Around 9:00 that evening in January, I heard a noise I had never heard before. I looked up from the book I was reading, and I listened again.
What in the world is that?
The muted, gurgling sound came from my baby's room. I hurried to the other end of our apartment and rushed across the room to Ryan's crib. Ryan did not respond to my voice as his body jerked uncontrollably against his mattress. His face was a sickly white. His eyes rolled backward into his head, which cocked unnaturally to one side. I had no idea what was happening to my baby.
Crying out for Help
My husband was at work and would not be home until after 1:00 a.m. I had no car. I didn't know what to do.
"God, help me!" I cried out as I scooped up Ryan.
After an instant, which seemed an eternity, I knew what I needed to do. I ran to the apartment next door. I kicked at their door with all my might.
Gary opened the door and looked first at me, then down at Ryan's writhing body. A look of shock crossed Gary's face, and he took a step backward. "Is that your boy?"
Shel pushed past Gary, snatched Ryan from my arms, and ran down the hall. As she headed to the bathroom, with Ryan clutched to her chest, Shel hollered back to Gary, "Call an ambulance! Now!"
I was numb. Gary's question hurt. It reinforced how distorted my baby really looked. He no longer looked like my son. I felt completely helpless and out of control of Ryan's fragile life. Please, God. Help. I followed Shel into the bathroom as she filled the tub with lukewarm water. "Help me get these clothes off him."
We removed Ryan's yellow-fleece footed pajamas and his diaper. Then, ever so carefully, Shel partially submerged Ryan's still-convulsing body into the tepid water.
"My youngest brother used to have convulsive seizures a lot," Shel told me as she supported Ryan's head and body with her hands and forearms. "I watched my mom do this many times."
Ryan's blonde hair swirled around his face. His piercing blue eyes stared at the ceiling above. His tiny lips were a deathly purple. I gently ran my fingers across his round tummy. I was shocked at how hot his body felt, even in the cool water.
"He feels so hot," I said.
"The seizure is his body's way of reacting to the high fever."
"The ambulance is here!" Gary called from the front door.
Shel pulled Ryan out of the tub, and I wrapped him in a towel. Then she quickly disappeared into her son's room. Although Ryan had stopped convulsing, he was still unresponsive. Shel returned with a flannel bathrobe, which I forced onto Ryan's body.