As if parents of a premature baby don’t have enough to worry about, sometimes their baby needs surgery. Some babies require surgery to repair a heart defect, or NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis – a serious problem with the intestines) or other bowel condition. Some require the surgical insertion of a central venous line to receive special nutrition or antibiotics. Others may need a shunt placed to drain excess fluid from the brain, or hernia repair, or surgery to prevent reflux…
Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies can be a valuable tool for parents. When discussing possible surgery for a baby, the authors offer four important points for parents to consider:
1 – Do you know why your baby needs surgery, what the benefits and risks of the procedure are, how urgent it is, and what’s involved in her recovery? In other words, do you know enough to give “informed” consent for the operation?
2 – Do most doctors agree on the best treatment for your baby? If there are alternatives to surgery, do you know their risks and benefits, and what would happen to your baby if surgery weren’t done?
3 – Were you and your partner given enough time to reflect, have family discussions, and reach a considered decision about your baby’s surgery? Are your values and feelings being taken into consideration by your baby’s doctors? Has the medical staff been supportive?
4 – Do the doctors and nurses know how to reach you shortly before, during and after the surgery?
The main focus here is to gather as much information as you can. Write down your questions whenever they pop up so you won’t forget any of them, and then review them with your baby’s doctors. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so never be shy about asking a question or speaking up if you don’t understand. This is true at any time, while in the hospital and throughout your child’s life. Communicate – information will help you make the best decisions.