Family Preparation

If you have a family, sit down with them and have a clear discussion of what your condition is going to be and how household responsibilities will be handled and for how long. Many people report that their family was very giving and helpful for the first week, but after that because you look fine, they expected you would be able to do more and return to your “duties”. I highly advise if you can afford it, to hire outside help ahead of time for the heavy work. Your family can then be utilized for the multitude of small favors and the pleasure of their company.

Preparing Young Children for Your Surgery
Provided by Elisabeth

I had THR in July, and my daughter is seven. Both of my friends who had promised to take turns having her over to play, every day, had family crises and were unavailable; and other friends were out of town at that point. That was the hardest part of my recovery. My daughter is very talkative and social–which is the last thing I needed during convalescence! On several occasions, I phoned my husband at work and begged him through tears to come home early, because I was so exhausted. I did find friends to take her for a few hours a week, but it was nowhere near enough, and she got terribly bored at home with me.

If at all possible, find a way to farm out your children for at least part of every day, for the first three weeks or so. I experienced sudden waves of exhaustion, chilling, and hunger for the first three weeks post-operatively, which is pretty typical. After that, I was on a more even keel. I’m 44.

I traveled from California to have surgery with Dr Swanson. We were able to take my daughter along for my pre-op visit, so she got to meet the surgeon and his assistants and see the hospital. I think she was very comforted to be able to picture approximately where I was, and with whom.

She stayed behind with neighbors when my husband and I flew out for my surgery. My husband was with me for the first four days, then returned home to go back to work and retrieve her during evenings and nights. I came home after eight days.

I prepared Madelaine by telling her about the surgery over and over, a bit at a time, starting months in advance. I showed her my x-rays, the model skeleton in her school, photos of the implants–and even let her watch a movie about THR that we got on loan (when she was just six). She was entirely unfazed by the gore–which is typical for children that age and younger. I also explained about the incision, bruising, and swelling–and that she would NOT be allowed to run and crash into me, jump onto me, etc.

I also spent time explaining the likely scenario after surgery–a day of nausea and vomiting–and rehearsing how I would sound on the phone. I told her about “fall-asleep medicine” and explained that it would make my voice high and make me mumble and fall asleep in mid-sentence. We rehearsed pretend phone conversations, and I did my part– mumbling in a weak, high voice and lapsing into sudden snoring. She thought this was great entertainment!

The happy result of all this preparation was that she was well pleased when we phoned her after my surgery. I sounded pretty much how she expected, and she said as much. She was also happy to learn that I had thrown up on schedule, gotten it in my hair, and that Papa had been obliged to jump out of the line of fire–a detail she found hilarious!

My neighbor told me afterward that she had been worried how Madelaine would react–and was astonished to hear how cheerfully she reported my unsavory status at the dinner table, that evening.

One thing my daughter wasn’t prepared for was my bad “hospital” smell, when I returned home after eight days. I assume some of it was from drugs, because she kept complaining, even after I had showered at home.

Another thing that proved useful for my daughter–was making a calendar. I printed out two months from Microsoft Office, and together we filled in some key dates already passed–a birthday party, the county fair. We decorated those squares with little drawings. Then I filled in my likely dates of absence (I ended up returning home sooner than expected), my surgery date, the date I might be off crutches, the date I might be able to start driving and take her someplace, etc.). This really helped her grasp that we were talking about a long period of time.

I would try to have your children meet Dr Swanson and his assistants. You can even consider sneaking a couple lollipops to the surgeon, and asking him to give those to your children as a goodwill gesture. With frequent reminders, your younger children might be able to keep the surgeon in mind. Then, while you’re in the hospital, your husband can explain simply that you’re with nice Dr Swanson who gave the lollipops. One precaution: You’ll have to find some way to explain that the surgeon is going to give you a VERY big “boo-boo” to fix the inside of your hip.

By the way, Playmobil has a great surgery set, suitable for a five year old. Younger children might enjoy a toddler’s doctor kit.

As for babies–the best you can do is to get her used to substitute caregivers, starting now.

Toys all over the floor are a hazard while you’re on crutches. In fact, you might be well advised to stick to a walker indoors. A walker provides good “crash” protection against rambunctious children.

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