When Your Young Child Has Surgery

Posted June 30, 2011 by

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Last year, both of my sons E and M had to go in for different surgeries. Both were ear-related. E received a cochlear implant while M just had ear tubes and an adenoidectomy. The former surgery was more intense and serious than the latter, but both made me equally nervous. Since I know firsthand how nerve-wracking it is to see your child go “under the knife,” I wanted to write a post to help other parents who are worried about putting their kids through surgery.

My son E had already gone through ear tube surgery when he was about 2 ½. That experience helped my husband and I create a plan for future surgeries. We realized which of us can truly handle being in the OR with him for the anesthesia. (Me.) Thankfully, that surgery went smoothly for him, even if not for us! Since the cochlear implant surgery he had earlier this year was more serious, we were on edge while waiting for him to be delivered to the recovery room. We had been warned about a meningitis risk right before the surgery, so that added to our anxiety. While we waited, we talked to another woman whose son had the same surgery done by the same ENT. She raved about how he was the best in the country and that helped us feel more at ease. After E came out of the surgery, the first day was shaky for everyone. He was in pain and the antibiotics didn’t sit right with him, causing him to vomit a few times. He was fine by the next day and thereafter. Of course, removing the bandage and cleaning the wound wasn’t much fun for either him or me.

After surviving E’s big surgery, M’s minor surgery seemed like it should have been much easier. However, we were still quite nervous about his adenoidectomy since E had never had an operation before. Other parents have reassured us that it was a good surgery to receive and that it would help him in the long run. I had read about the risks, which worried me initially. The surgical center we went to was really nice and kid-friendly. They even had a book with pictures of a stuffed monkey that children could look at so that they wouldn’t be scared. M could have cared less about the book, though. The only difficult moment was preparing for him to be put out. He wasn’t allowed to eat or drink that morning and was really upset about being hungry. He also was not a fan of the gas mask that was used to put him under. Luckily, his surgery was successful and he had an easier time coming out of it than we  expected.

With both surgeries, I was the one in the OR with the boys before they were put under. I was relieved that they received local anesthesia first and then had an IV put in after they were asleep when I had already left the room. I couldn’t bear to watch the doctors put an IV needle in either of my boys, whether they were awake or asleep. Also, they both received popsicles after their surgeries, which they were thrilled about.

If your child has to have surgery, either major or minor, be sure to do the following:

1. Talk to other families who have gone through the same surgery, especially with the same doctor.

2. Know the risks but don’t obsess over them. Just follow the precautionary measures that the doctor recommends and don’t be afraid to call the doctor for anything that seems out of the ordinary to you.

3. Prepare your children in an age-appropriate manner — not to scare them, but to let them know what’s happening so  they’re not completely surprised. This is not a trip to the amusement park!

4. Know which parent can handle seeing their kid get put under anesthesia without passing out themselves. That parent should be the one who goes in every time.

5. Give your children lots of TLC and time to recover afterward. And keep popsicles nearby!

About

Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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