It’s bad enough as an adult when you’re facing surgery, but oh no this is different – this is your child facing surgery. Fear of the unknown may fill your mind with so many unanswered questions. Surgery and children can be daunting. By preparing yourself and your child for the journey, from pre-surgery through coming home, you will make it that much easier for you and the family.
Preparing Your Child for Surgery
Anything seems easier if you are prepared, this is the same for a child. Explaining, to their level of understanding, why they need surgery and what will be happening (in a calming way not graphic) will make them less anxious and fearful than if they go in knowing nothing. As a parent, or guardian, of a child facing surgery, you first need to make sure you understand the surgery. If you are afraid, which more than likely you will be, or are anxious because you don’t know what to expect your feelings will be felt by your child. So first, get yourself in a good place. I remember when my daughter was going in to have surgery on her finger, you’d think with the fear I had that it was major surgery – it sure felt like it to me. No matter what surgery your child is facing, be it big or small, it can be fearful for you as the parent.
You are giving over control of your child’s well-being to another person. The idea of your child going under anesthesia can be frightening as well – so you need to educate yourself and then explain these things to your child – again at their level of their being able to understand. You’ll want to help your child understand why the surgery is needed and to also to become familiar with the hospital and some procedures he or she will undergo. Scheduling a tour of the hospital beforehand so your child is familiar with the site, sounds and smells can be helpful. Many good books are written on a child’s level to help explain what they can expect with the surgery experience.
Be sure to answer any questions your child has and if you don’t know the answer to your best to find out. The adage – knowledge is power is true with surgery as well.
Children and Anesthesia
I’m sure thoughts are running through your mind regarding the risk factors of surgery and children – more specifically your child. Perhaps you are wondering about the risk of anesthesia on a child. Anesthesia has gotten a lot safer than it was years ago and your child will be monitored throughout surgery to be sure things are going well. You will probably meet the anesthesiologist on the day of the surgery. He will have access to the medical records and will ask you any pertinent questions he may have. He will probably go over what he will be doing to keep your child safe during surgery and what procedures he will be administering. Your child’s blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen level will be monitored throughout surgery. Something you might want to ask is if it is possible for medicine to be given before the IV is inserted that way if your child is afraid of needles, they will be asleep when that happens – just something to consider. Be sure to ask the anesthesiologist any questions you may have.
The Hospital Stay
What happens in the hospital? When you first arrive at the hospital your child will be admitted, and any paperwork will need to be filled out by you. Many times, the hospital will let you preregister. Insurance information, if not already given, will need to be given. Please be sure the surgery has been approved before surgery so there aren’t any surprises. Allergies and any other medical history will be noted.
After admission, you will be taken to what is referred to as pre-op. Here your child will put on hospital gowns and blood pressure, temperature and weight will be taken. Medical history will be discussed, as will the reason for the surgery and what area of the body the surgery will take place. The anesthesiologist usually makes an appearance, as well as, the surgeon. Once your child is wheeled
into surgery you will have to wait outside. Parents, usually, are not allowed into the surgery area. Once your child is in recovery the parent and child are reunited. Don’t be alarmed if your child is tired and keeps dozing off – this is completely normal and to be expected. It’s a good idea to have a toy or stuffed animal the child is familiar with to give him/her the comfort of familiarity and home. If your child is staying overnight, many times the hospital has accommodations for the parent staying with the child. It’s important for you or any visitors to wash hands – you don’t want any type of infection to take hold and one of the best ways to do that is with regular hand washing.
Well, the day has arrived for discharge from the hospital. Before leaving be sure you understand any care and medicine instructions. If you need to change bandages have the nurse show you how to do so. If there is a type of medical equipment your child will need, again be sure you know how to use it before leaving the hospital. Ask any questions you may have about the care of your child and get a phone number of someone you can reach 24 hours a day if you have any questions or concerns once at home. Find out if there are there any red flags you need to watch out? Having these questions answered and knowing how to care for your child will give you more confidence as you return home. For the first couple of days, you will want your son or daughter to rest. You’ll want your home free of chaos. If there are other children in the household, make sure they frequently wash their hands. Be on the lookout for any sign of infection ranging from:
- Swelling and/or heat at the incision site
- Drainage at the incision site
If your child has any sign of infection call your doctor immediately. Infection can be cured but it also can be dangerous.
You Made It!
So many thoughts and fears can be running through your mind. You may have a lot to do to get prepared – caretaker for other children, arranging time off work, cleaning your house to lessen the risk of infection, if you have a school-age child, you’ll need to let the school know of the impending absences, preparing and educating your child about the surgery. I know it sounds like a lot and can be overwhelming, but I know you can to this.