Monday, September 5, 2011

On Being Prepared

I was nervous and sweaty as I waited to speak with the nurse. 
Looking around the surgery center’s lobby full of cozy seating and serene paintings did little to ease my stress.  This place would be where my littlest daughter would have outpatient surgery in a few days, and my anxieties were overflowing. 
The surgery itself would be quick and easy, according to the doctor.  He’d done implanted thousands of ear-tubes over the course of his long career, and was confident that everything would go smoothly.  For that part of the equation, I felt confident as well; the surgery wasn’t my biggest concern.
What worried me was how my preschooler would handle the pre-surgery process.  My shy, clinging, blankie-toting daughter would have to be escorted away from her parents and into the operating room without us there to comfort her.  She’d be alone among strangers, and those strangers would be wearing masks under bright lights, surrounded by foreign walls.  I pictured her sobbing so forcefully that they couldn’t calm her down before placing a mask over her tear-drenched face…
On the advice of a good friend, I decided to scope out the surgery center ahead of time.  Her thinking was that if I had a clear idea of what to tell my daughter about the process, I’d feel better.  On the other hand, if I was disoriented and scatterbrained, my child would be more likely to pick up on those feelings and internalize them as fear.  It made sense; everything feels safer when we’re prepared, right?
So I waited in the lobby, imagining all the ways things could go badly on the morning in question.  When the head nurse joined me, it was all I could do to speak an intelligent thought.  I believe it went something like this:
“I was just hoping that maybe, it would be possible to get…I don’t know…maybe a tour of the pre-op area?  My daughter will be here in a few days, and I’m really nervous about it, and…is there any way I can go WITH her to the operating room?  Or at the very least, I don’t know…have her take a double dose of sedative so she’s not so scared?”
The poor nurse must have thought I’d come unhinged, but she sifted through my questions admirably.  She showed me around the center, introduced me to a few other nurses, assured me of their competence, and let me down gently: parents weren’t allowed in the operating room, and double doses of sedatives were ill-advised.  But her tone was helpful and encouraging.  After making sure my concerns were addressed, she walked me to the door and promised to take good care of my baby girl in a few days.
My jangling nerves had settled.  The place now felt familiar, and I felt better able to escort my daughter into the surgery center with calm assurance. 
“Thank you so much,” I told the nurse.  “I’m not sure how often you deal with nervous moms begging for help, but you made me feel much better.”
“Well,” she admitted, “you’re actually the first mom I’ve ever had request a tour…”
And with that, I started sweating again.  This time, from embarrassment. 
Oh, well.  Because of my pestering, I did, indeed, feel calm and collected on the morning of the surgery.  Everything went better than I had imagined possible. 
Which wasn’t difficult, really: my imagination is quite terrifying.


  1. Your lovely, honest piece made me remember taking my little girl for surgery, years ago. I was allowed to wait with her while she had her pre-med and it took effect, then walk to the doors of the operating theatre. Perhaps you will be able to do that?

    As they wheel her in, the doors shut and you walk away you will give way to tears and those minutes will seem very, very long... but soon she will be back with you and you'll be blogging about it with great relief!

    Keep smiling :-)
    Jane Gray

  2. I however have been asked to give many a tour ~ glad it all went well.

  3. Were you really the first mom who'd ever requested a tour? It seems like such a great idea!

  4. I just read this and thought, "She is a complete genius!". I'm totally doing this next time we have a surgery, and with four kids, I'm sure we will!

  5. so glad it went well! I like to know what to expect too.

  6. It's scary enough when you're the patient. And when it's your child? Whole. New. Ballgame. So glad you got the tour and feel more comfortable. I know it will all goes smoothly!

  7. Oh scary scary. I think it was a FABULOUS idea to go check it out. I know a lot of children's hospitals offer tours, so you certainly were not unreasonable to go!
    Best of luck to your sweetie (and you) - I hope it all goes great!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?