February 18, 2011

Lost at Sea...

This was the last photo that we took of Tyler on November 14th, 2006... little did we know that a few hours later it could have been the last, forever.  Tyler had not been feeling well prior to our Disney Cruise, it seemed like a cold but nothing more.  He acted perfectly normal which for Tyler meant that he was the most awesome boy around.  He was running a fever but we treated it with the usual assortment of Tylenol and Motrin.  We also figured that as the genius parents that we are that we would let him play in the pool.  Boy was that a mistake.  Three hours after this photo was taken in the middle of a performance of Hercules, while sitting on my lap, my wife noticed that Tyler was turning blue and not breathing.  A parents worst nightmare was occurring, only ours was on a boat three hours out to sea on our way to the Bahamas.

We ran out of the theater screaming for a doctor, a nurse, really anyone that could help.  We had no idea what was going on with our child, but our only thought that was of the absolute worst.  Tyler was having a seizure and there was nothing that we could do to stop it.  Seeing my son in a nonresponsive state has to be the most frightening thing I have ever seen in my life.  I didn't know what to think, but it crossed my mind that the worlds greatest son was going to die.  As luck would have it, the ships hospital was located two floors directly below the theater and medical care was with us in a flash thanks to some excellent crew members.  Tyler did come out of his seizure and the next couple of hours were just a blur.  Between being in contact with the ships doctor, the boats Captain, and not knowing what the hell just happened to my child, my mind was in some sort of foggy state.  The doctor had decided that the best thing for us was to get off the boat and get to a hospital, ON THE MAINLAND.  The decision was made to turn the boat around and head back to Florida.  We are talking a boat with 3000 people on it making a U-turn in the middle of the Atlantic, not a very easy task.  The only other option was to fly by helicopter, an option fortunately we didn't have to take.

Getting off the boat was somewhat surreal.  We were met by an ambulance and the paramedics hustled us off the boat.  I looked up at the massive ship and could see hundreds of people gathered on the outside decks and their state room balconies.  I remembered giving some sort of half assed thumbs up, you know the kind you see when a football player gets carried off on a stretcher, after suffering some sort of head injury.  We were whisked to the hospital where it was determined that Tyler had suffered a febrile seizure, a seizure caused by sudden increase in body temperature, well Tyler as you recall had a cold but it turns out he actually had pneumonia.  What the hell kind of parents were we to take a kid on a Caribbean vacation with pneumonia, and stick him in a cold pool no less.  Ones that had no idea this could happen but have definitely learned their lesson.  

Everything turned out OK on that trip.  Tyler got the proper medication, and Disney did a wonderful job of making sure we still enjoyed our vacation by letting us stay in one of their beautiful hotels and giving us tickets to the park.  Something they didn't have to do, but when your business caters to making families dreams come true, it is something I will always be thankful for.

Doctors have told us that these sort of seizures have no lasting effects to the body and that they would be something he would eventually grow out of.  He has had some more seizures over the years including another surreal moment in rural France, something I will get into another day.  They are still a very scary thing to witness but we know what they are now and what to do.  Overall he has been a healthy little boy and the type of kid that makes his father proud on a daily basis.  I bring this story up because we are going on a Disney Cruise this weekend, and while he is totally healthy I always get it in the back of my mind what could happen.  Carter was a little sick this past week with a bit of a cold and while I don't think that Tyler caught anything and will be fine for this trip, you never know.  Who knew the events of that day in November could have happened either.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?



  1. That was hands down the worst day of my life. I'm glad you are sharing this story so maybe other parents will learn about febrile seizures and know what to do. Thinking my angel was dying or potentially brain dead was the most horrifying thought I've ever had. If I knew that the effects would not be life threatening or permanent, it would have still been scary but less traumatizing, for sure.

  2. I also think its important to note just how AMAZING Disney was through this ordeal. They assigned us a "fairy godmother" who checked in on us constantly, and helped get a room at the grand Floridian during a super busy weekend, so Tyler could recuperate before flying home. At The Disney hotel, Tyler was given free reign to pick out a treat from the shop, and all of us were treated to a free character dinner. Later that night, a delivery of goodies and a birthday cake for my moms 60th birthday arrived (the cruise was for her birthday celebration, but she left the ship with us to go to the hospital). They also refunded the cost of our cruise AND gave us free tickets to the park so Tyler would look forward to coming back. Unbelievable. This is why I'm now such a Disney loyalist.

  3. Mental note: Stay off crusies.