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What it feels like when your baby has an apparent life-threatening event (ALTE)

What it feels like when your baby has an apparent life-threatening event (ALTE)

He shouted out, "Is she supposed to be blue?"

I ran into the room, took one look at her, and panicked. I called 911, and it's all a blur from there. I remember the EMS dispatcher walking me through questions. Me telling him that I didn't think she was breathing. Them telling me they were on their way and urging me to try and gently arouse her. In a matter of seconds, which felt like hours, she started crying.

The ambulance arrived. (EMS doesn't mess around when it comes to newborns.) They had a whole crew in my living room, checking her out, and, while everything seemed fine, they sent us straight to the local children's hospital in an ambulance (with sirens) for testing and observation.

According to the doctors, my daughter had suffered from an "apparent life-threatening event," otherwise known as an ALTE. Medical websites define an ALTE as "the sudden occurrence of certain alarming symptoms such as prolonged periods of no breathing (apnea), change in color or muscle tone, coughing and gagging in children under 1 year of age. I'm told that this can also be called "brief, unresolved, unexplained events" (BRUE) – but whatever you call it, it was terrifying.

At the hospital, our daughter was subjected to high doses of baby antibiotics and seemingly every lab test and diagnostic tool available to modern medicine. Getting her X-rays was the most awful part of our experience. She screamed so hard it took nearly 30 minutes to get a good scan. Just to reiterate, they had absolutely no idea what had suddenly caused her to stop breathing, as is often the case with an ALTE. After two days of inconclusive studies and observation, we were sent back home, just like that, to wonder if we had made the whole thing up.

We ordered a baby-breathing monitor while we were in the hospital. Without it, I don't think my husband nor I would have ever slept again. Until she was 2 years old, we used that monitor every night and we panicked each time it "falsely" alarmed us.

To this day, my husband and I still aren't sure if we overreacted or if our daughter was truly suffering from a life-threatening situation. Either way, seven years later, we're confident we did the right thing. Following your instincts – and calling 911 – is the best and only choice when you fear for your baby's life.

We are thankful today that our only reminder of that terrifying week are her tiny baby armbands and a full-page description in her baby book.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.


Watch the video: Apparent Life Threatening Events in Children ALTE (January 2022).

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