Coping with a child’s major surgery

[This is a guest article by fellow single Dad Broc Atkinson, whose 16yo son just had to go through surgery after a major injury sustained while playing basketball. I asked him to share how he coped with the experience…]

My 16 year old son just had his first surgery from a sports injury, and these steps are what helped us get through it. I hope they’ll be albe to help other parents out if they find themselves in a similar situation.

ambulance ems rescue blurSome backstory on his injury: he dove for a loose basketball during a game and hit the right side of his face on a teammates knee. The resulting injury were two fractures, one to the cheek and side of his orbital bone, the other a small piece of his cheekbone. After much discussion among the specialists, the surgical plan was to insert two plates to repair the damage and also check for any visible nerve damage.

Here’s what we’ve learned on how to deal with a medical emergency of this nature:

1. Try and remember that regardless of how old your kid is they will gauge your reaction to their injury and reflect that in their own. Be as positive as you can but also be realistic about the situation and likely outcome. Truth was, my son was very lucky compared to others at Children’s Hospital having treatment.

2. Educate yourself and your child as much as you can on their injury. “The Google” is a great place to do research. When meeting with doctors make sure that you involve your child and encourage them to ask any questions they might have. Walk them through a few questions they might want to ask before meeting with doctors or specialists too: most kids will not feel comfortable enough to ask questions. In my experience this helped my son feel more comfortable with his surgery.

3. This is a life lesson not just for them but for you as well. Learn, and be open to learning. Talk to your kid about anything and everything from feelings to pre and post surgery meals and plans for pre and post surgery recovery.

4. Try your best to remember to eat as healthy as you can as this will help everyone through the recovery. It’s easy to be in shock and skip meals, sleep, etc, but everyone needs to eat, even if we don’t feel hungry.

5. Prepare and pack what you think you will need for an extended stay at the hospital: less trips means more nap time. Clean clothes, reading materials, chargers, tablets, snacks, a fresh journal and pen were just a few on our personal list. Children’s Hospital was great. A nurse that was in the surgical room with my son called to update me every hour. Even with the best preparations, however, don’t be surprised if you still find yourself like this…

6. Prepare a group email or text message to people you want to keep updated. That way you’re sending one update to many, which is much easier. I kept these updates private and off social media, no need for nosey person bugging you while you’re trying to have a moment to yourself or a quick nap.

7. Try to set a plan for your sleeping arrangements and times too, and tag-team with your spouse or other family members as possible. This will also play a huge part in the recovery process for everyone.

children's hospital exterior8. Recovery takes time so don’t push it, your child’s body will let them know when it’s ready. With my son’s baseball season almost in full swing keeping him from pushing too hard on the diamond has been hard. A quick reminder of how even a small accident would cancel his entire season definitely helps. This time is also when you’ll be making follow-up appointments with the doctors. Take it from my experience: call early for these meetings.

9. Use your village. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a kid and I truly believe in this. Everyone needs help and for some it’s very hard to ask but this is about the children your village is raising. I guarantee that your true village members will be more than happy to help, you just have to ask.

[Thanks for sharing these tips, Broc, and we’re glad to know your son’s recovering well enough to be out playing baseball with his team! You can learn more about Broc and his adventures in fathering by following him on Twitter, where he’s @SingleParentLifeCO]

2 comments on “Coping with a child’s major surgery

  1. My son has played 3 sports basically year round from age 9, and this was his 1st major injury. The main comment that was made by many was its a numbers game when you are so active, and I agree.

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