Children's Hospital Stays Can Be Traumatic For Parents, Too

Young Patients Need Sympathy After An Operation

August 04, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

What would you do if you woke up in a room full of strangers, heavily medicated, a little queasy and very dry-mouthed?

Oh, and what ifyou were also 2 years old? Probably you'd cry, which is just what Brandon Hadden did.

It's what nurses expect from most children roused in the recoveryroom at Carroll County General Hospital.

"I heard you all the waydown the hall," Melissa Hadden told her teary-eyed son as he was wheeled, sitting up on a stretcher, back to the pediatric ward after minor surgery on his ears.

Melissa and Greg Hadden, however, appearedunfazed by Brandon's anger at finding himself in so uncomfortable a situation. He is a nurse and she has been through the same operation with their older son, Justin.

"It's kind of our nature," Greg said. "We're calm about everything with the kids."

Brandon's surgery was a common one for children these days. Called a myringotomy, it's often referred to as "ear tubes."

The procedure involves inserting tiny tubes to allow accumulated fluids to drain out of the middle earand equalize pressure on both sides of the eardrum. Brandon had the surgery after a series of ear infections, his father said.

Ear tubes and tonsillectomies are the most common reason children undergo surgery at CCGH, said Gladys Baker, a pediatric nurse there.

Like many children and adults these days, Brandon came in the morning of hissurgery and went home to Taneytown a few hours afterward. For overnight stays, parents may spend the night with the child, even if there's another child in the room, said Baker.

"I think that's important," she said. "Teens want parents to spend the night."

But parents have to surrender their children for a while when it comes to surgery.

Parents aren't allowed in the recovery room for two reasons, said Kathleen Newnan, clinical manager of the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit,or recovery room.

First of all, she said, it would invade the privacy of other patients in the room, which has several bays divided bycurtains.

But the hospital also is concerned that a parent will be alarmed by the child's waking behavior and interfere with the nurse's job to monitor him.

As they wake up from anesthesia, children often thrash around and become agitated, Newnan said. A mother herself, she said it would be hard for a parent to resist reaching to comfort the child -- which could interfere with the medical care.

Greg Hadden, however, said he thinks most parents, if prepared ahead of time, could handle being in the recovery room.

"Parents, as adults, should know themselves," he said. "The hospital should trust parents to make that decision."

Before surgery, the Haddens escorted Brandon to the hall outside the operating room, gave him a kiss, and told him they would be waiting for him.

"Eighty percent of kids do well without fighting the anesthesiologist," Baker said.

Brandon was one of those 80 percent, Newnan said.

"He was a good child -- one ofthe best. He didn't cry at all," she said.

That was before surgery. When he awoke, he was less happy.

"It's OK, sweetheart," cooed recovery room nurse Judy Hill as she stood at Brandon's head. He was not quite awake yet, and whimpered a bit.

While waking from anesthesia, each child is monitored one-on-one by a nurse, Newnan said. Hill didn't take her eyes off Brandon. She held an oxygen mask just overhis mouth, but not touching, and held his chin so his airways would stay open.

"Her main focus is on the child," Newnan said. Another nurse recorded Brandon's progress on his chart. If another nurse hadn't been available, Newnan said, Hill would have focused on Brandon and written the notes later.

"Sometimes we'll write on the (cloth) sheets, just to jot notes," Newnan said.

About 10 minutes after surgery, Brandon was awake, and crying loudly.

"I want Daddy," he said, getting a angrier each time. Nurses assured him he would see Daddysoon, and tried to soothe him and make sure his vital signs were stable.

"I want Daddy," he screamed again.

Usually the nurses try to calm the children before taking them back to their parents, Newnansaid. In addition to the rocking chair or a familiar blanket or toy,sometimes they will try having another nurse come by to say hello --just seeing a new face can distract them sometimes, Newnan said.

But after about 30 minutes, when Brandon had made it clear he had no intention of calming down until he saw his dad, the nurses began wheeling him back to the pediatric ward.

"Sometimes they'll be so goodin here, then they'll see their parents and freak," Newnan said.

Newnan said the nurses could tell Brandon was crying out of anger rather than pain. If he was in pain he probably would have been tugging at his ears, she said.

l Greg said Brandon has recovered and showsno sign of bitterness about his hospital experience: "We got home and he's just been running around, being a normal boy."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.