So your little one is having surgery? Take a deep breath. Now let it out. Good! I think this whole process is just as hard (if not harder) on the parent as it is the child. If you’re anything like me, you want to be doing something during this waiting stage. Planning was something I could do and turned out to be very helpful.
Two of my three children have had surgeries before the age of two (only one was eye related). And we are preparing for a second eye surgery on our Strabismus boy, Joel at the end of the month. As we revisit this list in our home, here are some things we do to prepare for a child’s surgery.
Prior to the Surgery:
- Know Your Dates. A lot of dates were probably thrown at you when your child was scheduled for surgery. Pre-Op appointment and physical, surgery date, post-op visit. If you have a master family calendar, make sure these dates are on there. Also share with necessary friends and family members.
- Get a Schedule in Place. Once you know your dates and have them on your calendar, sit down to think about them for a moment. I made a schedule of our day. Who is going to be taking your child to the surgery? Do you have someone coming to stay with your other children? I attached my schedule if that can be of any help to you. You might also want to consider asking a third person to come along to surgery with you (I asked my sister to come with us). She was our runner, our note taker, and our sane person. Since my husband and I were focused so closely on Joel, my sister was a great help at being able to see things a little clearer than we were at the time. She took detailed notes whenever we spoke to a doctor and was always there if we needed anything.
- Start a List of Questions. You know all those questions that keep popping into your head while you’re in the shower? Write them down. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I like to use one of those magnetic notepads on my refrigerator. That way I can go back and look at it. Some of the questions I end up looking up myself online. Some I have kept for our next doctors appointment. It is always good to keep a list. Once I get into that doctors room my mind always goes blank. If I forget my list, I forget to ask something every time.
- Have a back up plan. Our kids are little. Things happen that might require you to have to reschedule your surgery date. We had to. Joel got a cold three weeks prior to surgery. By his surgery date he was fine, but they still would not do the surgery. We were told with a child so young he needed to be illness free for four weeks. This might vary, but know you may need to be flexible.
- Talk it out. Let your children know what is happening. If you child is old enough to understand what is happening, talk to him about it. Also talk to any siblings and explain it to them. Let them know Mommy and Daddy will be spending a lot of time with their brother/sister for a couple days and that doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Let them know they are an important part of the family and you would love their help.
The Day Before the Surgery:
- Pack a Bag (for both of you). Make a list of what you need to take with you to the hospital for you and your child. Yes, both of you. I pack three different bags. One for Joel’s things, one for things I would need during surgery, and an overnight bag for me just in case Joel was admitted overnight for some reason. The overnight bag you can leave in the car. You probably won’t need it, but it’s better to be prepared.
What I packed for Joel:
- Change of Clothes (Button down the front shirt – he came home with arm restraints so something that was easy to slip on was very helpful)
- Extra diapers and wipes
- Sippy Cup
- A little snack (A few crackers in case he was hungry)
- Stuffed Animal / Favorite Blanket
What I packed for me: (Day of the surgery)
- Fully charged cell phone (You know your family will want to know!)
- Bottled Water and Snacks (Take care of yourself – you’re no help to your child if you are not functioning properly)
- Camera (I like to get everything on film)
- Book to read (I don’t think I actually read it, but it was good to have)
- Notepad (A lot of information came at us when the doctor talked to us post-surgery. I was in a state where my mind needed things written down or I would not have remembered anything
- Prepare Your Home. Think ahead to anything you might want to have ready for when you get home. Do you want to have some easy to prepare food waiting for you? Do you have your child’s room ready?
- Prepare Your Child. Let them soak in a nice, warm bubble bath. There might be bathing restrictions after surgery. Lay out their clothes for the next day. If they have an early morning surgery time, you might just want to let them ride to the hospital in their jammies.
- Get an early start. Get up early. Take a shower. Get yourself ready. All before your child gets up. Take a few minutes for yourself to think and organize your thoughts. The rest of the day might be chaotic and this will give you a few minutes to center yourself. This is always extremely helpful for me if I know a busy / potentially stressful day is coming.
- Know what to expect. Do you know how long the surgery will take? That your child might be angry / in pain when coming out of anesthesia? That there might be bloody tears or his eyes might wander differently as he recovers? If your Doctor and Anesthesiologist don’t offer a full list of what to expect, be sure to ask. It is easier to obtain this information now than post surgery when you also have your child to worry about.Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was that Joel lost his voice from having the breathing tube down his throat during surgery. He came out of surgery very raspy and you could tell his throat was sore. Cold apple juice was the one thing he wanted to sip on in the recovery room.
- Remember your instructions. Don’t forget if your child cannot have anything to eat or drink in the morning. It is so easy to give your child their morning sippy cup without thinking. Stick a note on your fridge reminding yourself no food or drink if that will help you.
- Get there early. Allow yourself plenty of time to drive to the hospital, park, and find where you are supposed to be. This will also allow you a few extra snuggle minutes with your child before they are taken back into surgery.
This is by no means a complete list, but will hopefully give you a good start when preparing for your child’s surgery. I’d love to hear any other tips or tricks you’ve found when going through this process. I’ll also be back later to talk about helping your child recover from surgery (and things to look for), so feel free to leave any questions you would like to see covered on the recovery process too.