First of all, he’s fine.
I’m talking about my barely 2 year-old son who had a seizure barely 48 hours ago while we were traveling to Las Vegas to the yearly basketball tournament that I’ve been going to for the last 15+ years.
What I’d like to talk about are the human beings that went above and beyond their job descriptions to allow my family to have one of the most memorable experiences of our lives for all of the right reasons.
But first the most frightening experience that I’ve encountered in my life so far…
We had barely arrived to Vegas after a 4 hour drive after having lunch with my dad at his hotel in Rialto and checked into the Mirage Hotel & Casino. While getting out of the car, my wife noticed that my son was hot, and when I touched the back of his head, I remember pulling my hand away and thinking, “Oh, that’s hot!”. So we decided to check-in, grab dinner quickly, then get some children’s Advil from the CVS across the street.
My usually active son was a bit lackadaisical, seemingly from the long car ride, and to be honest we could all use a break from chasing him everywhere we go. So as we unpacked and got prepared for dinner, we noticed he fell asleep again in the stroller, and we continued on our way down to the Carnegie Delicatessen.
This is the scene where time gets warped, and I’m writing this now before my memory escapes me. We ordered and sat down in the middle of the restaurant, where I had noticed it was very cold – I didn’t think to bring a jacket to the desert, but even for me it was difficult not to feel uncomfortable. My son who was still asleep in the stroller continued to do so, and I know I wanted to quickly eat and take his dinner to go. It’s rare for out family at this point to have a quiet meal that’s not spread out over ourselves and the floor.
However since I was cold, I suggested to my wife to put his jacket on his lap. Just a few minutes afterwards, he stirred awake and became fussy, refusing to eat more than a few bites, and just wanted to be held by his mother and look out at the lights from the casino machines. She obliged and my daughter and I continued to have our peaceful meal over the next few minutes.
Then all of a sudden, my wife yells, “Hey, I think he’s having a seizure!” and I turn around and say, “Wha-?” but before I finish that word, my wife thrusts him into my arms where I can feel the his tiny body pulsating and shaking out of anybody’s control.
“It’s ok, it’s ok, daddy’s here, it’s ok,” I calmly keep repeating to him, and as I struggle to take off his jacket, a middle aged brunette woman with glasses calmly extends her arms and tells me that her son has had this happen and proceeds to soak napkins in ice water and place them over his forehead while I do so on the back of his neck. The staff also provides more towels soaked in cold water to place on him, and as I feel the pulsation slow, I start to calm down inside.
However, we were not quite in the clear. As the Mirage staff EMT arrived to assist and we were discussing whether or not to call the paramedics, the seizure started again and we laid him on his side on the red cushioned seats. As I kept talking to him, asking him to look at me, squeeze my finger, and watched his breathing, these thoughts cycle through my mind:
Is he breathing? Ok, I see his stomach moving and his lips aren’t getting blue. Is he breathing?
Why are the whites of his eyes yellowing? Why can’t he squeeze my fingers? Why isn’t he looking at me?
Is this the last time I’m going to see him? Are the photos on my camera the last ones that I have?
He’s closing his eyes, is that good or do I smack him to make sure he stays conscious? Ok, they’re open again but they don’t seem to be responsive.
This can’t be it, this can’t be it…
Then a slight look and whimper comes out of his as he peers over at me, still on his left side. I can see his tongue peering out through his teeth being clenched by his teeth. I see that it’s causing him enough pain to look at me and sign for some kind of help. I stick my thumb and forefinger into where his molars would be (he only has 1) and try to pry his jaw open. And this is where I find out later that normally people should avoid putting fingers into the mouth of someone having a seizure since the jaw muscles are so strong that people have had their fingers severed. I get it now as I fail to pry a 2 year-old’s jaw open, even a little bit. I do get his tongue pushed back in just enough for his jaw to clench shut again, though.
While this is happening, I try not to look at my wife because I know she could be hysterical which wouldn’t help me keep my cool. I shoot a glance over at my 4.5 year old daughter and she’s still calmly at our table eating or coloring. I also hear some of the staff yelling, “Pack them some food for the hospital,” and then the Manager tells us that the paramedics have arrived.
A young blonde man and a older, taller man with a hat came to take over and calmly explain how common this is. They proceed to inject a muscle relaxer, Versed, to calm the seizure and the older man told me how his son used to have seizures and talked me through what to expect and what they need to do. I’m instructed to lie on the gurney with my son on my stomach, then we’re strapped in and moved through the casino and into the ambulance.
As we’re getting carted off, I see my wife is still standing but full of tears. I have to throw her the keys to the car for them to follow us and this is where her account of the excellent treatment from the Carnegie Delicatessen’s staff began. She tells me that one of the managers, Marc, grabbed all of our belongings and the meals they had packed, and walked her all the way to our car (which was a far walk) and even offered to drive her to the hospital. My wife declined, but later on I’ill find out firsthand how extremely fortunate we were to have those staff members to be on our lookout.
Back inside the ambulance, I remember thinking, “This is not the way I wanted to experience my first ambulance ride.” It was cold and stark, however the two gentlemen quickly turned on the heater. My nerves had started to come out as my adrenaline wore off, and we were also exposed to the rain (in Vegas?) as we were being placed inside the back of the ambulance. My knees were shivering and I could see that my son had also starting to shiver, which I initially mistook for another seizure. As I and the 2 EMT men start to head out, however, my son did start that unmistakeable rhythmic bouncing sensation again and is given another .25ml of Versed to calm his muscles. I was also handed an oxygen mask to hold over his nose to ensure that he was getting more than enough oxygen on our way towards the hospital.
They calmly explain that they wanted to start an IV to get some fluids back into my son to rehydrate him and lower his temperature. Finding my son’s vein inside the back of a bouncing ambulance proved to be a difficult task, but it also showed me that he was going to be ok. See, the first attempt on his right arm didn’t work out so the second attempt was put into his right hand. Although that was initially successful, the turbulence on the road lead to another unsuccessful attempt to start an IV, and I could see blood spurt out as the needle was knocked away. Now on the approach to the third and semi-successful attempt on the left arm, I notice my son trying to kick off the taller man with the hat with his legs. I see this and hold his knees down, but I’m also happy that he’s responding to this painful process. The man with the hat then apologizes profusely for the many attempts, and I tell him, “Don’t worry, you do whatever you have to do,” and his response was,”I know, but no parent likes to see their child in pain.”
By this point we’ve made it to the hospital and we’re taken out of the ambulance and rolled into the Sunrise Children’s Hospital. Waiting for us was Dr. Vergara and six or seven nurses lined up around a hospital bed as we start to get off the gurney. The younger blonde EMT man proceeds to explain the details of the incident from the Carnegie, recall the dosage of medication given to my son, and also explain the multiple attempts to start an IV line. Of course, the nurses promptly put in IV lines in both arms again to my son’s dismay, and also take his height, weight, and temperature which was 104ºF when we arrived. At this point he had opened his eyes and looked at me and the surrounding nurses, but more importantly he had started to cry, which gave me a sigh of relief as I knew we were over the hump.
At this point I turn around and see that my wife and daughter had arrived. I notice she isn’t frantic and I tell her he’s going to be fine. Then Dr. Vergara explains how seizures come about, how common they are especially among children until about age 7, and the next steps that involved looking at his blood work to verify the possible origins of his seizure.
She explains that the actual temperature is not the culprit behind the onset of a seizure, but rather the rapid increase or decrease in the body temperature that causes the brain to “reset” the body, as she put it. Thinking back now, my wife and I suspect the coldness of the A/C that was blasting onto him while he was asleep followed up by my wife’s warm body temperature as she was holding him was probably the cause of the seizure (and we are not blaming anyone, merely analyzing the situation).
We’re placed into a regular room now at the children’s hospital and waiting for my son to take in two IV units. He’s in and out of sleep, and once he noticed his mother, he started to cry and fuss around a little bit, bending some of the IV lines that are in him and setting off the machines. After he calmed down we held his hand out to keep his arms straight as my wife lays with him, putting one of her arms under his head, the way he normally makes her do when they go to bed at night, and we stay there as my daughter enjoyed her extended TV time. During the five hours that we were there, he was given 2 popsicles to lower his temperature and increase his fluid intake. This is also where my wife recalled her harrowing moments as well as mention the name Marc several times to me.
What I did not expect happened that evening as we were making our way back to our room. After dinner my wife and I wanted to stop by the Carnegie to thank the manager and I was hoping to meet Marc. Instead we were greeted by Sanja, the Assistant Manager, who was at the point of tears with utter jubilation as she saw that we were doing ok. Then I noticed our server was also working just behind her and we walked over to her to thank her. Carrie (sp?) immediately burst into tears as well, and yelled “Oh my god, I’m getting goosebumps!” with her slight southern twang and they both proceeded to tell us how worried their entire staff was for the whole day! Sanja kept insisting on sending food and drinks up with us, asking us if there was anything we needed at the hotel. She then promised to have our breakfast ready for us the following morning. When I got the chance to talk to Marc later, he also told me that he was looking at every stroller that passed by throughout the day to see if it was us because they were so worried about our well-being.
As 10 PM was approaching, Sanja kept telling me that she had to contact Marc, the General Manager of the Food and Beverage department to tell him the great news. I find out later that Marc shuts off his work phone at 10p. As soon as we reached our room I heard our room phone ring, and I’m greeted by that unmistakeable New York friendly accent and cadence from Marc, and we proceed to share an intimate conversation. I thanked him for looking out for my wife and daughter as I’m being carted away into the ambulance. He shares with me the tales of his second son who was born prematurely and the months he spent every night after work at the NICU at the very same hospital we were taken to. He tells me how bad he felt that something like that could happen to a family on vacation. He tells me how amazed he was at how my daughter handled the situation. He congratulates me on keeping my composure during a very difficult and scary moment. I hear his voice breaking and I can see how that frightening moment had taken him back to those days in the NICU where he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to his son – whether or not he’d see him the next day or get the chance to hold him in his palm after work. That same son is now 16 years old and a thriving golf pro, while his first son is a soccer stud who went to college and grad school on scholarships. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for over 8 years, and to see that kind of above-and-beyond service (which isn’t over yet) was truly impressive to me.
I finally got to meet Marc over breakfast the following morning, even though it was his one day off. I first saw Sanja with an ear-to-ear grin as she spots my son. Then I felt a big hand squeeze my shoulders behind me as he scoops up my son to hold him. We continue to talk and sit down to share a meal, when all of sudden a bouquet of sunflowers landed by my daughter and 2 large bags of toys were presented to them. My daughter was a bit overwhelmed and startled by the attention and starts to cry a little, however I can’t help but enjoy this touching moment. Marc also presents me with a bottle of 2002 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne from his own personal collection. He said he was saving it for something special, and that this was the perfect moment.
We continued to talk about our lives and what brought us here that day. I learned about his extraordinary life as a hard working man raising two boys on his own. I could hear the proud father in him talk about his athletically-gifted sons whose talents were unmistakably inherited. We talked about the hospitality industry and how he had come out of an early retirement to become the person to inject the “human” aspect of service back into a growing staff of data driven millennials (my words, not his). I had also heard from Carrie, several times, how wonderful the upper management had become due to Marc’s influence.
I know these things happen to high rollers in casinos on a regular basis. But this type of special treatment stemming from an unfortunate incident was unexpectedly beautiful and a moment my family and I will never forget. We’ve made new friends and every time I go to Las Vegas, I intend to stop by and say hi with my family. Although our vacation began with a horrifying moment, Marc and his staff were able to create the most human experience that our family will never forget, and we will only remember this trip for the right reasons.
Thank you again Marc, Sanja, Carrie, and to the unknown woman who initially helped me out. You helped us remember only the positive things that happened on this trip!