Procedures can be horrible but generally they’re worth it.
Spike has had so many operations that our family has become quite used to them. We have found things that help us, but everyone copes in their own way. There is no right or wrong.
What is very useful to know, and took me years to find out, are the kind of resources that support you and your child when they need a procedure. Here are some you may find useful.
Play specialists can be seen on the childrens’ wards. They are great at distracting kids who are bored, anxious or in discomfort by getting them involved in craft activities and games.
Clinical psychologists can offer coping strategies for both you and your child. These might be music or art therapy, feeding clinics, pet therapy and psychological assessments.
The hospital school is an amazing resource if your child is missing a lot of school. As well as some educational support it normalises some parts of the day by giving children company, distraction and fun with activities such as storytelling and games.
Getting to know the many amazing people who work in these areas and on the wards has made our hospital visits more positive.
Procedures during which your child stays awake and you are with them are fairly straightforward but when surgery is involved and a child is put under anaesthetic, it can be very frightening. Handing your child over to a medical team involves an act of faith and giving up control; you will not be in the theatre with them or know what’s going on, possibly for many hours. Spike developed a very strong phobia for needles and an almost sixth sense for when he was about to be sedated. This makes having procedures extremely stressful as he becomes possessed by an extraordinary strength and struggles to escape.
Getting to know the surgical team if your child is having an operation can make a big difference. Your surgeon, the person who leads the operation, and the anaesthetist who puts your child to sleep, are generally very busy so it is a good idea to write down any questions you have before you see them. If possible, try to make sure they give you time before (so that you and your child understand exactly what’s going to be done) and afterwards (so you can understand how it went and what will happen next).
Don’t be afraid to speak to your nurse and ask if there is a play specialist or psychologist available.