09/17/2007

When our two young daughters (4 and 5 at the time) were hit with a double-whammy tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, it unsettled our entire family. Sure, we regarded these mostly as routine procedures, but up to that point the sum of our children's medical experiences mainly included regular annual check-ups and the periodic chest cold and crud.

As parents we fretted about absolutely everything. Sedation. Recovery. Whether or not our kids could bring a stuffed animal to the hospital. Our kids just knew they were having an operation to help them breath more easily, and that recovery inexplicably involved ice cream and popsicles. They were pretty okay with this arrangement.

We jumped at the chance to attend a pre-surgery tour at the hospital in St. Paul. Much to our delight it was more interactive program than formal tour. Child Life staff at Children's put on a brief puppet show to explore with kids the idea of having an operation, and the feelings that go with it.

Kids also modeled fashions they'd wear at the hospital, and got acquainted with a few tools they'd likely see nurses and doctors using. All of the children loved picking an aromatic 'flavor' they could use on their sedation mask when it was time for their surgery.

While kids continued to learn and play, staff pulled parents aside in an adjacent room for a group discussion, patiently answering our rapid succession of questions. The evening concluded with a walking tour of the hospital to get us acclimated to the few places we'd visit on surgery day.

The morning of the procedures things at the hospital moved along crisply. Our kids promptly received their ID wristbands and powder blue PJs, and nurses ushered in and out of our initial waiting room to administer pre-op check ups. At the pre-surgery waiting room we were greeted by another nurse, and later an anesthesiologist, to once more walk us through the procedure and answer any questions, of which there were many. Each child was then called in for surgery; one accompanied by mom, the other by grandma. Both brought in their favorite stuffed animal.

The surgeries were quick and routine.

The point is that when a child gets sick or hurt, no matter how severe or non-threatening, it becomes an all-consuming family affair. And while nobody is better at caring for and helping kids return to good health, Children's, at every step, is a cut above the rest in caring for and helping families be families.