Pre-Surgery Program: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Contributed by Leah Grengs, who has been an amazing Pre-Surgery Program volunteer since 2005! Leah writes:

“Thursday is my favorite day of the week!

For the past seven years, every Thursday night, I have helped a multidisciplinary team of Children’s staff and volunteers teach patients, siblings and parents about their upcoming surgeries at Children’s-St. Paul as part of the Pre-Surgery Program (PSP). After the program, kids who were initially scared are often excited to come back and pick out a Lip Smacker smell for their anesthesia mask. In addition to witnessing the changes in the children that occur within a few short hours, I have also spoken with staff members who rave about the difference this program makes, and have volunteered with families throughout other areas of the hospital who have told me how much the program helped. We’ve also seen families return to the program when they have another child who needs surgery. Often the parents thank me again and tell their children, “This is the girl that taught [you or name of sibling] about surgery.” Although this makes me feel super old (way older than 23), every time it happens, I glow for weeks thinking about it!

Pre-Surgery Program Volunteers Jake Starsiak, Evan (puppet), Leah Grengs and Robert Mills

In addition to PSP, I have volunteered on the inpatient units in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, the surgery waiting room in Minneapolis and the Emergency Department in St. Paul, but have always thought of PSP as my baby. Not only because I have done it for so long, but because the mission of the program resonates with me on a much deeper level.

When I was younger, I had a stroke from a brain tumor and remember waking up at Children’s after my surgery, scared and confused, while my parents and doctors started throwing all of these big words at me, such as hemorrhage, glioma and thalamus. I was paralyzed and told I would probably not be able to walk again, but that was all I understood. At PSP, we talk to the kids about special medicine air and going into a special medicine sleep. We help the kids understand what will happen and not to be afraid; that people at Children’s are nice, wear clean clothes called scrubs, and will take good care of them.

After seven years, every Thursday before PSP (and now every Tuesday for my Emergency Department shift), I still experience an excited anticipation, and wake up in the morning so happy, because I know that I will be able to make such a huge difference for Children’s patients and their families!”

Thank you, Leah, for all you do with the Pre-Surgery Program, and as a volunteer here at Children’s Hospital!

Leave a Reply