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Friday, January 18, 2008

A not entirely benign procedure (and getting your kid through it)

The title of this book is taken from a novel by Perri Klass about the trials of med school). I think it aptly describes just about everything we do in medicine, from giving Tylenol and doing a throat swab to open heart surgery and chemotherapy. Everything has risks and benefits and hopefully the reason for the test will help elucidate what is really going on. What's a parent to do when faced with a medical test, from simple ones like checking ears to more painful things , like shots, stitches and surgery. What about outpatient procedures. Here are my tips on how to get your kid (and yourself through it).

-See the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, the test will be over and hopefully you will get some answers.

-Check your pulse first (a line from another medical novel, House of God). Make sure that you maintain a sense of calm. If you can't, fake it. Kids are like dogs (or Kujo, as the case may be). They can smell fear. You staying calm can get your kid through a lot.

-Be informed. Know how many tests will be performed and what it will entail. That will help you and your child anticipate what may happen. If you don't know, ask!

-Ask for backup. Whether it be a spouse, parent, friend, whatever. Many children's hospitals have a Child Life department whose main purpose is to provide distraction and behavioral techniques to help a child get through a procedure. Call ahead of time to see if they can be available.

-Be nice: You can catch a lot more flies with honey that with vinegar. Never say, "it's okay to hit/pinch/bite/kick/curse at" the doctor or nurse. I just may smack you upside the head for being a stupid parent. If you are nice to me, I just may get you a Popsicle and a sticker, so behave.

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