So, Your Child Needs Surgery?

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Image via Rachel Engel

The scariest words a parent can hear are, “We think surgery is the best option.”

We have heard those words three times: once to close an opening in his abdominal cavity, again to insert his feeding tube into his stomach, and, finally – the worst one of all – for open heart surgery to close his two massive holes.

But, your child doesn't have to have heart surgery for you to be terrified. Even something a little less complicated, like a tonsillectomy, or having tubes put in their ears, can be incredibly frightening for both you and your little one.

For us, the answer was to ask as many questions as possible. 

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We spoke with anyone and everyone involved with each of his procedures, from the surgeon (obviously), to the anesthesiologist, to the recovery team for afterwards. We toured the surgery units, and the recovery rooms. We asked about restrictions for before and after.

We learned why the benefits outweighed the risks, and that … was rough. For his heart surgery, there was a 1% chance he would end up needing a pacemaker for the rest of his life, and then a 2-3% chance he could die during surgery. The surgeon was giving me this information as I was rocking my son, and I pulled him as close to me as I could. It didn't change the fact that he needed this surgery, but hearing it so black and white like that was jarring.

But, again, knowledge is power. We asked about pain management and antibiotics for post-operation recovery. We asked how long recovery typically takes.

Basically, we knew as much about each of his surgeries as the doctors and nurses taking care of him, which is our job as his parents.

However … nothing prepares you for the moment they wheel your child away from you. When they stop the gurney, and say, “Okay, mom and dad, little Jackson will see you afterwards,” and you know that's your cue to kiss his sweet face one last time.

There's nothing you can do that will prevent you from worrying. It's normal. Education is great. It can cut your panic in half, and lower your anxiety, but, really, until your child is smiling in your arms once more, you will feel off.

And, that's okay. Medicine has come a long way, and there are fixes for nearly everything.

So, when the doctor says that dreadful sentence, start making your list of questions– your own emotional insurance policy. 

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So, Your Child Needs Surgery?

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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