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Preparation Provides Calm Before Orthopedic Surgery

“I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and the more I understand the more I’ll be able to help my grandson,” Audrey Smith says after attending a Saturday session aimed at helping families prepare for upcoming orthopedic surgeries.

“My 7-year-old grandson Elijah is fearful and apprehensive,” Smith adds.  “He has cerebral palsy and is getting ready for some important surgeries. I want to learn as much as I can so I can truthfully answer his questions.”7-year old Elijah Smith has cerebral palsy

Physical therapist Jackie Norling says families tell her they learn a lot in the two-hour “How You Can Prepare for your Child’s Upcoming Orthopedic Surgery” session.  “Following surgery, you can almost tell which families have come to the sessions and which ones haven’t,” Norling says.  “The families who have come are calmer and are more ‘hands on’ earlier in their child’s recovery process.  These parents are less anxious and this helps the child feel more comfortable.” 

Norling and her physical therapist partner, Katie Engel, say parents are usually very concerned about how to transfer their child in and out of a bed and a car.  They show short videos to let parents see how to safely transfer their child.  Norling and Engel also bring “props” to the session so parents get to touch and see transfer boards, reclining wheelchairs and other equipment that might help their child be more comfortable during the recovery process.

“The parents get to see the equipment at the session so they can go home and get it ordered and ready for their child to use after the surgery,” Engel says.  “They can get a plan for home and school figured out before the surgery and this helps the overall level of anxiety decrease for all family members.” 

The class also includes strategies to help with pain management, examples of what a child’s cast may look like, tips on dressing and bathing a child in a cast, and a tour of the hospital.  Experts from Gillette’s nursing, child life and social work departments also attend the session as part of an interdisciplinary approach to preparing for surgery.

Elijah’s mother, Marissa Smith, says she learned a lot from the session. “We want to make sure that we move him right and get his pain under control as he goes home.” 7-year old Elijah Smith has cerebral palsy and is preparing for upcoming surgeries at Gillette

Marissa Smith is familiar with helping her son make a good recovery. “He had a selective dorsal rhizotomy at Gillette a few years ago.  He was here for about two months.  During our stay the staff was very attentive to his needs and ours.  They had lots of things for him to do in the hospital because he had a long stay.  They made it comfortable and feel like home when we were here,” Smith says.

Elijah’s grandmother agrees. “During Elijah’s last stay the amenities were wonderful.  The last time I took advantage of the free chair massage.  It helped me relax and I could devote more energy to my grandson.”

Audrey Smith encourages families to come to the session. “The more information they have the better prepared they will be.” 

The next “How You Can Prepare for your Child’s Upcoming Orthopedic Surgery” session is Saturday March 5th from 1 to 3pm.  Please RSVP at least one week before the class you wish to attend via email or phone: or 651-312-3198.