Elective Surgery for Your Toddler: One Mother’s Experience


City Burbia – Metro Mama Editor’s Blog: Entry #5

My best friend’s daughter, only 18 months, was going under anesthesia for an adenoidectomy…and I forgot to call. I was a newlywed with no kids of my own and clearly no idea that what my friend was going through was major. But now I do know and all I can say is, man, do I owe her a phone call!

My 3-year-old son just had an adenoidectomy. Both of the doctors we met with, one of whom is considered very conservative, recommended the surgery. It is considered a pretty minor and routine procedure, requires general anesthesia but takes only about 20 minutes to perform and the recovery time is barely a day. There’s more risk involved with getting into the car to get to the appointment than with the procedure itself. But none of these facts kept me from losing a lot of sleep and even a little weight (that I promptly gained back minutes after the surgery went smoothly).

Did he really need the surgery? Yes and no. Was I tired of being the mom with the kid who always had a runny nose? Considering my son is already beyond happy and unstoppably energetic, it seemed hard to imagine that his enlarged adenoids were taking a toll on his quality of life. And besides, he’d outgrow the problem in a few years. So, was a runny nose and some redness around the eyes enough of a reason to willingly subject my 3-year-old son to any type of risk? Was vanity the only driving force? When I put it like that, I felt like the worst mother on the planet.

But then I asked around. Every person, whose child had an adenoidectomy, including my best friend, called the procedure “life changing”. Runny noses aside (which actually disappear a few weeks after the procedure), the children hardly ever get sick again. Quality of sleep improves dramatically. Personalities and interests change for the better. Apparently, they’re a little irritable after waking up from the anesthesia, but after a nice nap, they head home happier and more energetic than ever!

But of course none of those success stories prevented me from waking up at 4am every day for the 2 weeks leading up to the procedure. I never dared utter any statement beginning with the words, “God forbid”, let alone think about any worse case scenarios. I questioned whether I was overreacting – the way I had done when I almost cancelled our trip to the Dominican Republic because I was convinced there would be an earthquake or my son would contract Malaria. But then, even my all-too-rational husband, who rarely worries about anything – even he was nervous! And the night before the surgery, he questioned whether we were doing the right thing. In other words, ‘If it ain’t broke…’

But again…statistically speaking, assuming the child is otherwise healthy, an adenoidectomy is safer than getting into a car. We decided to listen to all the doctors who said they would do it if it was their child and we went ahead with the appointment. Not surprisingly, my son was a trooper. He was too distracted with playing the honeybee game I got him to realize he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything all morning. He was so excited to watch the Blue’s Clues DVD given to him by the nurse, he didn’t even realize I was crying while filling out paperwork. And he was so amazed seeing the doctor perform a puppet show using his lovies, he didn’t even put up a fight with the anesthesiologist (as I’m told by my husband who was with him in the surgery room when they put him under anesthesia). 20 minutes later, the doctor came out to tell us everything went great. 10 minutes later, my son fell asleep in my arms after a bout of crankiness over the IV stuck in his hands. And an hour and a half later, he awoke in my arms and was eating a popsicle, happily anxious to get home so he could play with his many new toys.

Obviously, I am beyond relieved and enormously pleased with how everything went and quite frankly, I don’t want to even think about an alternative experience. I thank my lucky stars every day for my wonderful and healthy family. I would never want to jeopardize that, especially when I know there are so many children out there who undergo non-elective surgery for far more serious reasons. My heart truly goes out to those children and their families, and I can’t help but hope that my son’s adenoidectomy will be the only surgery he’ll ever have to undergo.

This blog entry is not meant to be a ringing endorsement to elect surgery for your toddler. It is a very personal and important decision to make and you have to be totally informed. My husband and I almost ‘chickened out’ multiple times before going ahead with it. And while I’m glad we didn’t ultimately cancel the appointment, I recognize the fact that it’s all too easy for us now to say things like, “we should’ve done this ages ago!” as I heard from countless other moms about this particular procedure before. I don’t take for granted how fortunate we are that everything turned out ok. My son’s nose is still running like a faucet but that supposedly goes away in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the newfound energy and happiness that has been emanating from my son ever since he was discharged from the surgery center. And I’ll be sure to mark my calendar anytime a friend’s child is undergoing any procedure, however minor – especially one that requires anesthesia. Any mom can understand that when it comes to your own child, everything is a big deal.

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