed, but definitely seizure like on a smaller scale.
Fortunately, she came out of it within seconds and was drowsy, but okay. We kept watch and thought it wasn’t a big deal. We would follow up with our pediatrician once we got back to Arizona.
We went back home and a few weeks, maybe a month or so later, I was in class when my hubby called me to tell me that Buggy had fallen off a little ride on toy and bumped her head on the carpet.
He said she went into the shaky body, lips purple, eyes in the back of her head thing (we weren’t sure what it was at this time and thought it may have been seizures).
I flew out of class, drove like a madman all the way home and took her to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
They ran some tests but couldn’t find anything so next came the follow up visit with our pediatrician and a referral for more tests.
Tests included an MRI and an EEG – two joyful tests when you are trying to do that on a child less than 1 years old! I think those tests and this time of trying to find a diagnosis were one of the most heart wrenching experiences for a parent.
After numerous doctor appointments and testing on my little girl who was less than a year old at the time, we were told that she essentially had a very common thing that in laymen terms was “breath holding spells”.
Essentially, if she got too upset, she would hold her breath which in turn would tell her brain to shut the body down.
There is no cure, no way to snap her out of it. Just hold onto her and elevate her legs to keep blood flow.
We were told she would grow out of it by the age of 4. (Which, thank goodness, she did.)
She had several spells between her first one at age 9 months and before growing out of it between the age of 3 and 4. Most of her spells came from getting hurt.
No matter how small of a spill or how bad of a spill, if she fell, ran into something, got hurt in any way- guaranteed she would have a spell. Only once, in all those years, did she ever have one from a tantrum.
She is now 8 and there are no residual side effects from her breath holding spells.
Her ‘spells’ ended a few months before her 4th birthday and you would never have known that she had breath holding spells when she was younger.
Rest assured if your child has ‘breath holding spells’ you are not alone!
6/1/15 Update: I was informed yesterday of a Facebook group for parents dealing with breath holding spells. You can ask to join by following this link.