I’d thought about labelling this “Phouka’s Top 10 Tips and Tricks for a Successful Surgery Experience,” but I’m not sure that I’ll come up with 10 tricks total and I’m definitely not in a state to commit myself to such a thing. The evil demon cold that has been coursing through Kansas City on its dark horses caught me on the 22nd, and, while I think I’ve been thrown off the dark horse as of Thursday and am starting to recover, it’s left me with lingering stuffiness, an ear infection and an eye infection. In short, I’m a mess.
This does, however, lead to tip #1: By all means, if you, yourself can be recovering from the plague when your child has major surgery, go for it. I’d planned on being up all night the night before the surgery; the Ny-Quil took care of that. I didn’t spend the hours in the surgery center incredibly anxious and tearing my hair out; instead, I spent it in a snuffling daze at Efrit’s side. I think there was some level of anxiety still and its accompanying relief when everything was over and Peanut was pronounced “ok,” but, definitiely, sickness mutes one’s ability to worry. Sickness mutes one’s ability to do almost anything, I’ve found; it turns out that you really can be too sick to care.
Tip #2: Buttons. Snaps would work as well; so would a handy zipper, or, if you’ve a child with flair, a wrap-around top. When your little guy or gal is done with surgery, you don’t want to have to pull the top over his or her head to go home. It’s doable–we did it, after all–but it would’ve been nice to have avoided that problem. Think of it like wedding hair: you wear a button-down shirt to get your hair done on your wedding day so you don’t mess up your hair by taking the shirt off. Take a button-down shirt with you to surgery so you don’t have to squish your dressing (Peanut’s was impressive) to pull the shirt on over your head.
Tip #3: Bring an extra pair of undies for your little guy or gal. We didn’t, and, frankly, didn’t need it, but the not-so-nice-nurse asked about it when we got there. I’d asked Dr. W. about putting Peanut in pull-ups or the like–this was his first surgery post potty-training–but it never occurred to me to do something as simple as bringing an extra pair of undies, just in case. Come to think of it, bring an extra pair of undies and bottoms, too.
Tip #4: Have a “You’re so BRAVE!” gift ready when you get home. Mom had a beautifully-wrapped package ready for Peanut when he got back home. It was absolutely perfect: a train with a cargo car that’s carrying cars, Peanut’s two favorite things in one toy. This helped distract him from the dreaded eye dressing (which had to stay on until 9 a.m. the next day, and, given that he’d had his lens replaced, needed not to be the subject of toddler poking, prodding, and jostling) and give him something positive to focus on.
Tip #5: If you can swing it, have some else watch your other munchkins while your kiddo’s in surgery. It was an absolute Godsend that my parents were willing and able to come up and corral Sprout for us while Peanut had surgery; I don’t know how we would’ve managed if we’d had both of our beloveds to deal with. Peanut deserved having both parents focus on him while we waited (and waited and waited) in surgery prep and both of us deserved to be with him while we waited for him to wake up so we could bundle him home in recovery. This wouldn’t have been possible if we’d had to tend and amuse a healthy, active, 1-year-old girl at the same time.
Tip #6: Not a tip so much, as a reminder: know your munchkin. We’ve done patching with Peanut on and off since we first found out he had eye problems; this put us at an advantage. Peanut, like pretty much every kid ever, hates patching. Peanut has all sorts of ways of messing with his patches. It was very handy, coming into a situation where we needed him to keep his little hands off of a patch-like dressing, knowing what his tricks and tells are with patches so we could nip them in the bud. Basically, just because it’s a big bad surgery or a big bad dressing doesn’t mean that your kiddo isn’t going to act exactly the same way s/he always has. A 3-year-old doesn’t get “OMG! You just had major surgery! DON’T MESS WITH THAT!!!”; s/he just thinks, “this is a pain in my tookus. I want it off.”
Tip #7: Bribery. This has been Peanut’s “Weekend of Chocolate.” Thank you, Santa Claus, for making it all possible. As long as he had that dressing on, Peanut could pretty much do what he wanted. We were not prepared with chocolate-chip cookies (some miscommunication there), but we did have chocolate syrup ready for the chocolate milk-a-palooza and chocolates of all sorts from our holiday festivities, and Mom brought up sugar cookies that she’d made after the holiday. You get the idea. I know there are people who are anti-sugar and are anti-indulging their children and who are probably drooling to post ranting tirades in the comments over this one. I understand where you’re coming from, to a degree, but let me say this: I needed to keep a 3-year-old from messing with an eye dressing for a 24-hour period. Messing with it could potentially cause serious damage to the structure of his eye, further deterioration of his vision, or a hundred other horrible things that I am quite good at imaginging. In the long-term scheme of things, 24-hours of elevated sugar levels are a small price to pay for a lifetime of vision, and that’s what it ultimately reduced to for us.