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Children’s Book
Judy is often queried about the children’s book which she wrote and illustrated.  What—This book is a pre-operative preparation book, especially for a child undergoing a tonsillectomy.  Who—It was published by the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital with financial help from The Pilot Club of St. Thomas.  Where—These books are now sold out at the publisher.  We do have a small quantity remaining here, and can often ship.  Cost per book is $10.00 CDN.  (Please email for further information.) Why—When Judy was a student nurse, a critical component of her training was communication and health teaching.  Many studies have shown that if a patient is well informed, for example prior to surgery, that the actual incidence of post-operative complications (such as infection, hemorrhage, etc.) is minimized.   (Of course, Judy being a visual communicator, health teaching sessions often included multiple drawings.)  Many years later, when her two year old was ill with frequent & severe tonsil and ear infections, it was felt best to go forward with surgery, in spite of a less than ideal age.   Judy had six weeks to prepare her daughter—but how to prepare a largely non-verbal two year old?  She explored several of the books on the market but found that these tended not to be accurate nor to have the correct focus for her purposes. Her response was to write a little handmade book, and illustrate it with cartoons, laying out in chronological order what was to happen. “On admission to the hospital, many of the younger children begin clinging and whining when asked to step onto the weigh scales (the scales wiggle).  It becomes worse when a rubber cuff is put on to squeeze the upper arm (with scary sound effects no less), and reaches a crescendo when blood is drawn.  If you put yourself in the toddler’s place, it would all seem very horrific.  Add to this the overheard conversations where something will be ‘taken out’ and that Mommy has to leave.  All this happens when they can’t verbally communicate their fears, other than crying,”  Judy says.    Psychologically, she knew that each age range has certain specific emotional challenges with which to deal.  With two and three year olds, the major fears are fear of separation from the caregiver, fear of mutilation, and fear of loss of control.  In addition to emotional preparation, Judy wished to emphasize the need for fluid intake following surgery.  (She said she recalled many frustrating evenings as a student in the T & A postop ward, coaxing, cajoling and pleading with little ones to drink even minimal fluids.  This is very important following this sort of surgery, not only to rehydrate, but for the suture line in the interior of the throat.) Judy started reading her homemade book to her daughter about a month in advance.  “I knew that if I waited until we reached the hospital to read it to her, her anxiety level would be so high that she wouldn’t be able to ‘hear’ me, but she was so young that I didn’t know how much she was comprehending.  I was immensely pleased, though.  Further proof came when I entered the room the morning after the surgery.  In the midst of our hello hug, she had the book open to the page ‘Mommy comes back’—overjoyed—pointing to it then to me.” “This (by now) tattered little book became her constant companion for about six weeks following the surgery.  We read it constantly, and she playacted many of the hospital situations out as well.  It seemed to help her reframe the experience in a positive way.” The paediatric nurses on that wing loved it too and the news traveled quickly.  Judy was approached by the Head Nurse; apparently they had been searching for something along this line for their preoperative preparation program; ‘Popsicles For Breakfast’ was the eventual result of much spare time work by Judy.  The book is listed for the ages of 2-5 years.  The vocabulary is very simple, targeted to a 2-3 year old; but as most children regress during the stress of a hospital admission, it has been useful for older children as well. It is used by several hospitals in the province for preoperative preparation. ‘Popsicles for Breakfast’ was listed in the ‘Our Choice’ catalogue (the Canadian Children’s book Centre: Annual Guide to Canada’s Best Children’s Books); won an Achievement Award from the Ontario Health Care Educators Association; and was favourably reviewed several times in the media, including CBC Radio by Peter Gzowski.  Judy’s favourite review?  “It had to be one that a fellow nurse told me.  She’d gone to great lengths to obtain one of my books for a fearful 3 year old slated for a T & A.  When the time came to bid his mother good-bye at the OR doors, it was a simple ‘Bye, Mom’ and with a wave he walked into the OR. Apparently the surgeon came out and asked the mother how she’d accomplished this; when told about the book, he exclaimed, ‘I’ll order a truckload of them!’” Judy says, “That child’s attitude is as things should be.  A tonsillectomy may be a smaller thing, but the approach kids develop to health care at this very young age may well set the stage for later in life.”