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COPING & HEALING

TENDING TO A CHILD IN THE HOSPITAL:
SCHEDULED PROCEDURES

Visit The Hospital

Before admitting your child to the hospital, you should have a clear understanding of the medical or surgical treatments your child is expected to have. Your pediatric cardiologists should be able to respond to your questions and concerns about procedures, risks, expected length of stay, necessary follow up care and what to communicate to your child.

To help reduce your anxiety, you can ask to tour the facilities ahead of time so you are familiar with the hospital layout, rooms and services. Most hospitals have a nurse or medical social worker that can go over information such as hospital regulations for parents staying overnight, visiting hours for siblings and friends, packing suggestions, and available hospital facilities and special services. Some hospitals may also be able to provide you with pamphlets on preparations and care.

What To Expect

Children are usually admitted the morning of the procedure or a day prior. The duration of their stay will depend on their required procedure. A few days prior to the scheduled procedure, a nurse may call to check that your child is in good condition and does not have a fever, cough or cold. Your doctor or a nurse will also give you specific instructions about any special preparations beforehand. This may cover restrictions on eating or drinking prior to surgery, whether to continue or stop certain medications, what the hospital check-in procedures are, and how to handle your child's pacemaker/ defibrillator.

When And What To Tell Your Child

At some point, you will need to tell your child about his/her medical procedure and treatment. In general, children who are reassured of what lies ahead are less anxious and are able to cope better with their hospitalization. Determining when to tell your child depends on their age and previous experience. If a child is told too early, they may have misconceptions and fantasies, but if told too late, they may feel betrayed and tricked. Experts recommend that children under 3 should be told 2-3 days before and older children 1 or 2 weeks ahead. If there are other siblings, it is a good idea to also inform them of what is going to happen.

What you tell you child depends on your child's age, their ability to understand and emotional make-up. It is better to tell them the truth than to hide the facts and have them imagine something far worse then reality. Try telling them honestly in age appropriate language the reasons they need to go to the hospital and what they should expect. Young children only need basic information about what to expect on the day of the medical procedure and during their recovery. You might try telling your child in the form of a game such as pretending that teddy is going to the hospital, playing "doctor", reading a book about hospitals, or making a special book for your child. By using this approach, your child will trust you and realize that they are not being sent to the hospital because they have been "naughty".

For older school-age children, you might want to provide a more descriptive explanation of what is wrong and what needs to be done while emphasizing the benefits of the procedure. Older children typically are anxious because they fear pain or the unknown. Many hospitals have pediatric programs (i.e. Child Life Program) to help educate children about what to expect. Role-playing is another good way for children over three years old to express their concerns and work through any questions they may have.

Even though you may prepare your child for his/her hospital stay, he/she may still feel frightened, angry or depressed. The discomfort and strange surroundings may be overwhelming for some children. Reassure your child that his/her feelings are normal and remind him/her that you will continue to be there for them and that they will eventually return home.

Blood Transfusions

If your child requires blood transfusions for his or her heart surgery, you can ask a member of the cardiology or surgical team about the procedures for making a blood donation. This will require advance arrangement and typically involves a lead-time of 5-7 days to properly screen samples.

What To Bring

While in the hospital, young children find comfort and security in familiar items from home such as a special blanket, book, family photos, or favorite toys. If the hospital has a tape recorder or video machine, you can bring your child's favorite cassette or video. Packing your child's favorite nightwear, clothes, toiletries and slippers may also help them feel more at home. If your child is older, packing a hospital bag together may help them feel more "in control" of the situation.

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