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Ministry Preparedness: Seizures

For a children's leader in Maryland, it happened during the Wednesday night program: Without warning, one of Barbara's preschoolers fell to the floor, jerking with muscle spasms and rolling her eyes.

"It's a very scary thing when a preschooler struggles to breathe and turns blue," says Barbara. "I was blessed with a nurse on my team. She immediately called 911."

"I asked a couple to drive the nervous parents to the hospital and arranged for others to watch siblings," says Barbara. "Then, I contacted our pastor and prayer team."

According to research, 3 percent of kids have a seizure before age 15. A seizure occurs when the brain functions abnormally, causing a change in awareness, movement, and attention levels. In some seizures children experience loss of awareness with staring or blinking but no convulsive movements. If a child has a seizure, is your team ready? Here are guidelines for your next training.

• Prepare. Interview parents and follow their instructions. Provide a paging device to reach parents quickly. Know the medically trained volunteers at your church.

• Collect yourself. You can't stop a seizure. Let it run its course. Stay calm; follow the predetermined procedures. 

• Protect the child. Put a cushion or soft item under the child's head, and turn the child's head to the side. Wipe away discharge that might hinder breathing, but don't restrain the child or put anything into her mouth. 

• Observe. Report observations to parents and complete an incident form for church records. Follow up during the week to let the child know you're praying for him. 

Other Children

Seizures frighten children experiencing them, and they're alarming to other children. In Barbara's case the other children knew something was wrong and speculated that the child died because no one informed them.

"One of our biggest lessons that day was with respect to the other children," says Barbara. "We should've gathered them into classrooms and not led them to the hallways. First, it would've helped us account for everyone in the midst of chaos. Second, we would've controlled the information they and their parents received."

Barbara's team talked with kids about what a future emergency might look like and how they'd work together to care for each other. That's good advice for any church.

Pat Verbal is the co-author of Special Needs Special Ministry (Group) and founder of Ministry to Today's Child (www.ministrytotodayschild.com) in Dallas, Texas.

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