When my 4-year-old brought home a failed hearing test from school, my immediate reaction was panic. It suddenly dawned on me how many times I repeat instructions or ask him to turn the music down -- weren't these common requests of all parents or was there something more we should be worried about?
During a follow up appointment with our pediatrician, we were fortunate to discover that his poor hearing was not a result of nerve damage, but rather due to excess fluid built up in his ears. After consulting further with an ENT, we learned that our little guy was going to have to undergo surgery for not one, but three different procedures: he'd have to have his tonsils and adenoids removed and would need tubes placed in his ears. My fears turned to sympathy -- poor little guy!
The anticipation of the surgery and its aftermath was one of the more difficult parts of the process. My husband and I prepared him as much as we could. We explained that he would have a "boo boo" in his throat for 1-2 weeks, just like any other one he gets on his knees or elbows from the playground. We described the "space ship" operating room and the costumes and masks the doctors would be wearing. We also worked to prepare ourselves by researching the procedures and recovery and consulting with other parents who had been through the same thing.
There are several tips that we picked up throughout preparation and recovery that can help to make the surgery process smoother:
1. Thoroughly read all materials provided by your doctor at least one week prior to your procedure and diligently follow all instructions.
2. Stock up on your child's favorite movies, books, board games, iPad apps and any other low-key activities that will keep your little one occupied during recovery. You still may end up like us and watch a combination of Toy Story 1, 2, and 3 at least twice per day, but hopefully your little one is more into variety than ours!
3. Have an open dialogue with your child about what they can expect as they go into surgery and the aftermath. Consult your doctor on the best way to approach this given your child's age and look into any children's books about the specific procedure.
4. Encourage your child to pack their bag the night before their procedure. Let them pick out what they are going to wear to the hospital/clinic. Let them include any "lovies," stuffed animals and blankets that will help them feel secure before they head into surgery.
5. Make sure your little one goes to the bathroom right before the surgery! We forgot this critical step and surgery lasted slightly longer than anticipated due to a last-minute unexpected cleanup!
6. Be prepared for your child to be extremely agitated and disoriented when he comes out of anesthesia. This was likely the most traumatic part of the surgery. Our little guy was extremely disoriented, crying and thrashing around in pain and fear for roughly 10 minutes. Remember, it may be gut-wrenching for you, but fortunately they won't remember any of it.
1. Be flexible and creative -- the most important thing is to keep them hydrated! Stock up on their favorite popsicles, ice cream, drinks, etc. I even found myself suggesting that my child drink the forbidden but always requested SODA! In fact, after days of hazing our child unsuccessfully to drink soda, water, Pedialyte, Vitamin Water, etc., we discovered that the one beverage that worked was Coke Slushies -- so Coke Slushies it was!
2. Make recovery as fun as you can. My husband literally had faux-chugging contests with my little one (with water of course!). Anything to make him drink!
3. Be prepared for your child to "milk it" and slip into habits that you may have to break. Our son was still complaining of pain 10 days later when eating or drinking. We confirmed with our doctor that some of this was solely attention-seeking behavior. He had gotten used to me staying home from work to be with him, sleeping with him at night and all the TLC he was receiving from visitors, friends and family. His recovery was longer than expected because of the extra days spent trying to go back to "normal."
4. Once the doctor clears him in the subsequent check-up, go back to your normal routine. Our little guy's demeanor and appetite improved dramatically once he went back to school and resumed his daily routines.
5. BE PATIENT! Much easier said than done, especially when you are in the middle of it. Remember, it does get better!
Two weeks after the surgery and our little guy is back to his old self. So much so that despite passing all his hearing tests, he still doesn't listen!
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