what to pack when your child has spinal surgery


Scoliosis Surgery

Great title, right?

But it’s what I searched over and over as we prepared for the girl’s surgery and never could find great info on. Again, as I mentioned in my post about how to pack yourself for a stay with your child in the hospital, some helpful information down deep in message boards but nowhere in one coherent place.

Here’s my list:

  • Two extra firm pillows, one king size and one standard, with bright pillow cases (so you don’t leave them there when you finally get to go home). There’s a lot of adjusting and trying to get comfortable after surgery and those little pillows they give you at the hospital can be a pain to deal with, though they are perfect for putting between your child’s knees. Our RN’s loved us for not having to stuff a dozen pillows every time they adjusted her, which was sometimes every half hour.
  • A stuffed animal or small pillow for hugging. While the girl was in surgery, the pastor found a darling stuffed frog for her. By the time we left the hospital eight days later, that poor thing looked like it had been to war. She held onto it when she was being moved and it hurt. It helped keep her hands in position while she was sleeping and it helped keep the IV from bothering her so much. Humphrey the frog seemed to develop its own personality over the times we were there and everyone from this exhausted mama to respiratory therapists and RN’s treated him like part of the family.
  • A light blanket. Hospital blankets suck. Big time. The blanket we brought from home ended up feeling really, really heavy after surgery, but we had a goodie bag that had a lap sized flannel blanket that came from the child life specialists that was perfect. It also looked like it was decades old by the end of our stay.
  • Sugar free gum. Spinal surgery is notoriously bad for shutting down the digestive system, and the first thing the girl was given was sugar-free gum to start waking up her tummy. And as things can sometimes get chaotic in the ICU, it took us a while to find some.
  • Larger PJ’s or clothes and undies. When the girl finally got to take a shower and get dressed (7 days after surgery), we all wanted to throw a party. Seriously. We found larger clothes to be a bit more comfortable and work better with dressings, IV’s and the such. The girl also liked having her robe there if someone came to visit or she was taking one of her physical therapy walks.
  • Slippers with good soles. They’ll give you those awesome no slip socks at the hospital. They don’t slip against the floor, but they sure did slip off of the girl’s feet every chance they got. We did better with a few pairs of really soft socks if her feet were cold and a pair of slippers for walking in.
  • Lotion. All that time in bed seems to just leach the moisture right out of your body. We also ended up giving her a lot of hip and shoulder massages for pain and the lotion came in handy there, too.
  • Dry shampoo. After four days of sponge baths and laying in a bed, her hair was crazy. A little dry shampoo and brushing every day got her through until we could finally wash it on day seven (and then I was worried we’d have to resort to Dawn dish soap to get all of that oil out!). We french braided her hair in two braids before surgery and that seemed to be the best way to wear it until we were able to wash it more regularly.
  • Their smart phone. It was incredibly helpful for her spirits to get texts and video messages from friends. She was also able to play games and keep herself occupied for a few minutes. She wasn’t too excited about many other activities, though she did enjoy having me read a book out loud to her. Reading on her own is something she’s just getting back to, seven weeks after her first surgery and three after her second – it’s just been difficult to focus with the pain meds on board.

Anything else you’d add if you’ve been through a similar surgery?

Next week, one more post: things I’d wish I had known before surgery.