Rigid External Distraction survival
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Basic Tips
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  • Wake up.  You really don't have a choice on this one, but it's the first step to a successful recovery, so you can claim a victory when you first open your swollen little eyes.  It's no shock to hear that waking up won't be fun.  You will have a ventilator (breathing tube) and a big metal thing attached to your head and you'll probably just feel awful.  But remember, you've done the whole surgery thing before, you can do it again.  Just try to relax.  I know, you want to slap the next person who tells you to relax since it's a million times easier said than done, but you and I both know it's the only way to get through it. 

  • Play charades.  Since a ventilator makes it impossible to talk, make sure you're parents and nurses know what you need.  A lot of things can be communicated non-verbally.  For the most part, you'll probably be nodding yes and no in answer to their questions, but if there's something you need, signal for a pen and paper so you can write it down for them.  Don't give up!  I know it's the most frustrating thing ever when you're in pain and no one knows what you want, but keep trying!  More pain meds, more pillows, the TV on, the TV off, whatever it is, you have a right to it! 

  • Have a bucket ready.  I don't know about you, but I throw up every time after every surgery because of all the anesthetics.  No matter how prepared we are, I always throw up all over myself because no one can ever get a bucket to me fast enough... but still, it's good to at least feel prepared.

  • Be honest and demanding about pain.  If you need another shot of morphine, just ask!  Even if they can't give you enough to completely get rid of the pain, it doesn't hurt to ask.  They'll try to help you as much as possible, so just be honest if you need anything. 

  • Distract yourself.  For most of the first few days, you'll probably be sleeping.  But as soon as you feel up to it, start watching movies.  Remember how I told you to load up on cheap pre-viewed DVDs?  Now's the time to bring them out.  Most pediatric intensive care units have a playroom stocked with videos and VCRs you can bring back to your hospital room.  Send your parents on a reconnaissance mission to see what your hospital has.  Most playrooms also have books, magazines, and baby toys.  Obviously, none of these things will take away your pain and discomfort, but it has the potential to keep your mind busy for a little while and maybe even get you to crack a smile

  • Set ground rules for visitors.  No matter how much your Aunt Mildred and her rambunctious children may want to see you, you do not have to let them visit.  Make it clear to your parents if you want or don't want visitors and they can be your spokespeople.  These first couple days in the hospital are tough and not the best times for socializing.  Don't be afraid to turn visitors away if you need your rest.  People generally understand that hospital visits should be short and sweet, but in the instance that someone never got that memo, don't feel like it's rude to say you need privacy.  On the flip side, if you want company to come distract you, don't be afraid to ask!  Your friends and family are probably worried about you and would love to help out in any way they can.

  • Make sure all allergies and special considerations are clearly labeled everywhere.  My mom always gets sign-happy and puts signs about my latex allergy all over the room to make sure none of the nurses accidentally forget.

  • Don't undo your braids until you're allowed to wash your hair.  During surgery, they will put disinfectant betadyne in your hair, which will make your hair very crunchy.  It's best if you keep the betadyne contained in your braids, as gross as they might feel.  Otherwise, it can get messy.  You can usually wash your hair (VERY carefully) after a week.

  • Eat something as soon as you feel up to it.  Don't push it; it might take a few days to even think about ingesting something, but the sooner you can get something down, the sooner you can switch to oral medications instead of I.V. injections, which tend to have less side-effects.  Since you can't chew, your menu options are limited to the pureed hospital entrees, mashed potatoes, and soup broths.  Yum!

  • Don't look in the mirror!  You guys are usually very good-looking people, but after such a major surgery, you might not be looking your hottest, so do yourself a favor and just avoid mirrors.  You already feel gross; so seeing your face in different shades of purple won't help.  Wait a while before checking yourself out again.

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