Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Hidden Trauma of Surgery

It's been 3 weeks since Bup's brain surgery.

Three weeks!!!

Those stressful days seem like a lifetime ago...already. I am so glad they are behind us...behind R...becoming a memory. However, that is the problem. The memories.

Bup has rarely slept through the night since coming home from the hospital and often ends up in our bed as a very sad, very loud, very scared little heartbroken mess. We have tried asking what's wrong....did you have a bad dream....what was it about and in the middle of the from-his-toes-sobbing he cannot tell us the root....other than "I'm sad!"
These episodes started upon our return home. Is this hospital related? How much does one hear and remember when they are under anesthetic?
I don't know.
How much does a child of 4yrs absorb, in their own little way, when doctors, nurses and parents are talking over him, around him and about him?
More than I know.

It became crystal clear this afternoon while my cuddly little fellow and I were napping together. I woke up to hear Bup saying in a frightened but firm voice, " Tell the doctors please don't touch me. Tell them. Please don't touch me." Then he snuggled a bit closer and remained asleep.

Hospital "sleep overs", surgery, examinations, MRIs, CT scans, Cardiology appts, lab visits....it all adds up, doesn't it? How do we minimize the emotional impact this Temporal Lobe Resection has had on R? He appears to be doing so well! Happy go lucky, ready to roll 4yr old. Until sleep sets in and then it's terrifying for him. Heartbreaking for us. We have been so focused on the recovery and rejoicing in having our regular Bup about, that it is easy to stash the trauma away. It keeps rearing it's ugly head though.

May tonight bring a sleep of sweet dreams, dreams that every little one should have, dreams of sunshine and playgrounds and parents and playing light sabers with "my boy W"....not fear of Doctors.


  1. hmmm...maybe there would be some way he could express his fears when he's not sleeping? Drawing or coloring?
    I've used EFT on my kids a bit and it has helped.

  2. Trevy went through a very deep depression period post surgery. Now, I know Trevy's surgery was much more radical. He went in one boy...came out another. And because he was non-verbal I had to rely totally on mommy-instinct. My instinct told (tells) me that he was in a depression. Literally, for two months after we got home the only thing he wanted to do was snuggle or sit in the recliner. He didn't do ANYTHING. His face was sad and haunted. It didn't seem to interfere with his sleep. Actually...Trevy never slept through the night until AFTER surgery! But it definitely affected every other area of his life. We just tried to love him and encourage him as much as we could. Slowly...VERY slowly...the sparkle came back. He became comfortable with who he was now. And began to feel safe with his family again. But it took a solid SIX months before we even saw movement in that direction. And really...just now...a year and half later am I seeing glimpses of the Trevy I knew before surgery.

    I know Bup's journey is going to be different. But I thought hearing what we lived through might do your heart good. I think going through a "depression" or "post traumatic stress" time after such a scary journey...is healthy and normal. If I had an MD behind my name I would encourage you to treat him with lots of cuddles and talking about it on a level he understands. We even tell Trevy now that he has to take meds because he has seizures...that he can't ride things that go in circles because he has seizures and we need to protect his body... Be transparent and loving...like you already ARE!



  3. Missus Mittens....we'll have to talk about that more. Maybe there is some sort of play therapy for Bup...hmmm...
    Danielle....thanks for that. Bup is certainly a homebody and wants to be snuggled and just home. If we are out anywhere, he asks to go home.
    It's just heartbreaking to know about the deeprooted fear and not be able to ease it.
    We do tell him his meds are so he doesn't have seizures or "wiggly hands" and we talked about the reason for the surgery immediately afterwards...but haven't lately. Maybe it's time to bring it up again....
    We are constantly reminding him to "choose safe", wear his helmet as I will now let him on a bike as he is fairly cautious there, but the slide? Good lord! I need to velcro him to the ground!
    I can't even begin to imagine what goes through their little minds in regards to all the treatment and surgery and such. It's scary for us mommas...how they must feel!
    Anyway....I'm singing to the choir here. But thank you so so much for sharing Trevy's experience and your insight. It really does help.
    Many hugs to you both.