Once we knew that surgery was in Emma’s future, we started to prepare.
Of course, we all did our own research, reading online about spinal fusions. My husband watched YouTube videos; I read articles and looked at diagrams. Emma found online diaries of other girls who had undergone the procedure.
I didn’t sit Emma down and tell her more than the doctor did. I was there to answer any questions she had (or research answers), And I was there to listen as she shared what she had learned.
It’s something of a fine line. I didn’t want to bring it up a lot, but I also didn’t want it to be a taboo subject. Basically I tried to follow Emma’s lead. When she wanted to talk about it, we did.
There was not much for us to do to get Emma physically ready for surgery besides general well being — staying healthy and well rested. The only task she had was to donate her own blood. Her doctor asked for two units — one needed for sure and another as a precaution.
Because of our blood types, her dad was able to donate for her, but I was not.
To make the event less scary, I decided that we would all donate blood together. We even invited my mom and some friends to come along. Having people around gave us all courage and made the scene less serious.
My goal was to make the day a positive experience instead of a scary “medical” one. After we donated blood, we ate dinner out as a family and enjoyed the relief of having that task complete.
It worked out beautifully that we were able to complete nine weeks of school before the surgery. It doesn’t really matter on one hand, but it made me feel good to know that we had accomplished a fourth of our school year before taking time for the recovery.
I made no plans for when to resume school. And I still don’t have any because I want to give Emma plenty of room for recovery without the stress of schoolwork. In future posts I will share how we eased back into homebound homeschool. But we are not at that point quite yet.
The emotional aspect was really the toughest to prepare for because surgery is scary.
Scary for Emma. Scary for us.
We had family jokes about Emma’s back and her coming surgery. Emma does not want me to share those, though. So I won’t.
Actually, it is probably better. Without the context of our family interactions, the things we said may appear callous or cruel. They were not either, but were healthy ways to laugh at the situation and diffuse the anxiety we all felt. Humor has always been a way that we deal with our “adventures.”
Once we had a date for surgery, it was something we thought about every day. Emma even installed a countdown app on her iPod and kept me abreast of how many days until surgery. It was not a way that I would have chosen to deal with the anxiety, but I knew that I had to allow her to handle it in her own way.
Instead of dreading the days, I knew we needed something happy to look forward to. Something big.
So we splurged on a short road trip to St. Louis about two weeks before surgery. We stayed in a cabin at a campground, played miniature golf, spent a day at Six Flags, and toured the Arch.
We laughed and acted silly. We unplugged — virtually no Internet except for a few uploads to Instagram. Instead we gazed at the fire outside our campsite cabin. For hours. Just feeding the fire under the stars and relaxing while Emma strummed on her ukulele.
Most importantly, we forgot about the surgery that was coming up and enjoyed the moment. It was just what we needed. When we got home, we were emotionally ready to face the spinal fusion.
How have you prepared for an upcoming surgery? I’d love to know your ideas. Just leave me a comment.