Little Girl Dare Not Get Excited ... About Anything

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News


Holly Cleveland picture

Two-year-old Holly Cleveland's heart and breathing stops when she gets too excited. Credit: Jeremy Durkin / Rex / Rex USA

A little girl in Norfolk, England just had a very dull Christmas.

Thank God.

Holly Cleveland dare not get excited. If she does, the 2-year-old's heart and breathing stops.

She generally starts breathing again after 30 seconds, but that's little comfort to her parents.

"I have been assured that her heart will always start again, but every time it happens I can't help panicking," mom Tina Cleveland tells the London Daily News. "What mother wouldn't if her baby was lying on the floor not breathing for half a minute? It's horrendous."

Rather than being joyous, the past few weeks have been harrowing for the Clevelands.

"This is the first Christmas since Holly's diagnosis, and I'm worried sick," Cleveland tells the newspaper. "'Anybody with a toddler will know what I mean when I say it's going to be nigh on impossible to make sure she doesn't get too excited."

The Clevelands put up their tree early to get Holly used to the twinkly lights before they started appearing everywhere.

"It's heartbreaking to see her little face light up and then have to immediately calm her down again," Cleveland tells the Daily Mail. "I've even avoided asking her what present she wants because I don't want her to get too excited when she sees it."

Holly suffers from reflex anoxic seizures (RAS) caused by an overactive vagus nerve -- the main communication route between the brain and the heart and lungs.

The condition causes a sudden lack of blood in the brain and victims temporarily stop breathing and lose consciousness.

Holly's mother first noticed a problem when the girl was 9 months old.

"She'd been crying but suddenly stopped and went white and floppy. Seconds later she was back round but it was terrifying," Cleveland tells the Daily Mail.

Their family doctor said Holly was just holding her breath.

"Apparently it's common for toddlers to hold their breath and pass out if they are having a strop and we were led to believe that's what Holly was doing," Cleveland tells the newspaper. "It didn't make sense to me though, because she would also pass out if she was enjoying herself, for example at a party."

The Clevelands discovered Holly's condition in October. She was 20 months old when she went for a sleepover with some cousins. It was very exciting.

There is no cure for the condition. It affects around eight in 1,000 children, but it is not life-threatening and most children grow out of it. Holly suffers an average of one or two seizures a week.

"It's hard to predict what a 2-year-old is going to get excited or angry about so we can't always prevent them," Cleveland tells the Daily Mail. "But they don't get any easier. Every second she is not breathing is like an eternity to me."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.