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This one is about: Getting Through the Two-Hour Tough

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by Joanne Green

The morning of surgery has arrived. You've prepared. You've packed. And you've readied yourself for the ordeal. You've entrusted your child into the hands of the medical profession and the big double doors of the surgical unit have closed between you and your precious baby. Thus begins the two toughest hours of a parent's life - the time of the actual surgery.

Just before surgery is not the worst. You certainly have the nerve-wracking anticipation of all that your child will endure. You have your dreaded imagination to contend with. But it is not the worst. Before the surgery you can prepare yourself and your child. Before the surgery you have some control.

Just after the surgery is not the worst. Your child will be sick from anesthesia and in pain. There will be feeding issues and aftercare. But it is not the worst. After the surgery you can hold your child and give her comfort. You can follow the aftercare regimen to enhance the healing process. After the surgery you have some control.

But during the surgery - THAT'S the worst. During the surgery you have little or no control. You cannot touch your child with reassurance. You cannot watch the doctor to make certain everything is being done with the utmost of care and concern for your child's well being. You are on one side of the big doors and your child is a world away on the other side of those doors. And all you can do is wait and watch the clock.

Actually, the best thing you can do during your child's surgery is get through it with the least amount of anxiety possible. I know how difficult that is to do. I am a mother and I have spent my share of hours in the little room waiting. But there are some tricks to making the time pass quickly until you can be reunited with your child and the healing begins.

First, if possible, don't spend the entire time in the waiting room. Of course, if your child is having a procedure that takes very little time, stick around. But if the surgery is expected to take more than an hour, try not to spend the whole time in the waiting room. HOWEVER, by the same token do NOT make yourself unavailable! The nurse or the Candy Striper should know where you can be reached if you leave the waiting area. Some hospitals equip parents with beepers that they can carry with them to other areas of the hospital so that they can be beeped as soon as they are needed. If your hospital does not offer that valuable option, you may want to suggest it to them.

Most children are scheduled for morning surgery and must arrive at the hospital fasting. Therefore, most parents have also not eaten breakfast before surgery (who would want to eat in front of a hungry child?) It may be a healthy idea to plan to have breakfast in the hospital cafeteria right after the surgery begins. Not only will it help the time to pass, but you will be energized and ready to be there for your child when she really needs you.

You may want to take a walk to the hospital gift shop. It may make you feel closer to your child if you pick out a book or a toy or a colorful balloon to share in the room after the surgery is over. (Realistically, your child will most likely not be interested in those gifts right away after surgery, but by the second day she will.)

When we are anxious about something we produce a lot of adrenaline. Unfortunately, in the hospital setting, while we are waiting for our child to reappear there are few opportunities to release that adrenaline. If you feel you have the time, take a brisk walk outside or through the halls of the hospital. Always make sure you are back in the waiting area at least a half hour before you expect the surgery to be over.

If you are like me, however, you probably feel uncomfortable leaving the waiting area at all. In that case, try not to wait alone. If your spouse cannot be with you, perhaps your mother or a close friend or minister can come and wait with you. Good conversation is often very comforting and helps to pass the time. Also, many hospitals now allow parents to go into the recovery room after surgery and help to comfort the child. If you are asked to go to recovery, it would be nice if there were someone you could trust to leave your personal belongings with (your purse, coat, reading material, etc.) until your child moves to her room.

Some parents try to spend the waiting time reading. I find that I am much too distracted to get any serious reading done. Many parents have shared that they take their issues of WIDE SMILES to the hospital with them to read while they wait. They have shared that they found that to be very strengthening.

Other parents prefer to write. Some keep journal accounts of their hospital experiences. Not only is that a cathartic exercise that will help to relieve the stress, but it also can prove to be interesting and helpful to your child when she is older.

Regardless of what you do, the time will eventually pass. It is when the surgery is over that you will be needed. It is after the surgery that you can help your child to heal. During the surgery, your job is to get through it. Remind yourself that your child is in capable hands. Your child is asleep and in no pain.  And the procedure is necessary for the health and normal function of your child.

And if you still worry, take heart. You are just being a normal parent. But don't let the natural worry that you feel make you an ineffective parent. You help your child most by getting through the anxiety and being there for her when the surgery is done.

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