Following surgery

A nurse will notify you when the surgery is completed, and you can join your child in the recovery area. Each child behaves differently as the anesthesia wears off and he or she begins to awake; some are anxious, some thrash around, and some are sleepy. The nurses will be at your child's bedside during this time for reassurance and to monitor recovery.

During this period, your child will feel increasingly better and will respond to you more. You can help by being near, holding hands, and talking with him. Recovery may take several hours, depending on the child.

Rarely - for example, if your child is vomiting or in considerable pain - your child's doctor may have your child remain on the pediatric ward for a few additional hours or overnight. If this is necessary, it is possible for you to stay in the room.

Leaving the hospital/surgical center

When your child is ready to leave, you will be given directions for home care. Specifics are written down, and you will have the opportunity to clarify these instructions. Follow-up appointments and medications are arranged as well.

Make certain before leaving that you understand the course of your child's recovery and what signs or symptoms are cause for concern. If problems develop after you leave, call your child's doctor, or the hospital.

At home

It's normal to see some behavior changes in children who have had surgery and/or hospitalization, even if everything went smoothly. These changes may include difficulty in eating, sleeping, toileting, and heightened separation anxiety. These lapses may occur even if your child was previously toilet-trained. You may also see changes in play habits or unusual clinginess and whining.

Such behaviors are particularly common in young children because they have limited ability to comprehend, discuss, or verbalize the surgical experience. This period should be short, and you can help your child through it by repeating some of the activities used to prepare your child for surgery. Re-read favorite books, participate in medical play, and so on. Watch for specific areas of misunderstanding. Use this opportunity to reinforce your child's self-confidence. Remind her that she coped successfully with this experience and will be more competent in her ability to face future challenges.

At the same time, acknowledge the needs of brothers and sisters who may have misunderstandings or questions and who need reassurance that they are loved as much as the "patient." Nurture sensitivity and kindness between siblings; build support within your family.