When your kid needs surgery

 

img_2927.jpegOn Monday Laine is having surgery for an epigastric hernia repair.

I noticed a bump above her belly button after her bath in early December and it hadn’t been there the night before.

She had also been having a few bouts each day where she would arch her back and cry like she was in pain, so when this bump popped up I was pretty worried.

After I got her to bed I did what every good millennial parent does—consulted Dr. Google–and read that based on the bump’s location and when it appeared, it was likely an epigastric hernia and would need surgery to be resolved.

We got her into the pediatrician the next day and the provider said it was an umbilical hernia and that it would go away on its own. I delicately pushed back—”Really? That’s reassuring because I was doing a little research last night and from what I read I thought it was an epigastric hernia and those require surgery.”

She brought in another doctor to take a look.

“That’s definitely not an umbilical hernia but it is a ventral hernia. We’ll refer you on to surgery.”

We saw a pediatric surgeon near where we live and he and his resident both confirmed it was an epigastric hernia but told Levi and I it could go away on its own. This was contrary to what Levi and I had read, but he was a surgeon—a specialist—standing right in front of us, so it was easy to nod along.

I left relieved and Levi left frustrated. Back to Dr. Google we went and we found countless children’s hospital websites stating epigastric hernias do not go away on their own and need surgery for repair.

We headed down to Nationwide Children’s for a second opinion and the surgeon confirmed it was an epigastric hernia and needed surgery to be resolved. Our experience at Nationwide Children’s was night-and-day from our prior consult. This surgeon sat down in the exam room and talked with me. He listened intently and even drew a sketch on the exam table paper of Laine’s abdominal muscles, the location of her hernia, the size of the incision for the surgery, and explained all pros and cons and steps involved. I can comfortably say I have confidence in this surgeon and his plan.

We scheduled the surgery and up until this point I’ve blocked out the thought of it, but as we get closer and closer, I’ve become more stressed and more anxious.

A week after Garrett turned two he had surgery to have tubes put in his ears, so within a nine-month period both of our kids will have had general anesthesia and a surgical procedure.

I keep telling myself that these are manageable issues and the severity is minor—that this isn’t open heart surgery or brain surgery or an organ transplant or something that takes hours and is life-threatening. And we recognize how extremely fortunate we are and are grateful for it.

But when it comes down to it, there is still a stranger taking your baby out of your arms and walking away with them down a fluorescent-lit hallway. Your child is still put on an operating table in a room full of masked strangers and given general anesthesia.

Levi and I know that Garrett getting tubes is one of the best decisions we’ve made as parents. He spent 18 months with frequent ear infection and persistent fluid and as soon as he got the tubes he spent six months free of ear infections and his vocabulary took off.

So, with all the doctors we’ve seen, research we’ve done, and knowledge we’ve gained, I’m telling myself that it is better for Laine to have the hernia repaired now, before it gets larger and would require a bigger incision, more stitches, and potentially even mesh to repair.

And all of this is one of the trickier parts of parenthood. The weighing of the pros and cons and being the ones to ultimately decide what to do for these tiny people who are unable to know or decide for themselves. And at the end of the day, all we can do is try our best to figure out the situation, push back, get the second opinion, and advocate for our kids.

 

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