Comforting your child at the hospital is never fun. However, there are some vital steps that can make it more relaxing and more effective for both you and your child. You can bring familiar items with you, create a peaceful environment before and after surgery, and calm yourself.
The most frightening thing seems to be the unknown. I know my daughter was far more upset by her first few surgeries than she is now. The hospital has become familiar. The staff remembers us and we remember them. We kid that we are just trying to get enough “frequent flyer” miles from the hospital to earn the trip to Hawaii. I always talk to my daughter about the surgery. I remind her of the waiting room and the beds and the funny gown she gets to wear. I talk to her about the elevator rides and how I’ll be waiting for her. I try to remind her it’s going to be fine, just like the last time and the time before that and the one before that.
When my daughter was preregistered for her first surgery, the nurse asked if there was anything that brought her comfort. The only thing I could think of was me. As she has gotten older, and tolerates more sensory stimuli, she has adopted a favorite blanket. That always goes with us for surgery now. My daughter also loves music. When we pack for surgery, I make sure my phone is charged and that I pack a charger. That way I can make sure to have music for her. If we end of being admitted after surgery, I have several cd’s that I take, as each room in our pediatric wing has a cd player.
I also pack some of her favorite home “smells.” I love to have peppermint essential oil scenting my home. It’s a smell my daughter is very accustomed to. For that reason, I pack some essential oil blended into fractionated coconut oil. I rub that on my hands. Then as we snuggle, she feels more at home. As with all essential oils, I take care not to rub it in her eyes or my own eyes.
When surgery is scheduled, I try to get one of the first appointments of the day. This allows for my daughter to fast while she is sleeping. It also helps with time management. We don’t end up waiting in the waiting room forever while doctors attempt to hurry with other procedures that have gone longer than planned. Her doctors are also more rested and refreshed. The waiting room is not as crowded, which allows us to have a little more breathing room and a little less stress.
Once my daughter has been taken back to the operating room, I usually put my headphones in. Just because you are wearing headphones doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. I usually do listen to my calming play list, but sometimes I just want that separation from the other people in the room. It allows me to rest a bit without having to answer questions from others. I usually can’t read a book, but a frivolous magazine comes in handy. I also like to play Sudoku on my phone because it forces me to concentrate on the numbers and not on what is happening with my daughter at that particular moment.
The most important thing I do during this time is to find a way to relax. I know that relaxing is extremely hard to do in this setting, but it is vital. As soon as surgery is over, and my daughter goes to recovery, I will need to be calm and able to hold her, sing to her, and make her feel better. I can’t do that if I am completely frazzled.
When I finally get to be with my daughter, I usually hold her in my arms. She is four years old, but very small. She loves to be held in a particular way, so I hold her just that way. I ask for pillows to put under my arms so that I can hold her there as long as needs be. I also sing to her. I don’t care that my voice is not that great, nor do I care what the nurses think. My girl likes me to sing to her, so I do.
The most important thing to remember is not to freak out. If they had to try five times to get her IV in and my daughter is covered with bandages from that and bruised to boot, I can be angry later. If she throws up all over me as she is coming out of the anesthesia, I clean myself up and snuggle her more. If she screams like a banshee and cries great big alligator tears, it breaks my heart. But, I have to keep myself calm so that she doesn’t pick up my stress and get more agitated.
I try to maintain this calm composure throughout the remainder of the day. I utilize my hospital’s valet parking to help us arrive and leave. If I haven’t eaten, I pick up lunch, via drive through, on the way home. I usually put dinner in the crock pot early in the morning, pull out a freezer meal or order pizza for the family. I don’t worry about the daily cleaning that isn’t getting done. It can wait. We all wear our comfy pj’s and watch silly old movies for the rest of the day.
The most important part of helping your child is to be calm yourself. Help them get familiar with the hospital. If they haven’t had surgery there before, take them to the hospital. Show them the waiting room. Help them meet some of the staff. Let them ride in the elevators. The day of the surgery, take familiar items with you. Remember that all of their senses may need to be calmed. If your child likes to be massaged, remember to do that. If they can’t stand their feet rubbed, don’t rub them! Remember to calm yourself. Take deep breaths. Eat a snack. Stay hydrated. Talk to a friend. Both you and your child will feel much better about the day if you go about it calmly.
Submitted by: Kori Lester