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Sometimes Even Batman Needs Hernia Surgery

My 3-year-old son, Charlie, had surgery this week.

It wasn’t the worst, most dangerous surgery a kid could have, but it was still *my* kid getting cut open, y’know?

There are kids who have been diagnosed with cancer, having open heart surgery, getting organ transplants and fighting for every breath they take. My reality is not that, but it might as well have been.

To parents, a knee scrape is a broken leg. A cough is pneumonia. A child’s cry is unbearable.

Charlie had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. It is an operation that is so routine, they slot children in the OR throughout the day and the surgeon completes them one after another.

Still, it’s surgery. You can tell me how it’s “routine” and “easy” all you want, but I can’t get the image of my son hooked up to tubes, and machines lying on a table totally limp. He might as well have been in for something drastically serious, because it looks and feels the same.

When your kid needs to be fixed, you feel like you did something wrong. The piece of you that went into them was a bad piece and you feel responsible.

Here’s what a day in the OR feels like for a parent:


  • Our Day In Children’s Hospital 1 of 32
    Our Day In Children's Hospital
    Children's Hospitals are great positive places where people do great work. They are also terrifying for parents. Here's a look at our day in hospital for our son's hernia surgery.
  • 8:45a 2 of 32
    8:45a
    Alberta Children's Hospital was designed with help from the kids. They made the windows look like they were huge Lego bricks, because kids always draw buildings with huge windows. It makes a very large facility less intimidating when driving in.
  • 9:00a 3 of 32
    9:00a
    Momma is very nervous as she walks up to admitting.
  • 9:05a 4 of 32
    9:05a
    Taking the elevator up to our ward, Batman is bringing smiles to everyone's faces and Charlie feels like a superhero that can conquer anything.
  • 9:13a 5 of 32
    9:13a
    A successful visit with the pre-assessment nurse sees Charlie rewarded with his choice of stickers.
  • 9:15a 6 of 32
    9:15a
    Anywhere kids would spend any amount of time waiting at Children's Hospital, there are toys. Here is Batman getting his Thomas on.
  • 9:30a 7 of 32
    9:30a
    After changing out of his Batman costume into his "Doctor outfit" (hospital issued surgery scrubs), Charlie is weighed so they know the proportion of meds he'll need.
  • 9:32a 8 of 32
    9:32a
    Charlie hasn't eaten since last night. He was allowed fluid up until 7am so, despite loving the train table, whines of "I'm hungry" come out ever few minutes.
  • 9:35a 9 of 32
    9:35a
    Name tag time.
  • 9:37a 10 of 32
    9:37a
    Small talk with the nurse. She loves working in the Children's Hospital. She says the kids are resilient and positive and it's a fun happy place. Adults complain and are grumpy. I joke that maybe if we had clowns and train tables in adult hospitals it might be different.
  • 9:45a 11 of 32
    9:45a
    Charlie still hasn't eaten anything but the train table has been amusing him. Time for a Tylenol dose to help with post op pain.
  • 9:50a 12 of 32
    9:50a
    Now that check in is all done, we wait for our slot in OR. Could be 1-2 hrs. Just wait. Thank you Steve Jobs for giving us iPad - The Incredibles help us wait.
  • 9:55a 13 of 32
    9:55a
    Our porter comes to grab us, looks like the surgery slot is open and we are rolled to another waiting room.
  • 10:00a 14 of 32
    10:00a
    More toys
  • 10:10a 15 of 32
    10:10a
    Nurses have brought us a box of tissues as there are tears. I am trying to be light and it seems uncaring but if I get sad we will both be puddles so I'm trying to balance it. We know it's a 'routine', but the feeling of being in a surgical holding room is still filled with the unknown.
  • 10:25a 16 of 32
    10:25a
    The doctors come and give us a rundown of what's going to happen and do a pre-game check to make sure they have the right kid and right surgery. They mark his right leg with an X to identify where his hernia is.
  • 10:45a 17 of 32
    10:45a
    It's time to say goodbye. This is the hardest part for my wife, I will take him in to the OR. It's not any easier for me, but I'm keeping it in.
  • 10:54a 18 of 32
    10:54a
    I took Charlie down the hall to the OR. The room was bright and filled with equipment. "I'm going to space?" he asked. I smiled at him and held his hand as they administered the anesthetic. I looked straight ahead at the lead anesthesiologist. I didn't want to watch him fall limp. I kissed his cheek and then he was out. "We'll take good care of him" was the last thing I heard as I sighed, took a deep breath, and left the room..
    Image via James Emery
  • 11:00a 19 of 32
    11:00a
    The waiting is the hardest part. When you're alone in silence, your mind drifts to the worst case scenario so we go for lunch even though it's early.
  • 11:15a 20 of 32
    11:15a
    Like a big arrival board at the airport, they color code the patients so you can track them. Just like at the airport, things don't move faster the more you look at the board.
  • 11:55a 21 of 32
    11:55a
    Doctors come in and out of the waiting room giving anxious parents the "they did excellent!" updates. And soon enough we get ours too. Along with the update comes a list of post-op instructions, we can't remember any of them we're just thrilled our baby is back from his 'trip to space."
  • 12:15p 22 of 32
    12:15p
    They have those plastic pucks that you get while you wait for your table at restaurants to let you know when your kid is coming back to the ward. Ours went off and we leapt to our feet. He was still very groggy, and pale but to hold his hand was perfect.
  • 12:35p 23 of 32
    12:35p
    He's starting to come around and the first thing he asks for is .. .. his older brother. *sigh*
  • 1:00p 24 of 32
    1:00p
    For most of the next hour, Charlie is in and out of napping while the anesthetic wears off. We give him water and apple juice, and by 2p we're ready to take him home.
  • 2:00p 25 of 32
    2:00p
    Not so fast. The moment we got him vertical, he vomited. All the water and juice came straight back up. We waited 10 more minutes before leaving.
  • 2:30p 26 of 32
    2:30p
    Charlie vomited again in the car on the way home. Thankfully the hospital gave us some trays, and we caught all of it.
  • 4:00p 27 of 32
    4:00p
    2 hours on the couch at home trying to get some fluids into him, but it all kept coming back up.
  • 7:00p 28 of 32
    7:00p
    Eventually we got some apple sauce down, then some toast.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • 10:00p 29 of 32
    10:00p
    When I called the Nurse Help Line at 10p looking for some post op advice (because I couldnt find our instruction sheet which was on the fridge with a magnet), we discovered charlie hadn't peed since 830a. Apparently not peeing for 12 hrs is a terrible thing. They advised us to take him to the ER immediately. With 5 hour waits at all the hospitals, we called Dr Nana (my mom) who suggested his lack of peeing may have been due to the vomiting. So we're trying to pump him full of sips right now to see if we can force a void in the next little bit.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • 3:00a 30 of 32
    3:00a
    Like we were back feeding an infant, we woke at 3am to give him some fluids, Tylenol, and try for a pee. Success. Phew.
  • 10:00a 31 of 32
    10:00a
    The next morning he is wide awake and silly and goofy like nothing ever happened. Kids are resilient, and Charlie is proving all our worrying to have been much ado about nothing.
  • Looking Forward 32 of 32
    Looking Forward
    The instructions call for him to avoid running, jumping, or climbing for the next 2 weeks. Good luck getting a 3 year old to listen to that. Returning to school will be our biggest challenge to get him to dial it down.

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