It doesn’t hurt to be operated upon because one goes to sleep and feels no pain while the surgeon is doing what he has to do. No matter what the operation, whether it is the removal of tonsils or the appendix, or the fixing of a hernia, pain is never felt. Oh, there may be a little pain when a patient awakens from the operation, but most of that pain, too, can be gotten rid of by giving special pain-relieving medicines.
The word anesthesia means absence of feeling. There are lots of ways to see to it that the patient feels nothing during an operation. Some of them are:
1. Giving special medicines an hour or so before the operation while the patient is still in his hospital bed.
2. Giving an injection of a medicine that makes the patient go to sleep on the operating table in the operating room.
3. Giving the patient an anesthetic gas to breathe.
There are several different gases that can put a person completely to sleep, unable to feel pain. Here are the names of some of them: fluothane; cyclopropane; nitrous oxide; ether; ethyl chloride.
These gases are breathed in through a special anesthesia mask that is attached by a rubber tube to an anesthesia machine that contains tanks of the gases. And, as we have mentioned before, the gases are given only after the patient has been placed in a nice, relaxed state by medicine received even before being brought to the operating room. The doctor who specializes in anesthesia will choose the gas he or she thinks best for the particular patient and the particular operation the surgeon is going to perform.
Before the operation the surgeon or anesthesiologist visits a young patient, makes friends with her, and explains how anesthesia will be administered to her.
Here is what usually happens when a child goes, with his or her mother or father, of course, to the hospital for an operation:
1. The day before the operation the anesthesiologist (the doctor who specializes in anesthesia) visits the child in the hospital room and explains everything that is going to happen about anesthesia.
2. Anesthesiologists often show the patient the anesthesia mask that will be used in giving the anesthetic the next day. A child might want to practice breathing through it, even though it is not attached to an anesthesia machine.
3. An enema may be given the night before the operation so the stomach and intestines will be empty. That often does away with any uncomfortable feeling in the belly after the operation is over.
4. No food or drink is given to the patient after the evening meal in the hospital the night before the operation. This will keep the stomach nice and empty so one won’t feel sick to the stomach after the operation is over.
5. A sleeping pill, or even an injection, may be given the night before, just to make sure the patient has a good sleep and isn’t restless the next morning before going to the operating room.
6. A special medicine is injected an hour or so before going to the operating room in the morning. This makes certain the patient feels relaxed and comfortable when given the anesthetic gas to breathe.
7. The morning of the operation, the patient is given a special shirt to wear to the Operating room. After the operation, the patient will put on his or her own pajamas or nightgown again.
8. To travel to the operating room, a patient is put on a special stretcher. A child says goodbye to mother and father, but will see them again soon after waking up after the operation.
9. The operating room is usually on a different floor—called the surgical floor—in the hospital from the patient’s room. This may mean a ride, while on the stretcher, in an elevator.
10. Upon reaching the surgical floor, the patient will again greet the anesthesiologist. Together, they will go into the operating room, and the child will move off the stretcher to the operating table.
11. The patient lies back on the operating table and, looking up, can see a huge light. This operating light is very special because it throws a very strong beam without any shadows. This permits the surgeon and aides to see perfectly what they are doing. Many children like to ask to see the light turned on before they go to sleep.
12. The surgeon who is going to do the operation comes in and greets the patient.
13. The patient will notice that there are quite a few people who were not around before, hustling and bustling about the operating room. These are:
a.) The instrument nurse who is handling a bunch of surgical instruments. She will assist at the operation.
b.) The circulating nurse. She’s the one who comes in and out of the operating room to bring the instrument nurse various things she needs.
c.) An orderly. He is a man who helps to keep the operating room neat and clean in between operations. He may be the same man who brought the patient from his room to the operating room, and he may be the one who lifts the patient onto the operating table before the operation and lifts him off after the operation.
d.) There may be one or two doctors other than the patient’s surgeon in the operating room. They are there to assist the surgeon perform the operation.
14. Everyone in the operating room wears a cap, a face mask covering the nose and mouth, and a special gown that is put on backwards. The cap, mask, and gown are worn in order to keep everything as free as possible from germs. Of course, everybody knows that things should be germ-free (sterile) in an operating room. This will keep germs away from the surgical wound so that it will heal quickly, without infection.
15. The surgeon and surgical assistants, at about this time, leave the operating room and go to scrub sinks. These are specially designed sinks where the surgeons scrub their hands and arms with special brushes or sponges. They scrub and scrub for about ten minutes without stopping. This gets the germs off their hands and arms so they can’t get into the surgical incision.
16. While the surgeons are scrubbing, and before they have put on their operating gowns and rubber gloves, the anesthesiologist starts putting the patient to sleep. First, he or she gives an injection into the hand or arm and attaches the needle to a plastic bag containing fluid. This fluid has sugar in it so the patient will receive nourishment even while the operation is going on.. Then the anesthesiologist takes the anesthesia mask and gently places it over the patient’s nose and mouth. The patient takes a few deep breaths and—almost quick as a wink—falls asleep. And, of course, the patient stays asleep until the operation is finished.
17. A patient waking up from an operation may feel some pain in the wound area, but is still so groggy from the anesthesia that the pain won’t be remembered. Most patients doze off and on for an hour or two after the operation has been completed. This is O.K. Everybody will let them sleep. A patient may also feel thirsty, but it is usually a good idea not to drink anything for an hour or two after surgery. Drinking might make the patient sick to the stomach.
18. From the operating room, patients are brought to the recovery room, which is near the operating room. There are special recovery-room nurses who know all the ways to make someone who has just undergone surgery feel comfortable. If pain is severe, they will give medicines to relieve it. If the patient is sweaty, the nurses will sponge him or her off. Finally, when the patient has fully awakened, another ride on a stretcher brings a return to his or her own hospital room. A child, of course, will be greeted there by one or both parents.
There may be a few uncomfortable hours even after a child is back in the hospital room after an operation. But most children sleep a lot and don’t complain too much. Do you know why? Well, it’s because they are so happy the operation is over. Most patients get out of bed the morning after an operation.
Some can go home the day following surgery; others must wait longer, until the wound has healed. When the wound has healed, maybe six or seven days later, the surgeon will remove the stitches. However, in certain types of cases it is possible to put in stitches that absorb by themselves and don’t have to be removed. But if these kinds have not been used, a patient should know that there isn’t much pain to removing stitches. There might be a slight pinching feeling as the stitches are removed, but certainly, no more pain than a little mosquito bite.
When children come home after an operation, they begin to realize what a wonderful experience they have had. Just think of it, having your tonsils or appendix removed, and all you remember is going to the operating room on a stretcher and seeing the big light overhead on the operating table! We’ll bet you don’t even remember the anesthesiologist putting the mask on your face, do you? That’s pretty trrific, isn’t it? No wonder so many youngsters just can’t wait to tell their friends about their operation!
After it’s all over, children enjoy showing off their surgical scars. They get attention and have an opportunity to display their bravery to others.