By Jody Tromble
No one ever said being a parent is easy. But when a visit to the pediatrician ends with news that your 7 year old daughter needs major surgery, it’s enough to send any mother into a tailspin. When this happened to my daughter Nora, I was wracked with questions, anxiety, and concern. Despite being a mess of worry for her and for her future, I realized that I needed to keep some sort of composure for my daughter and our other children.
It is very difficult to stay calm when you do not know what to expect. Where do you go to prepare your child and the rest of the family for surgery? The first place we looked for answers was with our pediatrician and all of the physicians in the surgery group. They kept the lines of communication open for us and asked what we needed. Being able to ask our questions, without anyone making us feel that they were ridiculous, was huge in establishing a level of trust with the doctors.
Another great tool for us was the internet. We didn’t use it to look up medical information, but rather how to handle this type of situation. KidsHealth.org has a great article about getting your child for surgery. They cover things like preparing yourself, explaining the problem, handling fears, etc.
It’s not surprising that one of the biggest fears is that of the unknown. To handle that one, we were instructed to watch videos, so we went online and searched for “pediatric hospital tour.” What we found was priceless. Dozens and dozens of options are right there on the World Wide Web. Virtual tours of pediatric operating rooms, explanations of inpatient and outpatient procedures, and anything else you can imagine was all there for the clicking.
The video tour I found started with mom and dad taking the child to the hospital and took the viewer all the way through to discharge. Because I was so nervous, I decided to watch it the first time by myself. That turned out to be a good idea, because when I watched it with Nora, I was able to stay calm and answer her many questions.
Each night before bed, we talked about surgery, what the doctors were going to do in the OR, and what the recovery might be like. Answering all of my child’s questions as honestly as possible actually helped to alleviate stress and some fear for her and for me.
Keeping her older siblings in the loop and sharing the plan for how they would get information and when they would be able to see their sister was also beneficial. They knew that they would get a phone call after school as soon as we knew, and that they’d be able to visit their sister after dinner. I think being able to address their concerns beforehand alleviated much of the anxiety on the day of surgery.
It also helped that we kept our routine as close to normal as possible. Nora went to school, lacrosse practice, and even squeezed in posing for her class picture before we left for the hospital.
Fortunately, everything went as planned, and Nora is now doing fine. For us, the key was good communication and preparation. I hope we never have go through something that scary ever again, but if it happens, our family will know what to do.
By Jody Tromble, JCS Service Coordinator
Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.