I wanted to do a quick recovery room post. While taking care of a patient this week, I was reminded again, that for many families, my interaction with them might be during their first experience being in a recovery room. For the patient, it might be their first-time having anesthesia. For the parents, families, this might be the first time watching their child emerge from anesthesia.
Parents should know that there is no “normal” way to wake up from anesthesia. The goal is to have patients wake up with as little pain, nausea, delirium, and discomfort as possible. The problem is waking up from anesthesia can be hard, physically, emotionally and mentally.
The other night I had a distraught father ask me if how his child was acting was “normal”. His son hadn’t even opened his eyes, but he was kicking his legs, crying on and off and generally acting “crazy” per his father. I explained that there was no “normal”. I told him that what his son was doing was not out of the ordinary. I explained waking up “crazy” can be his son’s normal.
Every child emerges from anesthesia differently. I’ve seen a child wake up after 10 minutes, open their eyes and ask me if their surgery was over. I have taken care of a child that woke up after 20 minutes, crying, screaming and kicking their parent. Every reaction is individual.
How children react to waking up from anesthesia is dependent on so many factors –
- Type of surgery
- Length of surgery
- Type of anesthesia used
- Age of the child
- Developmental stage of the child
- Anxiety of the parent
This last one, anxiety of the parent, might surprise some people but it can be a factor. I’ve seen a child wake up somewhat calm and quite and once they saw their parent who was outwardly very anxious, the child’s demeanor changed. They too became very anxious and started acting out.
The best advise I can give to a parent who will be watching and helping their child emerge from anesthesia, is to try to stay calm. Remember that however their child is waking up, they will wake up, they will get back to acting like “their normal” child, it may just take some time.
My job is to try to help both a child and their parent, get through their time in the recovery room in the most comfortable possible. Whether it be through the use of medications, position change, distractions or just explaining what is happening, know that everyone gets discharged from the recovery room, it just might take a little bit longer for some.
And – as always, if you know someone who is having surgery or is looking for resources to prepare for medical encounters, please share “Surgery Day” and send them our way.