TENDING TO A CHILD IN THE HOSPITAL:
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
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.
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
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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