What To Expect When Your Child Goes To Hospital For An Operation

Last week our youngest daughter, Brook, went to hospital for an operation.  If you have been following our story you’ll know she has been suffering with Glue Ear and was going to hospital to have grommets fitted as well as her adenoids removed.  It wasn’t a day we were looking forward to, as you can expect, and we were all desperate to get to the other side of it and have our daughter’s hearing improved.

Pre Operation Appointment

The week before the operation Brook and I went to the hospital to have her pre op appointment with the paediatric nurse.  It went well and a lot of information was provided about Brook to help with the care she might need before and after the operation.

It was incredibly thorough, but where things fell down slightly was that the paediatric nurse who was taking the notes was not going to be the nurse looking after Brook on the day of the operation.  This was a shame as it was a great opportunity for Brook to get to know the staff who would be looking after her.

It was still good for Brook to go to the hospital and get used to the surroundings.  She was able to see the type of room she was going to be staying in and even test out the bed!

child hospital bed

What We Told Her About Her Operation

I deliberated a lot about what to tell Brook about her operation before the day came.  She is only 3 1/2 years old so I didn’t feel it was appropriate to go into great detail about it.  We decided to tell her, on the day that she was going to hospital, that she was going to see the doctor to help fix her ears so she could hear better.

She needed an explanation she could understand as it was clear that we were doing something out of the ordinary that day.

We continued this thread when she was asking for something to drink and telling us she was hungry.  As she was going to have a general aesthetic our instructions were not to give her any food after 2.30am and no drinks after 6.30am.  When she asked for drinks and food, we told her she had to wait until the doctor said she could have something.

I did question the length of time she had to go without a drink in particular as she didn’t go for her operation until nearly noon.  Thats a long time for a small child not to have a drink or something to eat. She let the whole ward know she was hungry as she reached a point we couldn’t take her mind off it any longer.

child playing with amazon fire

The Day Of The Operation

We arrived at the hospital at 8.30am. We waited in the reception until our nurse come to fetch us.  It’s worth mentioning this was a private hospital and had only recently opened.

We were shown to our room and Brook’s observations were taken.  A cream was applied to the backs of both hands so that the area would be numb when the cannula was fitted later.

We have found that through out the process if we ask Brook things like can someone look in your ears, or can we put cream on your hands, she is normally willing.  She may become a little nervous, and sometimes you can see that she withdraws but she has always let the nurses and doctors do what they need to do.

We saw the consultant who was going to carry out the operation and signed the consent forms.  We asked him if the operation was going ahead at 10am, and his response was ‘around then, yes’.

Unfortunately, at no point was it made clear that Brook was on a list and her operation could take place at any point during the morning.  Ten o’clock came and went and her toys and Amazon Fire were keeping her entertained to a point.  11 o’clock came and went and her tummy was telling her loud and clear that she was hungry.

We were walking around in the corridor and we saw the consultant who told us it would only be a few more minutes.  I learnt at this point that doctors clearly have a very different idea of time, and when we spoke to the nurse she advised me he was carrying out another procedure, but that we would be next.  With all the best will in the world, any operation takes longer than a few minutes.

Going For The Aesthetic

We were called for Brook’s operation at around 12pm.  She knew something big was about to happen and she gathered all her soft toys to take with her.  The nurse talked to her all the way to the theatre as Daddy and I kept up the rear so to speak.  Daddy’s crutches were slowing him down a bit to be honest.

child walking corridor

I had elected Daddy to go with Brook while she was put to sleep, but he couldn’t do much with his crutches and Brook wanted me to be with her at this point.

Brook agreed to get on the bed and she had all her toys around her.  I answered some questions and confirmed that I had signed the consent form earlier.  The nurse was reading Brook a Peppa Pig story while her cannula was fitted and general anaesthetic was given.

A mask was put over her face and off she went to sleep.  I gave her a kiss good bye and then the tears came.  All of a sudden my precious little baby was being taken into theatre and it was all completely out of my control.   We walked back to the room and waited.  The nurse very kindly got us some coffee and toast, as nobody had eaten or had anything to drink that morning.  It didn’t seem right with Brook having to wait.

Coming Out Of Theatre

The operation for having grommets fitted and removing adenoids doesn’t actually take that long, and a member of the recovery team came to get us when Brook had woken up.  The bit we weren’t prepared for was that we wouldn’t be with her when she woke up, and we hadn’t prepared Brook for this either.

When we got to the recovery room she was very upset.  Her cry sounded particularly laboured, which I think was as a result of having the tube in her airway during the operation.  She also had some blood around her nostril, which didn’t look particularly pleasant.  Queue tears from Mummy again.

The nurse was showing her Peppa Pig videos when we arrived to try and distract her, but they were only achieving so much.  When she saw us come into the recovery room it was clear what she wanted.  I picked her up off the bed and we sat for a few minutes having a big cuddle while the nurse finished her observations.

Back To The Ward

We were soon heading back to the ward as Brook was recovering well from the operation and aesthetic, even though she was clearly a bit groggy.  She was quite happy to get on her hospital bed and watch Cbeebies on the flat screen TV in her room.

She was keen to start eating and drinking, as she had breakfast, snacks and lunch to catch up on.  She went through an omelette, cheese sandwiches, Daddy’s crisps and Mummy’s biscuits.  She literally didn’t stop.

Within an hour of having the operation you would not have known she had had surgery that day.  The only thing we were waiting for was a wee.  She was far to comfy in the bed, and we really had to convince her that she needed to go.

Once she had had a wee, we were free to come home and we left the hospital at about 3.30pm.  We were given advice about giving her Calpol and Ibuprofen to mange the pain and discomfort, but to be fair she only needed it for a few days.  The operation doesn’t seem to have been that painful for her at all.

After Care

Our biggest issue now is that she can’t go to nursery or play group for about two weeks as catching a cold could put her at risk of infection.  We also have to put cotton wool in her ears with some vaseline on to stop soapy water going in her ears when she has a bath.  She can swim, but isn’t supposed to dive into the water.

The grommets will remain in her ears for anything between 6 and 18 months and fingers crossed it’s the only pair she needs.  Having the adenoids removed helps not having to need another pair of grommets fitted.

Even just a few days after the operation we are seeing a huge improvement in Brook’s hearing and speech.  She is much more responsive to us and her sister which is helping them get along better too.  Her confidence to speak has greatly improved and with that is coming clearer words and longer sentences.

Even though it wasn’t the easiest day in the world, we have no regrets about Brook having the operation.  I have talked to the hospital directly about how the experience we had could be improved and I hope it helps other children experiencing any kind of procedure while under their care.

Our child went to hospital for an operation and this is our story about what to expect.

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16 Comments

  1. Margaret Gallagher
    September 26, 2017 / 1:39 pm

    So glad it all turned out well

    It’s amazing the difference

  2. September 26, 2017 / 6:49 pm

    What a really thoughtful post to write to help others – and wasn’t she brave. When my son was 4 he had no warning about his operation and he was just waiting for ages with no food and drink to be rushed down at the earliest (priority) opportunity when he broke his arm. I don’t know about how it is for them to be knocked out etc because my husband had to stay with him and me go home to be with the other children as I have a needle phobia. It was SO hard wanting to be with him but my fear preventing him (and obviously his dad felt the same as me wanting to be with him).
    pinkoddy recently posted…Is it Safe for a Child to have a Mobile at School?My Profile

  3. Sidrah Ahmed
    September 27, 2017 / 12:12 am

    This is wonderful and it would be helpful for any kids going to hospital

  4. Ashleigh Allan
    September 27, 2017 / 5:43 am

    Glad it went well. My daughter had to get an operation about that age too

  5. September 27, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    You are so brave and so is she. Well done little one. Its so hard to explain to such a a young girl. Am glad the op went well but yes waiting for an op with no food and fluids is the worst especially when its a child. Thank you for writing this up.

  6. Kerry Kilmister
    September 28, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    It’s great to hear that you are seeing improvement already x

  7. Jeanette Leighton
    September 28, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    Have not had this experience before I don’t know how my daughter Sheriah 5 would cope in hospital she won’t even sleep alone in her own room

  8. September 28, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Brook is too young for such operation. Good to know she have now improvement with hearing and speech.

  9. September 28, 2017 / 7:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, so many parents must worry about hospitals (I know I do!). I have only ever been in hospital for childbirth plus a broken foot so my own experiences are limited (never had an op!) and I would be terrified about the thought of my child having an operation.
    Musings of a tired mummy…zzz… recently posted…Bill’s at The Atrium, Camberley: ladies who lunch!My Profile

  10. September 29, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    This is a great post for any parents in this situation for the first time. Well done to you all for being so brave!

  11. Carol Thomas
    September 30, 2017 / 3:07 pm

    I am glad it all turned out well. I remember when our eldest son went into hospital when he was 4 to have his tonsils and adenoids out. I was a wreck. Our eldest son is now 32. LOL. Now as Glam-Ma to 2 boys and 1 by our eldest son and his wife who is only 6 weeks old I hope he won’t have to have the same op, or any op for that fact

  12. Mary Davis
    September 30, 2017 / 10:36 pm

    I am really glad she had this and her hearing is improved. Yes, we’ve been there so often with nurses/doctors saying “Not long” and it’s hours. I’m glad you were proactive telling the hospital how they could improve!

  13. Kayleigh Watkins
    November 8, 2017 / 6:55 pm

    The hospital sounds very professional, with personal touches of a pre op appointment to see the ward, and find out what would happen, reading her a story while she had her anaesthetic, I agree with you though the no food and drink for so long is difficult for a child, and when people are rushed into hospital and theatre they are ok, it is the worst thing to go through as a parent, Connor had to have a general anaesthetic to have teeth removed and I held him while he went to sleep and he went floppy in my arms and I had to leave the room, I broke my heart, like Brook he woke without me in the room and I heard him crying, and couldn’t wait to get to him, but it is for their health and reading your recent post has been totally worth it with her speech and hearing improvements, even the little things we take for granted like planes and trains xxx

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