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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

How to Prepare Your Child for Surgery

(Cottage Health photo)

The thought of surgery can be frightening for any child and stressful for any parent, but remember your child is looking to you for reassurance.

While you may not realize it, parents have a unique role in the health-care team. You are an important partner and an essential member of the team who will work together to help your child get better. Your child will look to you to be confident in what’s happening.

Your communication and composure are extremely important for not only your child’s peace of mind but also for his or her recovery. Calm children who understand their procedures and treatment can have faster recoveries. The medical team views you as an instrumental team member, and they are committed to helping your child in the best ways possible.

“My philosophy for caring for children who are patients developed with my own children,” said Dr. Robert Kanard, chief of pediatric surgery at Cottage Children’s Medical Center and one of fewer than 1,000 pediatric surgeons in the United States.

“I treat every child as I would want my children to be treated.”

Before surgery, the hospital staff can help you understand what your child will be experiencing.

“Be sure to ask questions,” said Jaynie Wood, child life specialist at Cottage Health. “Knowledge is power. If a pre-surgical tour is offered, take advantage of it. This is the time to see where your child will be, meet the staff and — if your child is old enough — have him or her ask questions to the staff.”

However, no one can replace you as the ongoing source of comfort and understanding. When talking to your child about surgery, here are some key points to keep in mind:

» Be honest — Believe what you’re saying to your child. Make eye contact. Be sure your body language matches. You’re going to have a procedure. The doctors and nurses are going to help you. I’ll be there. You’re going to do great.

» Know your topic — Most pediatric surgeries fall under abdominal, congenital defects, emergency/trauma, endocrine system, hepatobiliary (having to do with liver plus gall bladder or bile ducts), oncology and outpatient. The medical team can help you understand the procedure. And you can help explain in age appropriate ways to your child.

» Ask the care team if you aren’t sure about something or don’t know how to answer your child’s questions.

» Use real words — Protecting your child does not mean avoiding the subject. Don’t be afraid to explain what the procedure is going to help fix.

» Prepare children at their age level — For example, a toddler may not need as much detail and explanation as a teenager would.

» Let children pack some of their favorite things to take to the hospital. A stuffed animal, book or iPad may help them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.

» Reassure children that the surgery is to help fix part of their body and that they have not done anything wrong to cause it.

Pediatric surgery has advanced remarkably over recent years. Now, with minimally invasive laparoscopy used in many procedures, recovery times can be faster and children can go home sooner than before.

“My goal is for surgery to be as pain-free and scarless as possible,” Kanard said.

Obviously, this period can be stressful on you, too, and the medical team is in this with you to help your child get better.

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