explaining surgery to a six year old

Have a child with SM/Chiari? Share issues unique to children and their caregivers.

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explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby shannon » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:12 pm

My son Owen is six and he's scheduled to have decompression surgery March 10th. He's a very bright and inquistive child.He knows that he has cysts in his spinal cord and that they are caused by his brain stem being "too low". He doesnt know that he has to have surgery but he knows what surgery is (cutting into the body). He is deathly afraid of needles and shots. I need some advice about what to say to him about this. I have to tell him on or before his pre-op appt on the 2nd. Any suggestions??? I refuse to lie to him but I also don't want to scare him or make him worry. I'm looking into getting a generic DVD for kids about staying in the hospital but I know he will have tons of questions. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
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Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby memom » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:45 am

HI Shannon,

I am so sorry that your son is having to go through all of this. My daughter now 8, had decompression surgery July/09. While going through the diagnosis process, we only answered the questions that she had. We were honest about what we told her and tried to keep it on her level. When it came time for surgery, we used a stuffed bear to explain to her what was going to happen. We could never convince her needles where not all that bad. To this day she cries about needles but she is much more mature about it. I always tell her how brave she is and how important this is for her.

As for the hospital, the video is a great idea. Childrens National Hospital in Washington (where my daughter had surgery) put together a video too. They also scheduled tours to show my daughter around the hospital before surgery day. Ask your hospital if they have similar services. It helps. Perhaps they offer a life/family counselor that can assist too.

I am happy to share our experiences with you, if needed. Good luck and I wish you and your family all the best.

Mother of a beautiful 9 year old girl with CM 1.5, SM T 5-8 and Hypermobility. Decompressed 7/09.
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Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby EHF » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:19 am

Be as honest as possible. At our Children's hospital, they give the kids some versed (oral medication that makes them "out of it") before they are taken back to the OR and put to sleep with a mask. After they're asleep, all of the IV's are inserted. I'd find out what the protocol is at your hospital so that you can explain that part (which probably causes the most anxiety for kids). I was honest with our 5 year old and told him that he'd wake up with tubes (IV's) coming out of his arm and that he'd probably be very sleepy, etc. I also explained that there would be pain but that the doctors and nurses would give him meds for his pain. Our hospital has a Child Life department, as do most Children's hospitals. I'd contact them regarding materials and/or a tour beforehand.

Good luck!
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Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby Janice » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:43 pm

There are quite a few websites available with help on how to prepare a child for surgery. Although I only skimmed through the sites, I have added a few links below that might be helpful. I also think you should persue what others have mentioned about asking if the hospital has any type of child preparation services w/tour.

http://www.chop.edu/visitors/surgery-gu ... our-child/
http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/sur ... rgery.html
http://surgery.about.com/od/pediatricsu ... ngPeds.htm

Take care, I hope your child's experience is not a traumatic one, and I wish for the best possible outcome for the surgery and recovery.
GOD Bless!

Thoracic: SM T3-T12 / Disc Buldge T7-T9 / Mild Scoliosis
Cervical: SM C2-C6 / DDD / Kyphosis
Hemangioma's: T9-T11 & L4

http://janice-mylifewithsm.blogspot.com/ (Copy & Paste link into your browser)
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Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby shannon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:22 pm

Thanks everyone! The websites were awesome. I'm feeling pretty confident now. I'll let you all know how it goes.

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Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:59 pm

Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby 3kidssane » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:53 pm

No suggestions here, I just wanted to say that we are rooting for your little guy. Let us know how everything goes.
Mother of: DD,8 with Cm 1 protruding tonsils 10mm and SM with Syrinx from t5-t7, 4 mm in depth and 5 mm in width, DC'd 2x 6/2010, DS, 4 with enviromental allergies, food allergies and autism,DS 2, DS 5 months.
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Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:56 am

Re: explaining surgery to a six year old

Postby Dakota's Mom » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:05 pm

Hi! I am glad that you are feeling a little better.....this board is one of the best out there! :-)

Our experience is very similar to other posts. I am not sure if you will be at a Children's Hospital, but if so, the Child Life Specialists are wonderful!! Your hospital may have a virtual visit online to help prepare your son for the day--he can see exactly what everything looks like there to help prepare him. And, when they call to pre-register you, you can request a Child Life Specialist (or social worker in a non-Children's Hospital) at that time. That way, they may greet you as soon as you arrive (happens for us, at least). I always hit the dollar store to stock up of lots of distractions and rewards, plus the hospitals have stuff, as well.

And if there is ever a time that he would need labs done, ask for EMLA cream. It made life so much easier (we have had labs every 2 months since he was 2)--it numbs the area so you do not feel the needle prick. Great for uncooperative veins! It takes 30 minutes to work, but well worth the wait if you can do it. There is also a numbing spray, but our son says it hurts more than the needle prick (it is VERY cold).

I admire you being honest with him--it makes it so much easier in the long run. Good luck and keep us posted! I really hope EVERYTHING goes well.

Feel free to email or post more questions.
Mom to Dakota (11)--Neurofibromatosis, SM (C2-T8), Left Thoracic Scoliosis, Seizure Disorder, Autism with Cognitive Impairment, Osteoporosis, Hypothyroidism, Untethering surgery 5/08
and Joshua (8)--happy, healthy, and supportive brother
Dakota's Mom
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Location: Omaha, NE

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