A lot of praying, hoping and bargaining can be done in 90 minutes.
Jayne Wilkins and husband Michael Norman have now endured this scenario for each of their two children in the throes of a medical emergency.
One moment Ms Wilkins was chopping chicken fillets for dinner as she chatted with her nine-month-old daughter, Harriet. The next minute her daughter was convulsing in her high chair.
It took 20 minutes for paramedics to reach the family at their home in Blighty, a one-pub town in southern New South Wales, while Ms Wilkins cradled her daughter on the lounge room rug in the recovery position.
The ambulance stopped three times on the 20-minute drive to the nearest hospital, in Deniliquin. The anti-seizure medication should have kicked in, but Harriet was still convulsing when they arrived and would continue for another 20 minutes.
“The whole time for her 90-minute seizure I was just hoping she wouldn’t die, that she wouldn’t stop breathing,” Ms Wilkins said.
The pair were flown that night to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, a place better equipped to undertake the tests and treatment needed to quell the seizure.
The couple had been through this with son Franklin almost two years earlier. Their firstborn, the only baby who slept continuously on the maternity ward but whose tiny hands were tinged blue, was admitted to the RCH at three weeks of age.
They had never been to the hospital before that. They didn’t know anyone who had. But Franklin was already in heart failure, and 36 hours later the couple handed their son to strangers for heart surgery.
And while 21-month-old Franklin continues to need regular check-ups at the Parkville hospital for his rare cardiac condition, RCH paediatrician Dr Daryl Efron said he hoped this week-long admission would be a blip on an otherwise healthy childhood for Harriet.
Most children who have a febrile convulsion — a seizure caused by a spike in temperature — will only ever have just one.
“There are many possible things can cause a baby to have a fit and one of the main things we worry about is meningitis,” Dr Efron said.
“It turns out she does have bacterial meningitis. It’s relatively mild and she has recovered really quickly. But even mild cases we treat very seriously.”
After the last doses of antibiotics at the weekend, during which time the family stayed at Ronald McDonald House and were visited by the RCH’s Hospital in the Home nurses, the family are on Sunday night spending their first night at home.
The family led their town of 400 people in a fundraising drive for the RCH last year, when the senior players of the Blighty Football Club bought a signed Richmond jumper that they raffled off. The Riverina town raised $4300 for the interstate hospital.
“I never knew how special it was until I got here,” Ms Wilkins said. “It’s not until you’re here and you have to use it and you depend on it for your children to come home.”
To donate to The Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal please click here or phone 9292 1166.
Words Brigid O’Connell (Herald Sun), photos Jay Town.