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What I Want Friends and Family to Know When Our Child Is Undergoing Surgery

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You know this is a difficult time for the parents and siblings of a child undergoing surgery, and you want to help, but you aren’t sure how. There are a few things to keep in mind when providing support to a family going through such a traumatic time.

First, when the parents withdraw from everything around them, it’s not personal. There are a wide variety of emotions that come with preparing for surgery, and most of the time, it’s all we can do to get through the day. If we don’t respond quickly (or at all) or if we seem snappy and rude, it’s often because we know you love us and won’t hold it against us. We love you, too, and we want your support.

One of the biggest things a parent faces when preparing for surgery is the possibility the procedure won’t work or a complication may arise that can take their child from them. Every time we hand our children over to a surgeon, we face the possibility he might not come back. And when you have to face that multiple times, it becomes daunting and heavy. And even when everything lines up with the best possible outcome, that heaviness takes time to disappear. Even after the procedure is done, the child isn’t out of the woods. There is risk of infection and sometimes the body takes time to respond to the procedure, which makes the stress linger.

It’s certainly not an easy thing to face, and we definitely need and want your support and help. You can do a variety of things to help support your family and friend, but the most important thing is to be there. We can’t always respond to messages or phone calls right away, but we notice when you check in and we appreciate the caring you show.

If you desire to do more, ask if you can provide a meal or two or babysit any siblings. Offer to help keep the kitchen clean or do a load of laundry. It doesn’t have to be much of anything, and don’t be surprised if we turn you down. That’s just how we do things. But sometimes, we will say yes because we’ve gotten to a point where it’s become hard to return to normal.

As if one surgery isn’t hard enough, there are too many of us who have had to watch our babies undergo multiple surgeries. If you’re a friend or family member to a family like this, the toll can be even harder. While our specific worries change with the procedure, there’s usually one constant question: Will my baby come back?

With that as a primary concern, we’re more likely to bail on plans in the weeks prior to surgery and more likely to take longer to reply to messages and return phone calls and spend most of our time just trying to survive. This is when we need you the most, even though we may show it the least.

The same can be true in the days and weeks following surgery, depending on how recovery goes. Our son Jaxson’s last surgery required a three-week inpatient stay, and he nearly didn’t come back. It was the hardest time we’ve been through as a family, but the support of our family and friends was imperative, and Jax has made a full recovery.

Your support is what gets us through, and those of you who can stick with us through these difficult times are the ones we can’t live without. So please don’t disappear or assume we no longer value your friendship because we didn’t respond to a message. That’s hardly the case at all. It’s just difficult to express how we feel to you.

Please know we value your love and friendship more than you know, and we never want you to stop calling or sending messages. Knowing you care is what we need more than anything. That and hugs. Lots of hugs.


A Mom Who’s Been There

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Originally published: May 3, 2016
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