Is She Afraid?

4 Mar

I can only imagine that preparing a typical child for surgery is difficult for any mother. Trying to explain something about hospitals, doctors, sleepy medicine, discomfort, and recovery time to a 5 year old must be like trying to explain Japanese to someone who has never heard of Japan.

I have never had to do it. Oli is the only one of my children, so far, (I have a sneaky suspicion that Ginger will one day break something doing her karate, dance, acrobats off the furniture) that has spent any significant amount of time in the hospital.

This last October, Kekoa fell off of his bike and required a few stitches. However minor it seemed to everyone else, it was traumatic for him. He was really scared on the drive there. He wanted to know exactly what they would do, exactly how much it would hurt, and exactly who would be fixing him. He wanted to know what would happen if they couldn’t fix his cut? What would happen if it hurt too bad? (Worst case scenarios. I wonder where he gets this?) He needed all of the information and was not so thrilled about trusting someone he didn’t know to make him better. Up to that point, I had always done that.

“Why can’t you just fix it mommy?” He asked me that multiple times on the drive there. I told him that the cut was just a little too deep for mommy to fix. I talked to him about the nurses and the hospital room where it would happen. I told him that they would put some numbing medicine on it and that it probably wouldn’t hurt too badly. I told him that I would be right there with him the whole time.

Despite all of these conversations and words of comfort, he was really scared and nervous. Until we met a boy a little bit older than him in the ER waiting room that had gotten stitches a few months before. He told Kekoa all about it and assured him that it was no big deal and that it didn’t hurt. He immediately looked at me with relief in his eyes and said “See mom. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.”

I could only smile and thank that little boy for providing the comfort for my child that I just couldn’t seem to give him.

As I walked Oli into that same hospital on Friday morning I wished that someone could provide Oli with that. Despite talking to her in the waiting room, telling her we were there to see a doctor, and explaining what we were doing step by step, I still wondered if she felt afraid. It’s hard to explain a concept like surgery to Oli. I don’t know any other way besides just talking about it like I talked about stitches to Kekoa. When the nurse took her temperature, her blood pressure, listened to her heart and then had her change into a hospital gown, I just talked her through it.

But does she understand what is happening? Does she think we are at her pediatrician’s office, her neurologist, or another specialist? Does she notice that a hospital smells different than a physician’s office? Does she think that someone is going to hurt her eyes? The last time she had surgery she had an implant put in her eye. This was a painful surgery. Does she think that I am doing this to her? She’s always pretty mad afterwards. What does she think when I hand her off to a stranger and don’t go with her? Is she scared? Does she think that I’m not there for her?

I don’t know. It worries me more and more as she gets older. I think that she understands a lot and I talk to her like she does. The nurse did give her a sedative before they took her back. I’m sure it helps because I assume that she is scared just like any other child would be.

A child life specialist came into her room before the procedure and asked what would help her not to be afraid. I just said “Talk to her. Talk. Talk. Talk. Tell her everything. Tell her your name. Tell her before you touch her and tell her exactly what you are doing before she goes to sleep.” I told this to everyone who walked into her room that morning. Both the doctors, 4 different nurses, the audiologist, the student audiologist, and the child life specialist.

When it was time to take her back to the operating room she was fairly sedated and had a glazed look on her face. I gave her a kiss, told her that I loved her and that I would be there when she woke up. I handed my precious girl to the OR nurse who carried her away and prayed that God would go with her. I prayed that she understood what was happening and that she wasn’t scared. I prayed that they would quickly get her off to sleep so that if she was scared, she wasn’t for very long.

This not knowing…not knowing what she is feeling…is the absolute hardest part of being Oli’s mom. It’s so hard not knowing just what she understands.

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