Search This Blog

Sunday, January 31, 2010

'Trivial' Surgery

They are the words that every parent, at some point in their parenting career, dread to hear. For one reason or another a surgeon has decided that your beautiful child is going under general anaesthetic.
My first reason for hearing those dreaded words came from the fact that my extremely stubborn (then) eight year old son refused to allow a dentist within ten feet of him - and he needed a bloody filling. One filling and he had to be knocked out cold - that was the end of the Mi-Wadi!!
But it makes that experience no easier to know your baby isn't going in for a major life-saving operation. Maybe if it was major and potentially life-saving it might be easier. We are told, every day on TV that a general anaesthetic is not to be taken lightly and yet here is my child going under for something almost trivial.
I remember standing with him in the theatre, dressed up in my hospital scrubs and funny clogs, waiting for the 'magic' to happen. As I stood, listening to him drunkenly giggle and talk nonsense, I was amazed at how small an operating theatre actually is. This is the room where lives are lost and saved daily - surely for such major happenings, a larger spectrum is required? And then he was under and the scrub nurse was leading me out again.
My heart sank. What if?
For the next half hour as I strangled through a cup of tea, that 'what if?' haunted me. Finally the call came from Recovery that my baby was out of theatre and would soon be out of Recovery. I belted it as fast as I could muster, taking the stairs two at a time until I was finally with him as he exited Recovery.
A what a cranky little so-and-so he was too! All my worrying and here he was ready to take strips off me. But all was forgiven, the after-effects of the anaesthetic are not nice, I remember my own experience of coming around afterward - my poor little brother bore the brunt too and it took me some time to apologise after (the joy of being a teenager!)

By the time my son was brought into surgery for the second time (this time it was a necessity) I was better able to deal with it. I was aware that this time the surgery was a necessity, more was at stake than a mere filling. I was also aware that my son was not allergic to the anaesthetic, which had worried me most the first time. I didn't dress up in scrubs and accompany him through, I left him in the OT corridor, giggling with the scrub nurses.
I waited outside for an hour. I even managed to read a magazine. I knew he was safe. I knew he was coming back out and that while I would suffer the demonic after-effects, it would be worth it.

Why, you might ask, do I reminisce so? Well, because last Friday a good friend of mine went through her first surgery. My heart went out to her, this is no trivial matter for a mother. Her five year old son had chopped off the top of his finger, as many children do. My own sister had experienced this many times with both her own children and her friend's children. Children tend to chop off their finger-tops in doors - and that's a simple fact.
It's not nice, it causes a lot of blood to spit out all over the place. And of course, the poor child screams blue murder and terrifies all around. Everyone is convinced that death is imminent or at best, the poor child will be maimed for life. Generally, neither of things happen. And no, the child does not learn a valuable lesson either. Doors will still be slammed on fingers.

Knowing that the child was waiting to be stitched, I ventured over to her before my morning lecture. I finally located her in the Paediatric ER, a feat made easier by the loud laughter of her injured son and his uninjured older sister.
I don't think she'd expected that her beautiful son would be given a general anaesthetic - surely he only needed stitches? It's not until one thinks of how difficult a task this would be that one realises that knocking him out is the only option. Try getting a boisterous five year old to sit still, then try to get him to sit still while you sew the top of his very sore finger back on.
But for a mother, this fact does not make the experience any easier. The eternal 'what if?' crops up. In an effort to reassure her, I talked her through my own previous experiences and told her I would come back later to see how they were all getting along.
While I was of course interested to see how the Little Man came through, I think I was more worried about her. In her, I saw myself. I could still feel that churning.

The more one visit's a hospital the more one learns how to lie their way around. Once upon a time, when asked the question 'And you are?' I would have been honest. Now, I lie. I wanted to know where the Little Man was and so when asked who I was, I lied. I was now his aunt, his very worried aunt too. The poor nurse took it upon himself to escort me through to the OT reception so that I might find out if my 'nephew' was still in Recovery, or had he been moved down to the ward yet? He was in Recovery. I quickly texted my friend that I was now in situ outside the OT and that I had blagged my way around.
Little Man was fine. His finger had been reinstated and he was very cross - he hadn't wanted to go for a nap!! More importantly, his mother could finally relax. Emotional exhaustion had set in.
Before I left, just one short hour later, Little Man and his big sister were playing happily in the Ward's play-room, his mother now anxious to simply be set free so she could take her tired children home.

So a word for all you parents out there. Remember - children will chop their finger tops off. This is a fact. Why? Because the bone does not go all the way to the tip. Be prepared. If you are not going to remove all the doors in the world, at least psyche yourself up, accept it will happen and buy a good first aid kit.
Also remember that at some point your child too may need surgery - don't panic. Ok, panic. But try to remember - this is not your fault, no matter what the reason, chances are you could not have prevented it from happening. The surgery may seem trivial but it is likely still necessary. And always remember, the amount of anaesthetic they will be given would not be likely to even numb your foot. The people who accompany your child into theatre are the highest quality of doctors and nurses. They treat all surgeries, no matter how trivial to you and me, equally. Your child will come home repaired, usually that very same day.
Oh and one final piece of advice - your beautiful child will wake up as cantankerous as sin - ignore it, smile and reassure them, even if they reject your sentiments, they don't mean to.


  1. Yes I can remember Ellen having a general when she had her squints sorted. Only an hour or so but it seemed like a lifetime to me, my wee baby in an aneasthetic ally induced limbo...Dx

  2. I know. It's a very hard time to be a mother. I think though, the emotional exhaustion which comes from the relief which follows, is the hardest part. Thankfully we are lucky enough to live in a society where these procedures are not only safe and available but they are also available to everyone, regardless of income.

  3. Here here - I am still suffering here from the trauma and his fat little fingers are doing just fine! Walkies tomorrow.............2 hour sweat!

  4. Aw his little fingers are not fat - they are perfect (or at least they are now that he had them all put back in their rightful places!)