Preparing Your Family For Surgery

Many of you have emailed and commented asking about Oak, and I am happy to say he is now home and doing so well. The love and support has been overwhelming, and I felt it in the moments my heart broke a little throughout the process. He handled it in an unimaginable way and is now home for a few more weeks recovering. He is chatting and smiling and silly. It feels so good to be home and on the other side of things.

While I am no expert in how to get yourself, a child (the patient), or a sibling ready for the hospital, there were a few things we did that I think had so much to do with the positive outcome. As we were leaving, I had an emotional and beautiful conversation with child services at the hospital (who were there during every single step) and we both agreed that much of the good came from preparation. While I know many of us never ever expect our children to have a hospital stay (or need a major surgery), I wanted to list a few things that helped our family, so that if you ever found yourself in a similar situation, you could have a resource….

Patient: Tell them. You want to be honest, but be age appropriate. I heard from several of the nurses, surgeon, and administrators that sometimes parents believe it’s best to keep secrets; it can traumatize the child, and develops a distrust with medical staff.

When explaining, you want to be vague but direct. We use the technical word for everything, but kept it simple. Sometimes when children hear big words around them, and can’t place them, it can be scary. So instead of using “operation” we often used surgery, because we knew that he would hear that word often. He knew that both words had the same meaning, but people just used one more than the other.

Ahead of a surgery, they suggest telling them a day in advance for each year they’re alive. I felt the urge a little sooner because River would ask questions about it around him. I think with all things, you know your child. The most important rule is to just be honest. After we told him, we read this book every night. It helped normalize the stay in a way he could truly understand.

Sibling: If you feel like you can’t hide it around them, then tell them. River knew well before Oak, and that is because she is much more sensitive around energy. Telling kids in a way that is again, honest but vague. The key for older siblings is to not put any of the pressure on them to figure it out and “be okay.” Reassure them them the younger sibling will be okay, but also be honest that mom or dad may be a little “off” because of it.

Since so much of the energy is turned toward the patient, it’s good to find ways to refocus the surgery time. For River, we planned dates and sleepovers with friends. So the time for her was a “fun time,” something she could look forward to. When she asked questions, we answered.

Parents: Look at all the factors. As you prepare for surgery, it isn’t just work or your child’s health, there’s so many layers. For me, there was River, our house, the stay, food, bills etc… I wrote out my concerns and tried to really tackle them as best as I could.

Delegate. After I looked at what I had to do, with a little encouragement from friends, I dictated what I couldn’t do. I asked for help (lots of it) and many of my friends who offered to help were able to clearly see what way they could show up for me. It was powerful to see. I am never one to really ask, so seeing that if you just ask, people will show, truly changed the way I feel about being some superwoman. I am not.

Tap into resources. As it turns out, I had three friends who had friends in a similar situation. I had the most beautiful conversation one morning with a mom who warned me, encouraged me, and gave me some amazing tips.

It’s okay if you’re away. My inbox is full and many of my texts are still unanswered-it’s okay. Just surrender to the feelings, situation, and healing time.

When meeting with your surgeon, ask as many questions as you may need to. It develops a trust between you and the surgeon, and again, honesty goes a long way. You’re your child’s advocate, so everything needs to be answered and sorted.

Most importantly, keep it together in front of the kids. Do not cry. Have as many talks as you need, but surgery can seem scary (it is!), so try and always keep a straight face. I saved the crying for phone calls after school drop off or under my covers at night. Each day went on like the last, as best as it could.

Cleanse. your energy, your home, your heart. Before the surgery I did several deep cleanings. I also finished up a few projects on my list. It helped me prepare my mind and body for what was ahead.
In addition to cleaning, I did lots of energy work in our house and within my body. I also treated myself to some deep body work and acupuncture and spent several evenings walking around my neighborhood aimlessly to clear my mind.

Lastly, be as much of a mess and complainer as you need to be. i called my friends and cried a lot. They listened. I also stepped out and had fun when I need a break. Don’t be afraid to just be whatever you need to be.

I hope you never have to use these. But if you do, I hope these help. And most of all, I am sending well wishes to you and your family.


2 thoughts on “Preparing Your Family For Surgery

  • Reply Grace December 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    This hits me in two ways: as a child I was chronically ill and spent a lot of time in the hospital. One thing my mother regrets is that they didn’t do more to give my little sister special attention. 15 years later, my sister still remembers thinking that it would be worth getting sick to get attention like me.
    As a preschool teacher now, I remind parents that honesty is so important, both for when the kids are sick and when the parents are sick! We help them emphasize to their children that this is not a result of anything bad that the child did, all bodies need help and special medicine sometimes!

  • Reply Georgia December 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Latonya. As a pediatric resident who cares for many children perioperatively, I can't emphasize enough how important it is not to "hide" the surgery from young patients. It is so important to share knowledge with them in an age-appropriate way that they can understand. Some parents have even "practiced" going to surgery with their children at home by taking turns using a mask in preparation for their inhaled anesthesia (this is particularly scary moment for kids because the gas tastes bad and they don't know what's happening.) Wishing your son a speedy recovery and many full happy years to come <3

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