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New experiences bring a certain amount of fear and uncertainty. When a child has heart disease, many new and different things occur: office visits, examinations, diagnostic testing and hospitalizations. Each of us, whether child or adult, is able to cope better when we are told what a new experience will be like, how we can handle it and who can help. It is important to prepare both yourself and your child for what may happen. Preparation for new experiences is different for parents and children.
For parents, preparation begins with the cardiologist who makes the diagnosis and outlines the treatment plan. Other professionals in the office such as nurses and social workers can give you additional information and support.
If your child is scheduled for heart catheterization or surgery, you will be given the opportunity to come to the hospital for a tour. During the tour, you will learn what will happen in the hospital and have a chance to ask questions and meet other parents. It is an important source of information and support. Preparation will influence how both you and your child feel and act when he comes to the hospital. If you feel informed and comfortable, your child will feel more secure.
Parents are the most important people in helping prepare children for a new experience. When your child has to come to the hospital, it is important to help him begin to understand what will happen and why. Encourage him to ask questions. When you are preparing your child for the hospital, be guided by his age and the types of questions he asks.
Infants and young children are most upset when they must be separated from their home and parents. They do not trust strangers. Very young children are not able to understand why unpleasant things are happening. Shots are especially difficult for them. In helping children of this age with trips to the hospital, special attention should be given to making arrangements for parents to stay with them, maintaining usual schedules, bringing favorite toys, etc. These efforts will give your child feelings of security and safety by making the hospital more familiar.
While school-age children have a better understanding of why they must come to the hospital, they still feel sad and worried. In addition, they are very involved in school, routines and friendships. School-age children are often upset by changes that may happen because of hospitalization. They fear they will be different than their peers and excluded from the gang and its activities. They hate shots and carry this concern home as an important memory. Hospital preparation for the school-age child is best when he has the opportunity to actively explore the new hospital environment and plan for admission.
While having feelings similar to those of school-age children, adolescents have additional concerns. They worry about body scars from procedures, the impact of heart disease on their future and dying. Adolescents who have had many treatments may need special help in preparing to come to the hospital. In talking with your adolescent, encourage expression of his thoughts and concerns. Sharing your feelings about upcoming hospital experiences may help begin this conversation and show it is all right to talk about feelings.
Sometimes it is difficult for parents to talk with their children about issues they feel are sad and frightening, like coming to the hospital. However, health care professionals know children who have been properly prepared for hospitalization adjust much easier to the experience. Because hospital admissions usually occur on the day of the procedure, preparation must begin in the home.
We want to help you prepare your child for hospitalization. These are ways we offer assistance:
While personalities differ, there are basic guidelines to refer to when you and others talk with your child about coming to the hospital. These are listed in the following tables. The tables are organized according to the age of the child: young children, school-age children and adolescents. Across the top, columns identify important people-parents, medical staff and others-who may be talking with your child. Under each column, there is a description of what, how, when and where it might be best to talk about treatment and/or hospital experiences.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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