O recently underwent general anathesia to have extensive dental work done. The choice to have her “sleep” while they worked on her teeth was a no-brainer for me.
The experience made me realize how the fears was aware of were not what would ultimately scare me most.
I did a great job preparing O for her surgery. She had not a care in the world running around the triage room waiting for the surgeon. She played mindlessly with the pillow-soft mask like the one they’d place a on her face to breathe in strawberries and fall fast asleep. I felt more anxious as I spoke with nurse after doctor after medical professional.
The moment they said they were taking her off to the anesthesia room I became paralyzed with fear. Here’s a few things I didn’t expect and any parent who will experience a child under general anesthesia should prepare for:
1. Your child will probably be calmer than you.
You’ve spent days or weeks preparing them for what will happen when they go to have their operation. That day, they may seem excited unless they are really sick. The beauty of youth is less fear and they believe you because you told them everything will be fine. After all, you’re their personal superhero and you can fix anything.
2. You will be calm right up to the moment you see the doctor starting to administer the anesthesia.
Walking into that cold sterile room with all the machine will make the strongest parent crumble. Even with the doctor and nurses singing, “Let it Go!” to your child, your knees may wobble. Make sure if you have a support person, they are close by. You may need their hand to squeeze as you try to be brave and smile when you want to break down in tears.
3. When the anesthesia works, prepare for the oddest conflicts inside your mind.
No words are adequate for the reaction you have to watching your child’s roll back in their head while they fall into what seems like a uncontrolled deep sleep. You will feel powerless, but your heart and mind will go into fight mode. No matter how scared you were, you’re body will be telling you to go grab your child and run out the door.
4. Post-op sucks too!
Your precious child may have tubes coming from everywhere. Things may be bloody and messy. They will be weak and sad. If they were intubated, their voice will be scratchy and their nose may be runny or bloody.
The experience taught me that they don’t prepare parents for what to expect. Perhaps to make sure they prepare their children for surgery day. Perhaps because we are grown up and should be able to handle the “scary”. We can’t help but worry, it’s what parents do best.
I suppose the best advice I could give a parent facing a child’s surgery is don’t hesitate to ask for support for friends and family. There are no dumb questions. Ask them all, before and after the surgery. When you get home, if a rash appears on Johnny’s body or Susie doesn’t seem quite right, call the pediatrician or advice nurse. That’s what they are there for. Most importantly, psych yourself up positively for the surgery! Positivity will make the negative a lot easier to deal with.