As some of you may know, my son recently had a pretty major surgery that required him to stay 3 days and 2 nights at the hospital.
His surgery went fine, by the way, and he is recovering quickly. In fact, our biggest problem is keeping him still enough to heal properly!
From our own experience I learned a few things that I would like to share with you just in case you ever have to go through such an ordeal. Or perhaps you know someone who has an upcoming visit that could use a little advice.
So here a glimpse into what we went through before, during, and after my 6 years old partial nephrectomy. I hope it will help prepare other parents who have to go through anything similar.
When you first arrive at the surgery center someone will walk you through everything that is going to happen, and then three more people will do the exact same thing. This may seem repetitive and you may be tempted to tell them you already heard everything, but just let them do their thing. These people are professionals and the more info you have the better you will feel in the long run.
Hearing everything 3-5 times actually helped me calm down, as the first time I would hear it the tears would well and almost spill over, but by the 4th or 5th time I could handle the news without too much emotion.
You also will get to meet with your child’s entire team of doctors, nurses, and aids though you won’t remember any of their names.
In our case we met with at least 10 people who described their job, reassured us of my son’s care and talked to us about the procedure. We had a Child Wellness Specialist speak with our son about the special mask he would wear during surgery and let him pick a yummy smell to paint inside it. He really liked this part as painting is his favorite activity and it made him feel like he had some control. Then the Anesthesiologist came in and did the same thing. We had 4 different nurses walk us through who we would talk to next, what I would have to wear to go with him to the room as he went to sleep, etc. Finally we spoke to the surgeon, shook hands, and prepared to say goodnight to our baby.
I was pretty much a wreck at this point, just barely holding back the tears so my son wouldn’t see, and I don’t remember any of the nurses or doctors names. I wish I did, though, because they were all wonderful. I would love to send a thank you letter. A note that expresses my thanks for keeping me sane, understanding when I needed a tissue now and then, and most of all, for keeping my son safe.
I was allowed to follow my son back to the surgery room and hold his hand while he fell asleep. I got wear a “bunny suit” which he and my husband thought was absolutely hilarious. Jerk.
Be prepared, the surgery room itself is somewhat terrifying; filled with masked medical personnel everywhere, sterile, pointy instruments, and beeping machines…I was taken aback by the size of the room and everything and everyone in it, but I held it together enough to tell my son that it was “so cool that he got to be a in a spaceship for his surgery!” He thought that was pretty awesome and giggled a bit.
They let me sit with him on the surgery bed, his little body leaning on mine, while they gave him some laughing gas to calm his nerves. The anesthesiologist told him a wonderful Spiderman tale, befitting his awesome Spiderman jammies, that took his and my mind off of what was coming. I laughed as he giggled uncontrollably. It was so nice to see him so happy during a time that was so scary for me.
This next part is where parents need to prepare themselves. Your child will not drift calmly to sleep in your arms with a happy smile on their face.
My son simply went absolutely, completely limp on me. His entire body was slack, his face droopy and his lips droolly…It was the scariest, hardest thing to watch. I immediately burst into tears. No one told me it would be so sudden.
The nurses had tissues ready as I gave him one last kiss and they ushered me out.
We went to the waiting room where I cried freely for a bit and then sat staring at the clock.
Every minute felt like 20.
They didn’t tell me that I would receive a phone call when they started surgery, so when I received a call from the hospital, while still in the hospital, 30 minutes after leaving my son, I nearly had a heart attack that something had already gone horribly wrong. But everything was fine, my baby was as good as could be and I could officially start the clock on his surgery time.
The doctor had told us how much time he hoped the surgery would take…Trust me, this won’t help. Be prepared to sit and stare at the clock, shaking your leg and trying to keep it together for the next 2 hours, in our case, until you see the doctor.
I saw 5 children check in, watched their parents come out and wait just like us, and then get to go back to their child, during the time we waited for word that the surgery was even over. I wish I hadn’t been paying attention because this made the wait even harder. All these parents who got there after us already getting to see their little ones after their surgery….ugh, it was killing me!
Then I finally say our doctor emerge.
When you first see the surgeon come out, your heart will do a quick little flip that something has gone wrong, until you see his or her reassuring smile, and then you will cry again. At least you will if you are the emotional wreck that I was.
Once we knew he made it through the surgery fine we got to wait another hour before we could see him. I was so afraid that he would wake up alone and be afraid or think we had left him. But the nurses made sure that we were there as soon as he started showing signs of cognizance and he had a nurse assigned to him so he was never alone.
Don’t be too worried about your child’s confusion at this time. The anesthesia wears off slowly and my son was terribly confused. He didn’t understand why he hurt or where he was. He kept trying to sit up and hated the oxygen he was attached to. It was so hard to see him like this.
I was relieved when he was cleared to be moved to an actual room with more privacy, where his confusion wouldn’t be made worse by the constant crying of the other poor babies around him.
Once he was moved to a new bed in a private room, he started to calm down and his head cleared a bit. I was so relieved. He could be surrounded by family here.
Poor little guy didn’t even realize he had had surgery until a few hours later. He asked me why his back hurt, why he couldn’t stand up to use the bathroom. Cue more mom tears. I told him he had stitches in his back from his surgery and he kind of giggled, “they did my surgery already? when?” I smiled too, kids are so resilient and strong.
Nothing is every set in stone, there will always be surprises and shocking moments, especially in a situation like a surgery where there is so much that is unknown.
However, I hope that my own story may ease the fears of other parents reading this before leaving their own child in the care of hospital staff. Whether your child’s surgery be for ear tubes or something more major, it is a terrifying experience. The more information you have, the better you will feel.