Surgery and Procedures: A Guide For Caregivers

There are oodles of articles, brochures and pamphlets on how to prepare a child for surgery or procedures. I know, I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of them. They’re extremely helpful. What I’ve found over the last few years though, is that they’re not extremely helpful in preparing the adult that is accompanying and caring for the child. So, as we’re headed in for a procedure today, I thought I’d provide my own list of things I’ve found the most useful to know as the caregiver accompanying a small person for what can be a very stressful time.

What To Bring

The hospital should have what’s called a “Child Life Specialist”, or something similar to keep your child entertained during the endless waiting and to lessen their anxiety with activities and electronics. You’ll likely have your hands full doing the same. But, once they’re wheeled in, you will find yourself with plenty of time on your worrying hands.

First, bring your people. Family, friends that are family, church family, whatever. Bring a person that can run for food if you need it, grab some tissue if you need it, enable you to run outside for some fresh air and most importantly, distract you when the hands on the clock don’t seem to move. These people should also ideally be positive, easy going and good at waiting. This goes for a hospital stay if you have one afterwards too! If you’re looking at an extended stay, come up with a schedule ahead of time. I’d really recommend this if you have a large number of people so that both you and your child are well supported, but not overwhelmed.

Bring easy brain activities. I wouldn’t recommend any difficult novels, studying, or important work you can’t make mistakes on. I’ve often wished I knew how to knit. I think that would be a perfect waiting room activity. My personal recommendations are adult coloring books, your Bible, and conversation.

I’d highly recommend dressing in comfy layers. Temperature often varies drastically by the room you’re in and no matter the procedure or surgery you’re waiting on, it’s going to be a long day.

Bring a cell phone charger and let family and friends know ahead of time you may not be able to update at regular intervals. Depending on where you are in the hospital will depend on what kind of cell phone service you have.

On Your Way

On your way to the hospital, allow extra time to stop for your favorite coffee/ tea/ beverage and several snacks. For you. Since your little one likely can’t eat anything, you’ll feel bad consuming a large breakfast in front of them.

Or, if you’re like my husband, maybe you won’t.

But, either way, there are usually few decent food options in the waiting room, if any, and you may not want to make a run for food for fear of missing an update. Also, a muffin from the grocery store is far cheaper than the $5 dry and tasteless muffin wrapped in cellophane you’ll likely get at the hospital.

While You Wait

Once they’ve been wheeled away from you and you’ve said your very brave goodbye, you will get to experience the phenomenon of “hospital time”. The clock that, at times, flies by or stands completely still.

Now is when you want to take any opportunity to eat, drink, and use the restroom. I would advise against too much of the waiting room coffee, however. I still don’t understand why they provide every poor quality diuretic known to man. Not only does the caffeine not help anxiety, but about ten minutes into waiting I’m already too worried about missing an update to use the bathroom. And the only thing worse than anxiously waiting to hear how things are going, is anxiously waiting while simultaneously holding a full bladder.

This is the point I’m currently at. Doing my “busy” stuff, having a snack and trying not to watch the clock. Whatever you do, sit somewhere you can’t see a clock.

Sometimes, depending on the hospital, you’re back in the waiting room and sometimes you’re waiting in the pre-op room. I actually prefer the waiting room, if you have an option.

Here’s why. Look around you. Nothing helps distract you like connecting with other families in a similar situation. One of my best waiting room experiences was an all day affair during which two of my children were having surgery at the same time. Why? Because while I was waiting I was able to talk to another brave, waiting momma. This sweet lady was several states from home, by herself, with a medically complex kiddo while Dad was at home caring for their other young child. She’d been staying at a hotel for a week to have access to specialists, testing and surgery not available where they live. Things practically in my backyard that this particular anxious momma can forget to be grateful for.

Finally, try not to panic about time frames. You are literally at the mercy of the schedules of dozens of medical personnel. It rarely goes according to the schedule you’re given. If you’re worried, never be afraid to ask someone. They’re used to soothing worried parents, especially in a children’s hospital.

Do you have any helpful advice you’d add for caregivers? Please comment with it below!

Know a caregiver concerned about an upcoming procedure or surgery? Feel free to share!

Do you have a procedure or surgery coming up for a loved one that you’d like prayer for? I’d be happy to pray for you.

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