Preparing Emotionally for A Child’s Surgery

     Lately my google searches include “How to prepare for your child’s surgery.” I’ve found many articles, including some from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) that give great instructions about when to stop eating for anesthesia, when to arrive at the hospital and how to manage pain post surgery. What these articles don’t include, is how to prepare emotionally for surgery. How to keep a smile on your face…how to be your child’s rock…when you’re envisioning someone cutting him with a scalpel…. It’s a tough time for caregivers, and our whole family (especially me) is feeling the emotional toll as we approach our son’s surgery date.
    There are several techniques I have been using to keep myself focused on the positive. Thinking about my son 10 years from now and how this surgery will benefit him. One of my favorite subjects in psychology is Cognitive Psychology. Where as many other areas focus on discussing and ruminating on troubling areas to heal them, Cognitive Psychology actually aims to change your life by altering the way you think and speak. I thought, I must apply this to my life or I could very quickly find myself lost in negative thoughts and tearful over my son’s diagnosis.
1. Positive Thinking
        It’s usually late at night, after everyone has gone to bed that the reality of sending my son for surgery sets in. My 2 year old was diagnosed with a bone lesion in his L femur which is not only deforming the bone, but is questionable in it’s makeup. We have been told that it is most likely not cancer, but still needs to be surgically removed. The thought settled in, and has been ruminating in me. Oh my God…they’re going to cut my son. It’s a terrible thought, it sits in the pit of my stomach and is inexplicably sad. So how do I as a parent move past this? How do I wake up and make chocolate pancakes and start folding laundry?
         Positive thinking. I consciously and purposely change my thoughts and focus on the good. When I find myself traveling down a sad or negative thought process, I change my thoughts and thus my outlook. I can do this by the way I think, or by reading a list of good things and the ideal outcome of my son’s surgery. Some of these items include; Our doctor said it is most likely not Cancer, and he’s the best in his field. Having this surgery done now means that my son’s leg will start to grow more normally and he may even wind up playing sports on it. My 2 year old won’t remember this. Years from now he’ll probably say..’I had surgery on my leg when I was little…’ and see the scar, but not remember much or anything about all of this.
   Finding the positive in a sad and stressful time is very important. The proverbial diamond in the rough. Yes my son is going for surgery, when he goes under anesthesia and they wheel him away I’m going to be a basket case. However, up until that time I will focus on the good, find the positive and make sure he possibly even has fun on our road trips and doctor visits.
2. Purposeful Activities and Frustrating Phone Calls

Preparing for my sons surgery is a lot of work. I feel as thought I have been on the telephone constantly; Making appointments, collaborating with our insurance company, scheduling work hours…and Grandma and Pop. I talk to one department, who transfers me to another, who transfers me to another and going through this process has shown me how ineffective our health care system is. The lack of knowledge and disorganization is staggering. “Did you send us your son’s films.” “Yes, I handed them to you at our last appointment.” “Well, we don’t have them and we’ll need a copy.” I then spend 3 hours trying to get a copy from a hospital who refuses to give me one because they just did…

What have I learned? Keep copies. Hard copies. After x-rays, MRIs and other studies get a copy of the CD. Wait the extra time…it’s worth it! Take it to your appointments, so you can pull it out when the doctor finds that the MRI wasn’t sent over (Like they told you it was) and you can avoid making another appointment and keep things moving. Make sure to get it back. Countless times the doctor’s office tries to keep my CD copy…even though they can upload it into their system. Keep it, you’ll probably need it later!

   Gathering a collection of supplies for our hospital stay and trips to doctors visits has been a great way to spend time and energy in a very positive and purposeful manner. It’s like nesting, and helps keep me preoccupied. Instead of ruminating on thoughts and ‘what ifs’, I have taken to fulfilling a list of items that are both comforting and functional. Items include a blanket for my son to wear in the hospital that I made, custom cloth diapers from Toosha’s Diapers and hopefully (still searching!!) a happy themed or colored baby carrier or wrap to use post-op.
     Working in health care, and having spent a few days in the hospital myself, I know that temperatures can be chilly…and the thin blanket they give out is far from warm and comforting. My 2 year old picked out two fabrics, and with a few tips and suggestions, I have sewn him this blanket out of 2 yards fleece and 2 yards minky material. I am not a seamstress but I managed to pull this together and he’s allowed to go back into surgery with it and when he comes out he’ll have it back on!

My 2 year old adores crayons. If he doesn’t become an artist I’ll be shocked! One thing I’ve noticed, is that everyone sees my son in his diaper. We’re instructed to take his adorable outfit off even before the doctor comes into the room. So having adorable diapers is a must. I found this amazing crayon fabric from and an amazing Work at Home Mom who crafts diapers right here in the USA is making these customs for our trip! Not only did my son pick out the fabric and loooove it, but it will help clinic and hospital staff have something to talk about with him…and give them a clue about one of his favorite all time activities. Visit Toosha’s on facebook and her shop on Hyena Cart.

   I have been searching high and low for a reasonably priced baby carrier that helps brighten our stay. Wearing my toddler or my infant has been a great way to keep everyone calm and happy, and with a few days admitted to the hospital and I’m sure a myriad of follow up appointments and therapy…having something cheerful will be a great addition to our supplies. I am watching wrap releases and looking at SSCs and am very up on what’s coming out if anyone wants to chat!
3. Organization
    I mentioned that I have been on the phone nonstop since learning my son needed some medical procedures and appointments. It’s frustrating. I think it has taken me 10 phone calls to get one simple thing done. Between our Pediatrician, Specialists, Pharmacy, Insurance company, Labs, Work and hospitals…let’s just say I make a lot of phone calls. One thing that has been very helpful, is keeping an organized folder of information, and a list of helpful people…and their Direct contact numbers…to cut down on unnecessary phone calls and wait time on hold.
    One of the most important questions to ask the specialist “How do I call you directly?” Then, write that number down! Avoiding the switch board, office secretaries and getting right to the doctor’s assistant is extremely valuable.
     I have signed release papers at every stop. I have requested that my sons records be forwarded to our pediatrician and our specialist…however…I have had to pull out the DVD of our x-rays and MRI from my purse at every visit, because the forwarding of information isn’t as efficient or helpful as one would think. I now know to make sure I have a copy of films, studies and results BEFORE we leave a facility…even if it means an extra trip to medical records, to make sure we don’t waste time at a doctor’s appointment waiting for someone to find our MRI.
     The next few weeks are going to be hard, we are T-minus two weeks for our surgery, unless something changes. We have two more upcoming appointments and are waiting to be given our arrival and surgery time. As this time approaches, and every day brings us closer to surgery, I feel myself beginning to wobble. Focusing on Positive Thoughts, Purpousful Activities and Organization is helping me keep calm and doing the best job I can for my family…because as parents we are our children’s rock. Their go-to for comfort and need, they look to us for reassurance and guidance…and literally placing my son into a surgeon’s hands as a blubbering mess would send the wrong message to my toddler…I’ll wait until the OR doors close for that.
    As always, thank you for stopping by! I’m happy to chat and share experiences. You can always message me through here, facebook, twitter or instagram. Take care and I hope your day unfolds wonderfully.
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