Now that we have officially gotten through H’s surgery and recovery, I would like to share what we learned for those of you who have an upcoming surgery for a child. I would also love for those who have gone through surgery to add their two cents about what was helpful to them.
If you are wondering what surgery I am talking about, check out the article “What Happens When There Aren’t Ten Fingers and Toes?” in the Parenting Collective section.
In preparation for the surgery, I did a few things right. Okay, truth is I was on the right track but missed the mark a little. Packing for the hospital, I brought a pair of H’s pajamas for each night and a couple extra in case they got dirty. It was so nice for him to be able to wear his own jammies. However, I didn’t think about IV drip lines when I chose the jammies. They had an IV in both his wrist and his ankle. So the footed PJs were out. The fitted long-sleeved shirts worked okay, but we had to cut them. Okay, they were a pain and I wished I had chosen different shirts. If I had to pack again knowing what I know now, I would choose short-sleeved or loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants that are roomy around the ankle. Several pairs of socks, too. I have a friend who is a nurse, and you don’t even want to know what kind of nastiness lurks on those floors.
I also packed H’s favorite blankets and pillow. At Children’s, they have a linen closet open to grab whatever you want whenever you need it. This was great, because Popsicle and pudding ended up everywhere. I also brought my pillow from home and a nice blanket—and a bathrobe and slippers. These were all really good to have. The smartest thing I did packing-wise was to bring a ton of new toys and videos and a few oldies but goodies. You would have laughed seeing the two suitcases I brought, but man am I glad I had it all.
Other tips: Ask for a private room. They are reserved for quarantined patients, but there was a vacancy, so we got one. Never hurts to ask, right? Also, consider having some close friends or family come to distract you during the surgery. My mom, dad, and aunt came. Such a blessing to have them there. Make sure all the people you invite are people you can ask to leave when you want alone time with your child without creating drama.
Really, really important—in fact, the number-one most important piece of advice I have—is get people to pray. Pray for the doctors, the nurses, and the anesthesiologist. Pray for the recovery, for your emotions, etc. I could feel God’s hand over the entire thing from the moment we entered the hospital through the whole recovery. In fact, the anesthesiologist’s assistant said he had never seen a child go under so smoothly. We got the single room. The surgery went great. We got the anesthesiologist we requested, and she was amazing. The best part is that we were planning on staying one or two nights and were released the same day. The doctor who had done this surgery hundreds of times couldn’t believe it when he saw Hayden running down the halls hours after the surgery. I posted a prayer request on Facebook, and it brought me such comfort during the surgery to hear that all those people were praying for us. I really believe in the power of prayer. Okay, I will step down off my holy soapbox.
One thing I do want to warn you about is that, when the patient is coming out of anesthesia, the nurses might or might not let you back there. H was screaming for me, so they let me go back. This part is tough and will require a brave face. They are in pain, drugged, confused, and you just want to suck up all of it and put it in you. I was there when my goddaughter came out of her heart surgery with tubes down her throat choking and thrashing. That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever watched. H’s was tough but not as tough as hers. No tubes down the throat. You just never know what you are going to get. Your emotions are a mix of gratitude that they are through the surgery, alive, awake, and in one piece—and then there is the emotional letdown. You have been holding your breath until now, and for me, I wanted to cry. Fall apart a little. But there is no time for that, because now you need to be the strong mama and emotional rock. This is scary for sure.
Oh, and make sure to ask your surgeon how many times he or she has done the surgery. You absolutely don’t want an anesthesiologist or surgeon right out of med school. As always, these are just recommendations. I’m not a professional anything to give advice. Sad one constantly needs to worry about getting sued.
If your hospital stay is going to be extended, you should know Seattle Children’s has family areas on each floor with a fridge and an eating area so you can bring your own food. They have a microwave for frozen dinners if you want to bring some along. Children’s also has two big Starbucks stores and a Starbucks stand. Check the map to see where they are. I went to one Starbucks and loaded up on panini sandwiches and salads. I was soooo glad it was there. I wasn’t really digging the cafeteria food.
As to homecare, I could have prepared better. I knew H was on a no-chew diet, but once we were home, I decided it was a good time to make homemade applesauce, mashed potatoes, etc. The patient’s taste buds are off after surgery, at least H’s were, and it was frustrating to have him turn his nose up at the food after I had spent all day making things I thought were on the diet. This probably goes without saying, but clear your schedule for the recovery time. Ours was two weeks.
I think the worst part of the whole process is the anticipation of the upcoming surgery. For us it was two years. Just remember, God never gives you more than you can handle. You will be great Mama; good luck!