What to pack for surgery: The Child

We never know what's going through our children's minds. All we can do is our best and hope we're making the right choices for them. We've always been open with Martha regarding her treatment, she knows when we're going to London for check-up's and we always tell her when she's going in for surgery. I know a lot of parents don't feel comfortable with this and don't want their children to worry in the weeks leading up to their admission, which is totally fine and I'm not here to debate if that's right or wrong.

Both Mark and I have always agreed that by casually mentioning surgery in our day to day conversations with Martha in the week's leading up to an admission it doesn't come as a massive shock to her. She has time to mentally prepare herself for what's coming, for being away from home and her brother and sister. I can't think of anything worse than her coming around from anesthetic and freaking out because she has no idea what's going on or how she's ended up with a breathing tube down the back of the throat and being hooked up to all kinds of machines.

When she was a baby, she traveled light. She had a few soft toys, some toys which played music and others which lit up. As she's gotten older, we've  also things to keep her entertained and calm during long days stuck in Hospital. Here are a few things that have come in useful during our most recent admissions.

Their own blanket - I'd probably add their own pillowcase too. Hospital sheets are ok, but they're not cozy. Imagine how absolutely rubbish they feel coming down from all the medications and the aches from the surgery itself. Their own blanket to snuggle up to that smells like home would be really comforting. We use the sheets as the bottom layer for Martha so if any meds leak from her lines or if she bleeds they are easily changed.

Soft toy - to cuddle up to. Doesn't need any explanations really. If your child is anything like Martha Grace, they will always leave the hospital with more teddies than they arrived with.

Button up Pajamas - this probably depends on the type of surgery they're having but we've always found them to be useful. When she was a baby she spent most of the time in just a nappy, only being dressed when they removed some of her lines. But as she's gotten older she's been dressed as soon as she's moved out of ICU. Nurses need to take their obs every 1-4 hours and easy access to the chest is less of a faff for Martha. She'll have central lines coming from the vein/artery in her neck and it would be too painful to keep taking a top off over her head.

Dressing Gown and Slippers - Martha was encouraged to walk on day 2 and 3 post-op. Slippers were lighter on her feet for her first walk around the ward. Dressing gowns are also snuggly and warm, whether she's sitting up in bed or if she's going for a stroll to the playroom.

Their own cup, plate, bowl, and cutlery - You'll do anything to get your child to eat after surgery. Every single thing they eat is added to their chart  (what goes in must come out) and there will be a strict minimum intake that they need to hit every day. We take our own things with us just in case the paper plates and plastic cutlery is off-putting to her, we just want her to have some of her own things, some home comforts.

Food and snacks - Hospital food isn't great, but they need to eat. We've been buying foods that we know Martha likes in the hope that she'll eat that if she won't eat the meal provided. Pancakes for breakfast with chocolate spread, her petit filou yogurts, pasta pots, sausage and mash (good old Waitrose microwave meals). We've even taken her a massive tub of Walls ice cream once to try to soothe her throat after taking the ventilator tube out. Be prepared to buy/cook anything - you'll just want them to anything down.

Toys - anything they can play with on their bed. Books, colouring books, dolls or a nurses case. The days are so long. The wards seem to come alive at 6am and Martha would always wake up as soon as the lights in the corridors came on. She would have naps during the day but she wouldn't go to sleep for the night until about 10pm because the nurses would always need to come in a do a last set of obs after the shift change over. Keeping them entertained all day is really hard, they don't know what they want to do with themselves. If she doesn't have toys to play with, Martha starts fiddling with things she shouldn't which scares me as I don't want her to hurt herself.

The most important thing a child can have with them while they go through something as traumatic as surgery - is the love and support of their family. Having someone there with them around the clock, there with them as they begin to wake up, holding their hand for every dressing change, with them for the middle of the night medications. Everything else is just stuff and won't make a difference if they don't have your love to get them through.


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