In January, Sherrie Judd was pushing her baby down the grocery store aisle when her husband saw little Adalind’s eyes roll into the back of her head.
In an interview with 9News, Judd said the eye-rolling lasted about 20 seconds and then her baby would return to normal:
“We were in Coles just grabbing a few groceries and about to spend the day at the beach when my husband noticed Adalind doing an unusual movement. It was just her eyes were rolling up a bit, and then she would go back to normal and she would be interactive, and then maybe 20 seconds later it would go again.”
While not “overly concerned,” Judd believed it was a good idea to take her 5-month-old to the emergency room to get checked out. Once there, the New South Wales, Australia, parents were told they couldn’t leave.
A scan revealed Adalind had hypsarrhythmia, an abnormal electrical pattern in the baby’s brain. Adalind’s “infantile spasms” were indicative of a type of epilepsy found in children, known as West syndrome.
According to Epilepsy Action, West syndrome usually appears in babies between three and eight months of age and is characterized by the appearance of hypsarrhythmia and infantile spasms. One of the difficulties in early diagnosis is that babies do not always display the tell-tale “cluster” of seizures, in which the spasms repeat within a few seconds of each other. Instead, single spasms in babies may occur which can lead to delayed diagnosis.
As 9News reports, infantile spasms that are not treated may cause permanent brain damage, which is precisely why Judd has taken to Facebook to share what her daughter’s condition looks like in an effort to help parents distinguish between a baby’s normal “jerky” movements and a seizure.
Judd explained to 9News:
“For Adalind she will have that same pattern repeat itself every 10 or 15 seconds and it will look exactly the same. It will be repetitive and usually at least for 5-10 minutes.”
Adalind is seen clenching her fist and stretching her arms upward during her seizure:
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, babies with West syndrome typically bend their bodies forward suddenly while stiffening their arms and legs during a seizure; sometimes they will arch their backs and extend their arms and legs. Spasms tend to occur after feedings or when a baby is first waking up.
Infantile spasms occur in “clusters” of up to 100 spasms at a time, and babies may experience dozens of clusters to hundreds of spasms every day, the institute writes. The “key difference” in a baby’s normal movements and a seizure is the “cluster” of repetitive movements, Judd told 9News.Sherrie Judd/Facebook
Now that her baby has received a proper diagnosis, Adalind experiences two to four seizure a day but no longer suffers from hypsarrhythmia. Additionally, because the baby received treatment at the onset of her condition, she has been able to hit developmental milestones. Judd explained to 9News:
“It was good it was done so quickly because it means the outcomes are as good as they are, in that she can sit up, she can crawl, she can say ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. And there are cases that are a lot worse than Adalind’s.”
According to Epilepsy Action’s website, it is common for babies with West syndrome to have stunted or reversed development until their spasms are controlled. Treating the condition includes the use of corticosteroids and anticonvulsant medication.
However, although children may respond to treatment many children will experience other childhood seizures and epileptic syndromes, specifically Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome which is linked to infantile spasms. A baby’s prognosis is dependent on the underlying cause of the spasm, such as birth injury, metabolic disorders, and genetic disorders, reports the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Judd told 9News she is grateful for her baby’s early diagnosis as “not everyone is so lucky”:
“For infantile spasms, the first two weeks are quite crucial. But often the seizures can be so subtle that while the parents might be worried, they’re not overly worried.”
Judd hopes her video will lend insight into what these subtle movements in babies can sometimes really mean.