Preparing Kids for Spine Surgery

Last year, my son had spine surgery and had titanium rods placed to support his spine because of severe scoliosis (side-to-side curve in the spine) and kyphosis (forward curve in the upper back). In addition to the basic preparations for surgery and a hospital stay, I considered how to explain the surgery to him. At six years old, he understood a bit about how the body works, and he’d had surgeries in the past, so I wanted him to understand why he was having surgery and what would happen to his body.

Once we knew surgery was the route we would need to take, I started talking to my son periodically about how surgery would help his body work better. When I felt like he understood that part, I talked to my son’s surgical coordinator who handles spine surgery.  She gave me some advice about how to explain it to him, but there were no visual aids to help me show him what would happen.

My next step was to search the internet for images I could show my son. I’ll caution you that there were some really graphic spine surgery images that I can’t unsee. I finally found a couple of images of curved spines and titanium rods that were kid-appropriate, but none of it was made specifically to help children understand spine surgery.  That’s when the idea of The Spine Surgery Book for Kids came about.

I wanted to explain, in simple terms, what spine surgery does and what the process of preparing for surgery and recovering from surgery looks like. The purpose of the book is to prompt discussion and help kids participate in conversations about their healthcare. I encourage parents and families to help children formulate their questions about surgery and work through their fears and concerns, with the help of their medical team.

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Charisse Montgomery is the author of the Super Safe Kids series of books and safety tools. These tools engage children, parents, and their families in improving safety and advocacy in the hospital, the community and the home. A former educator, Charisse Montgomery has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English, along with a master's degree in Educational Psychology, with research focused on informing and empowering parents of medically fragile children. She completed a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy and serves on the Board at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.