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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Survive the Surgery Waiting Room!
Somewhere between Jury Duty and the Airport lies the waiting room for family of a patient undergoing surgery. I had the pleasure of inhabiting this space for most of the day, and also most of the night, just recently. Here are some thoughts to help you make your stay on behalf of a loved one pleasant, appropriate, and peaceful.
Electricity is a limited commodity:
All of our gadgets need to recharge. There are only so many plugs for everyone! A little suggestion, and I don't know it the hospital people who watch these things would approve it, is an extension plug. You know, the kind that plugs into one socket and has the ability for three plugs to stick into it? An extension cord would be too blatant, LOL. But my sisters and I were not able to sit together for most of the day while mom was in surgery for this reason. One always had to sit at the table by the plug and watch the electronics while everybody else sat someplace in the room that was more comfortable.
Make use of that cell phone!:
Unless your surgeon is quick, you might have some time to step out for a while. We spent much time in the cafeteria. Just make certain that the waiting room clerk who checked you in has your cell phone number or some way to reach you before you go. Some of my surgeons where I work prefer the call technique, because then neither one of you is tied to that room for the necessary communication of how your loved one fared through the procedure. Some others still prefer the face-to-face approach. Try to stick around the waiting room so the surgeon can find you at the end of the case--a urologist friend said nothing is more depressing than after a long day in a hard case, going to the waiting room to talk with family and they are not there. (Having to search for family takes precious time away from other clinical priorities in these busy lives, even takes away from time to eat or catch up on other patients). Ask in advance what your surgeon would prefer, and get an estimate. If you stick around about twenty minutes after you speak with the surgeon, sometimes the anesthesiologist might come out and talk with you. When I have the opportunity, I love to go and share how everything went. The times I make a point of it, are typically when there is something important to say about your loved one should approach the time after anesthesia (in the context of what I saw on their monitors and what medications were used and what to expect in the early recovery phase.)
You are just sitting around, and worrying. This stress might want you to 'have a treat'. This time, I ate the healthiest things in that cafeteria I could find: lunch was sushi in a box and coconut water. Afternoon snack was half a 'designer' pizza with fresh basil on it, and half an apple. Dinner was the rest of the pizza. Late night snack was coffee and the other half of the apple. I stayed away from french fries, chips, pastries, and soda because I wanted to be alert and be kind to my body nutritionally as the stress and inactivity were already taking my balance 'off'. If you can, fresh air and sunlight are good too.
Let your presence be your present:
ICU patients can't take flowers into their room. Most hospital rooms have limited counter space, even if they can have flowers. During my hospital stay in June, I had two small arrangements. It was enough to show me cheer. Stuffed animals, vases and knick knacks become reminders of the illness in time. My mother detests all the vases that pile up at home when she has been in the hospital. Take the time to comfort, to listen, to hold a hand. And keep it short! Try to keep your hospital visits about five minutes length of time. Patients get exhausted, and many are incorporating 'cuddle time' (visitor free hours in the afternoon for parents to bond with newborns, etc.) to promote health. So call ahead, learn the rules of the place, and tap into your networking while you are in the waiting area. Give all of your family and loved ones a big 'heads up' about how your loved one fared; moreover, let them know what is reasonable to expect if they decide to come for a visit. (you can 'screen' your guests by letting your nurse know who is welcome and who isn't, too. If there is a family member who drains you or gives conflict, the nurses will be happy to tell them 'no visitors' and take the blame off of you.)
Take the opportunity to connect to Source:
Just like your electronic devices need to hook up to power in order to run, you have your Spiritual Light that is fuel for you. How often do you just sit? And wait? This is a special time to strengthen your aura, be it through Reiki, other energy healing techniques, biofeedback, prayer, or silence. (I also got cold--so like the airport, dress in layers, and perhaps bring a small blanket with you).
After you speak with the surgeon, know that your loved one has the recovery room--about an hour before discharge if an outpatient, a little less if they are going up to the floor. Only parents of very small children are allowed into the recovery room (PACU--post-anesthesia care unit). And know that when you do see your loved one, they are going to be goofy from the anesthesia and not at their best!