The spinal fusion is probably your child’s first major operation.  Perhaps you feel somewhat lost as a parent.  My family and I were in the same situation back in the summer of ‘94.  I was only thirteen years old at the time and everything seemed up in the air.  Of course, there is much you need to face on your own and every scenario is different, but I’ve composed a list of important things to consider that may serve useful.  Hopefully, with a few improvisations, you’ll feel a little less alone.


  • Getting a hospital bed is crucial. Your son will require the ability to sit.  A specialized mattress will also prevent pressure sores from developing.

  • Ambulances are preferred, but if not, rent or borrow a van from a friend or family member. The seats must open to become a bed so he can have a comfortable ride home.

  • For the time being, because his spine is curved, have him assessed by an occupational therapist for support pads to be installed on each side of the wheelchair.

  • As an additional precaution, book an appointment with the anesthetist to assess his throat. It’s better to try and prevent intubation troubles beforehand.

  • Following the procedure, your child won’t be able to speak. Make alphabet cards, even with pictures.  Think of his most common needs.

  • Buy fleet enemas and laxatives. Senokot helps significantly, but if something stronger is needed, Dulcolax is the answer, both the pill (overnight) and suppository (within maybe thirty minutes to an hour).

  • You will need a great deal of energy. Remember to prepare food ahead of time.  When things become hectic, you might miss the cafeteria times.  Make hearty items like a beef stew, anything that will keep you sustained.  Your floor should have a kitchen with a refrigerator.  Always label your Tupperware!

  • Bring his most comfortable pillow. The ones at the hospital might not feel so great, especially for an extended period of time.


  • On the day of the operation, he will need to empty his bowels. This is optional, but it is recommended that he fast the night prior.  Anything leftover might add more problems to the constipation.

  • He may be afraid of the IV ripping out of his arm once they start moving him out of the room. The speed in which they do it can be frightening.  Reassure the boy.

  • Insist on heading to the operating room with him. The wait is horrible while being alone, so stay with him as long as possible, if allowed.

  • Have a book in hand, or some form of entertainment for the waiting room. Distract yourself so you can focus later.

  • Make sure the nurses inform you immediately when he awakens. Your son will want to see you.

  • When he first awakens, he will probably feel like peeing, but that he can’t. It’s the sensation of having a catheter.  Tell him to relax and that he will eventually feel better.

  • Once the intubation is out of his throat, he will get thirsty. Ask the nurses for flavoured sponge sticks to wet his mouth.

  • Out of intensive care, he should possess a button for controlled doses of morphine. Remind him to use it, only when necessary.  Minimal amounts will lessen the constipation, if he tolerates the pain.

  • Eating hot food could make it difficult to breathe. Remember to keep that in mind.

  • A towel will always be underneath to help with the constant turning. Fan his sweaty back on occasion.

  • Ask the nurses for a warm blanket every so often if he gets cold.

  • When he feels like he can pee by himself, have him wait a while longer. Catheter reinsertions are an absolute nightmare.


  • If you’re utilizing a van, drive very slowly (any bump can hurt him)!

  • Like the morphine, remind him to try and take narcotics as little as possible.

  • He will wake up quite a few times at night. Be sure to keep a call bell next to him.

  • Once he is able to sit, tape plastic wrap, covering his wound before helping him take a shower. You don’t want an infection.

  • Get your child assessed for a new wheelchair cushion. It can be more painful for the butt when there is a rod.

Remember something: I survived the spinal fusion and that was more than twenty years ago.  Medicine has advanced greatly with better equipment that will keep your boy safe.  There is always a risk, but the chances are that he will make it through.  If there are no complications, this operation will make his life better, for sure.