Communicating with your friends about your scoliosis surgery

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Learn some tips for communicating your needs and coping with your friends' reactions to you having scoliosis surgery.

Key points

  • Your friends may react differently than the way you expect them to when they hear that you need surgery.
  • Many teens who go through scoliosis surgery worry that they will lose friends while they are at the hospital and during their recovery at home.
  • To help cope with your friends' response, be clear about your expectations and need of them, accept that their support during your recovery may not be as strong as other people's, and provide them with information about the surgery and your recovery so they know what to expect.

Friends might not react the way you expect them to when you tell them you need surgery. They might be there for you every step of the way. On the other hand, they might let you down when you need them the most. Often this is because they are having difficulty coping with your news, feel helpless and so might avoid you. Other friendships just might not last, but they might not have lasted anyway even if you didn’t need surgery. Some friendships come and go, especially when we are in our teens.

Can you count on your friends?

"I had a friend who I’ve been with since Grade 7 and I went into surgery and she’s only seen me once since I’ve been back. She had ditched me the day before. She was supposed to come over and just sit with me because I was still… She’s too cool to do that. So you learn who your real friends are."

"My friend stayed with me while I was in the hospital. She was with me the whole time. I’d wake her up at 2:00 in the morning to go get ice chips for me or she would sponge my mouth, help me roll over, or help me get up for a walk."

"I remember my friends never showed up and I was so cheesed that they wouldn’t even call. I had two groups of friends, my best friends and my school friends. And only my school friends would call. The day after my second surgery, my best friends called and I was like, ‘Oh you called, you remember me,’ and they were like, ‘Oh no, we had a lockdown and we’re bored.’ So I was like, ‘OK’, and hung up on them."

"My friends came to visit the day before my second surgery. It was really fun taking them to the play room. To this day, they still want to come back and visit it."

"You’re too afraid to believe it when people say, ‘I’ll be there every day or I’ll try as hard as I can and I’ll be there when I can.’ You don’t want to believe it. It’s hard to let people get so close to you when you know that you’re going to be alone."

"Don’t push people away because they’re the people that you’re going to need to have there with you. If I didn’t have the friends who came to visit me, I would have been like screwed. I wouldn’t have recovered as fast as I did. I know it sounds cheesy but support helps you recover faster."

"You don’t know how people are going to react. The fact that you’re there (in hospital) with no makeup and your hair is all greasy and you feel all gross and bad about yourself. Everyone else is going to think that I’m ugly and like, they’re not going to want to stay with me because I’m boring."

"To future patients, remember friends come and go. If they’re not willing to stay with you through the hardest times in your life, then they’re not worth spending the greatest moments with either."

Communicating and coping with your friends

Many teens who go through scoliosis surgery worry that they will lose friends while they are at the hospital and during their recovery at home. Here are some tips for dealing with your friends:

  • Be open, honest, and clear about your expectations and needs before and after surgery.
  • Accept that some friends might be better supports than others during your recovery.

Many people don’t know what to expect when they have a friend go through surgery. Tell your friends what to expect when they call or visit you at the hospital:

  • You will be on pain medication that makes you grouchy or woozy.
  • You will be sensitive to light, sound, and odours.
  • You may be dozing or sleeping a lot of the time.

Many people don’t know what to do when their friends have had an operation. Tell them how they can help you the most when visiting in hospital:

  • Ask them to call first to find out when is a good time to visit.
  • Ask if they can bring you anything that you forgot at home.
  • Ask if they can bring you ice chips.

Often by letting friends know how they can help you, they are more relaxed with you.

Last updated: June 1st 2008