Addressing Children's Needs
Transplantation in children differs from adult transplantation. Not only are children smaller than adults, but they also have special emotional and medical needs. So that children can reach their full potential, their care must be focused on the fact that they are constantly growing and developing. That is why it is important that professionals who are trained in pediatric care perform pediatric transplantation.
In addition, because children differ in age and maturity levels, the approach at discussing transplantation should vary. The following age-specific guidelines may be helpful:
It is very difficult to prepare an infant for a medical procedure. Older toddlers, however, may understand simple explanations. Regardless of age, the importance of creating a familiar and comfortable atmosphere in the hospital is crucial. While away from home, infants and toddlers will benefit from having family members with them as much as possible. Having familiar toys, videos or a favorite blanket can also help the child feel more at home.
Preschool children can benefit from pre-hospitalization teaching. When explaining medical procedures to preschoolers, it is important to use reassuring vocabulary and simple explanations. In addition, because children are very aware of their parent's feelings, it is important to stay positive. For more ideas, view our brochure, Organ Transplants: What Every Kid Needs to Know now >
Play therapists, nurses and other members of your transplant team can also assist in helping your child understand certain topics and cope with the varying stress related to illness and transplantation. For more information, see Coping With Anxiety >
It may be useful to keep a diary that records your child's tests and operations to show them when they are older.
School-age children can benefit from pre-hospitalization teaching. In addition, because young children sometimes think an illness is punishment for something they have done, it is important to let young children know that the illness is not their fault.
When preparing your child for their medical procedure, it is important that you always answer their questions simply and truthfully, and unless they ask, not overload them with too many details.
- Encourage your child and their siblings to ask questions about anything that is worrying them.
- Take tours of the clinic, hospital room and ICU
- Allow your child to meet and speak to personnel from these areas can help to alleviate fears of the unknown
- Inform your child about the types of tubes that will be used, what the incision will look like, what the typical hospital stay is like and what types of medication they will take after transplantation
Dealing with an illness, in addition to helping your child handle stress associated with the transition from childhood to adulthood, can be very difficult. That's why supportive communication and careful preparation with this age group is especially important.
- Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings. Listen when your child is talking and acknowledge his or her feelings as being real.
- Don't be afraid to ask your doctors and nurses to simplify complicated medical jargon and draw pictures if necessary.
- Prepare your child for the reactions of others. Parents can help their children by suggesting various simple and concise explanations.
- Additional help, like a therapist or psychologist, can often engage your child in conversation that they may not share with you.
- Encourage your child to tell their friends about the upcoming surgery so they can be a source of support.
- During the hospitalization, encourage friends, classmates and family members to visit or write to maintain communication.
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is committed to providing accurate and reliable information for transplant patients. The content on this page was originally created on September 15, 2004 by UNOS and last modified on October 18, 2004.
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