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Mumsnetters aren't necessarily qualified to help if your child is unwell. If you have any serious medical concerns, we would urge you to consult your GP.

how do you mentally prepare a 3 year old for surgery?

(6 Posts)
connyrabbit Thu 29-Sep-11 16:18:07

Ds is having minor surgery to a testicle (but under general anesthetic) in a few days time. The temptation is not to tell him anything as he'll just not sleep until then.
I like to talk to him about everything that is happening, but I certainly don't want to scare him.
Shall I just say something about him getting a little injection that will make him sleep and then we'll see him when he wakes up, without explanation of what's happening in between?

queenofthefairies Thu 29-Sep-11 20:06:55

Im a Children's nurse and in my opinion the worse thing you can do is not tell him anything. Ofcourse telling him too much is also not a good idea...

I would tell him that hes going to hospital to have a little sleep and while hes asleep they are going to make his [????] better, then you will come home again in the evening. 3 year olds vary in the amount of info they can handle so you will need to taylor what to say to him.... but the point is dont tell him nothing.

Then tell him all about the play room, that he will have a bed there for the day, that can play with toys in his bed and have his lunch (if its a morning op) or dinner (if its an afternoon op) in bed, that there will be other children there to play with. Tell him that there will be jelly and ice cream. Tell him that you are staying all day too to play too.

My best tip though is to get to the ward in plenty of time and request (although in most hospitals its part of the course) to see the Play specialist for preparation. The play specialists are very experienced in preparing little ones for theatre. Usually with his age they bring a bear and a oxygen mask and get the little ones familiar with the basics.

Also either get him to choose at home or when he gets to hospital a book to read while hes going to sleep. Books taken down to theatre are a good distraction and good a shielding from his view if held in a certain way anything that may upset him.

Hospital for children shouldnt be a horrible experience :-)

Hope that helps!

connyrabbit Thu 29-Sep-11 20:37:13

queenofthefaries, that's just wonderful!
Thank you so much for the masses of info and suggestions!

Blu Thu 29-Sep-11 20:39:42

My DS has now had 9 operations.

IME it's best to be informative and matter of fact. There is no real reason for a 3 year old to get scared in advance because they don't have pre-conceptions.

I would ask if he remembers going to the Dr about his testicle (or whatever you said to him) and that the Dr would like the hospital to adjust it a bit and make sure that it works properly / is more comfortable - or whatever. A basic , simple, but factually true explanation.

Say that it's best to do these things when he can't see it or feel it so they make him fall asleep in a special kind of sleep called an anaesthetic so that they can fix him without him being able to feel it. Tell him that the special sleep happens when they give him some special air to breathe through a mask, or maybe they will put some magic cream on the back of his hand which means that nothing can hurt his hand and then pop in a little tube for the anaesthetic to go down.

The main thing is that you speak of it at all times with confident matter of factness whenever he is in your hearing. And IME it is best not to re-assure them. Re-assuring suggests that ther eis something they need to be re-assured about and immediately gets them anxious! Just be calm and factual.

The staff will be really bgood when you get there. the starving can be the gardest part, but they usually do the youngest children first. Break his routine so that he doesn't notice the time he would have had breakfast - for e.g if he normally dressses in nis bedroom and then has breakfast, take him down into the front room fro TV and then dress him there before whisking out the door. And don't eat or drink in front of him in the morning.

Good luck - kids are extremely hardy about surgery and the parents bear all the anxiety.

Effjay Thu 29-Sep-11 20:43:34

My DS1 had a wee op when he was this age.
I was surprised at how tired he was after the op. It took him a good 3-4 days to get the general anaesthetic out of his system. He'd dropped his daytime sleep at that point, but in the days after the op, he had 2 hour naps at lunchtime and went to bed on time without any fuss. I think this is the norm.
It doesn't answer your question, but I thought it'd be a useful observation. smile

Blu Thu 29-Sep-11 20:47:13

The chances are that when you go down into the anaesthetic room they will sit him on your lap and then pop a mask over his face and get him to breathe in and out as much as he can - making the line on the monitor go as high as posssible. It is very quick - probably within about 5-7 seconds, but they can struggle. If they struggle, hold them tight - the struggling actually makes them breathe more and knock them out quicker.

If they do it with a canula, again they usually get you to distract the child and slip the anaesthetic into the canula in his hand from behind your arm - and in that case it works even quicker.

Ask the anaesthetist beforehand whether s/he will use gas or canula.

If gas they sometimes waft some about a bit before the mask goes on so they are drowsy before the mask.

This is the hardest point for you and you will cry, but it's OK at that stage because your ds will be unaware.

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