Sunday, July 31, 2011

Preparing to See the Cardiologist

For those of you who do not know, Gess was born with a congenital heart defect and at 2 1/2 months of age she had open heart surgery to repair her AV canal. She also has a mild mitral valve leak. She has done really well since the surgery and has had no special directives for quite some time now. We only have to see the cardiologist every few years and this was one of those years.

When you go to the cardiologist they do an EKG and an echo-cardiogram. The last time she had those done (which was a few years ago) she was frightened by them and I think we may have even given on up on the echo because she simply would not lay on the table. Having dealt with some other issues at the hospital this last year I figured I would work with her and try to address her fears ahead of time, so we practiced these procedures at home.

During an EKG they place electrodes to your skin and then they use a clip with wires to attach those to a machine which traces your heart activity on to paper. It is a painless procedure, but imagine how scary those wires and clips can look to a child! To practice an EKG at home, all we did was get some tape and attached it to her in various places around her chest and on her sides. (For practice we did this over her clothes which also kept her from feeling any discomfort when the tape came off which could have been counterproductive. ) Once the tape was in place I clipped clothes pins on them. I said, "see, that doesn't hurt at all, does it?" I then explained how the clips would be attached to wires that would then draw pictures of what her heart was doing. We really emphasized how fun and cool it would be.

To prepare for the echo-cardiogram I just grabbed what was handy, which was a brush, and had her lie down on the couch. I turned the lights down and reminded her that the room would be somewhat dark. I then rubbed her chest with the handle of the brush. I told her there would also be a cold gel they would rub on her. I then talked about how amazing it would be to see her heart on the little television screen. A friend of mine said she used a toy microphone and some lotion to prepare her son for the visit. With Gess being a girl and getting older, we opted to do it over her clothes so we did not use any lotion. She still seemed to get the idea.

So, how did it go? Once we got there she was very eager to lay down and prove how brave she was during the EKG. She seemed a bit tense, but once it started she relaxed and did fine. She resisted the echo a bit more. At first she still did not want to lay on the table, but when I talked to her and reminded her of how we practiced, she got up there and did great.

Going to the doctor can be scary for any child. When you see a specialist it can be even more stressful. If you know what your child is going to face going in, it is certainly a good idea to let the child in on it too. It will save a lot of hassle when you get there.

Not only was Gess not very scared, she got a great report too. There have been no changes (which is good) so we don't have to go back for 2 more years! All in all, I think Gess actually liked the visit!

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