Helpful Information About Your Child's Surgery

Having surgery can be an overwhelming time for parents and children. At Mary Bridge Children's, we want to make that experience as stress-free as possible. Click on the links below for useful information before, during and after your child’s visit to Mary Bridge.

Common Surgical Procedures

  • Appendectomy
  • Chest Wall Surgery
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux
  • Hernia Surgery
  • Liver and Gallbladder Disease
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Trauma Surgery
  • Tumor Removal

What to Bring to the Hospital

Find out what to bring for your child's surgery and hospital stay at Mary Bridge.

Where Should I Stay?

You are welcome to stay overnight with your child. A chair bed with linens is available for one adult to sleep at their child’s bedside in the medical-surgical units. Kitchens and showers are also available. 

Mary Bridge also offers discounted room rates at some local hotels.

Your Child’s Care Team

At Mary Bridge, each child is cared for by a pediatric team dedicated to providing compassionate care of the highest quality. Our quality care starts with the expertise of our doctors, nurses, and health care professionals. We support our provider teams with the latest technology and facilities that promote collaboration. Learn more about the professionals working together as a multidisciplinary team that may care for your child while at Mary Bridge.

Pre-Surgery Tours

Pre-Surgery/pre-admission tours are provided for children 2 years and older and their families to acquaint them with the hospital/surgery process. Case-specific preparations, education and pre-op tours are provided for children and parents. Our Child Life Specialists use dolls, books and developmentally appropriate techniques to answer questions about procedures in a way a child can understand. All tours are by appointment only. Please call a Child Life Specialist at 253-403-5315 for an appointment.

Important Tips Prior to Surgery

  • Call your insurance company to make sure the surgery is covered under your plan.
  • Please call your surgeon’s office if your child has any cold symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever or any change from his or her usual health. Also, notify the office if your child has been exposed to or has any infectious diseases such as MRSA, tuberculosis, measles, mumps or chicken pox.
  • Please bring your insurance card or medical coupon with you on the day of surgery.
  • On the day of surgery, your child must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Please bring any legal papers for custody or guardianship if you are not a parent with legal custody. Please bring any legal papers giving consent for surgery if you are not the parent with legal custody.
  • The parent or guardian must remain at the hospital during the child’s stay. In order to focus on your child’s surgery, it may be easier for you and your children to make care arrangements for siblings.
  • If your surgeon tells you that your child might possibly stay overnight, please pack a bag for both you and the child.
  • Please bring any special equipment needed to help care for your child, such a wheelchair, braces or supplies for a feeding tube.
  • Please bring a list of medications your child is currently taking, and indicate when the last dose was given.

The Day Before Surgery

You will be called the afternoon or evening before surgery to confirm your arrival time and eating and drinking instructions. Please make sure that your pre-admit paperwork includes a working phone number where you can be reached. If you have not heard from us by 5pm the day prior to your child’s scheduled surgery, please call us at 253-403-9569, or page the Mary Bridge House Supervisor at 877-511-3912.

Eating and Drinking Instructions

For the safety of your child, it is very important that you follow the feeding instructions. It is possible that your child’s surgery may be canceled or delayed if instructions are not followed. When our staff calls you the day before surgery, they will give specific information on when to stop solid foods, breast milk and clear liquids. Breast milk is different from formula, so you may breast feed your child until closer to the arrival time. We will give you a specific time when we call you the day before surgery.

Solid Foods Include:

  • formula
  • juice with pulp
  • milk or milk products
  • candy
  • chewing gum

Clear Liquids Include:

  • water
  • apple juice
  • Gatorade
  • Pedialyte
  • Jell-O
  • Kool-Aid
  • Popsicles

The Day of Surgery

Dress your child in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Favorite toys, stuffed animals, games, blankets, and other personal items can be brought to Mary Bridge to make your child feel more comfortable during their procedure. Please be aware that the hospital cannot be responsible for items brought to Mary Bridge, and valuables should be left home. Please remove all jewelry and piercings, nail polish and makeup prior to arrival. If your child wears contact lenses or glasses, please bring the proper case to put them in during surgery.


Parking is available anywhere designated as visitor parking at a MultiCare/Mary Bridge facility. Look for the P1 and P2 parking garage signs at our Tacoma hospital campus. If you park at the Baker Center, please bring your ticket with you for validation. (Validation is not available for the Kaiser Permanente parking facility.)

Learn more about parking at Mary Bridge.

Where To Go

You will receive a phone call the night before surgery with instructions for checking in for your child’s surgery at one of our surgery locations:

When You Arrive for Surgery

  • After checking in, you and your child will be taken to an admission room. Your child will change into hospital pajamas, and a nurse will check your child’s vital signs and get an update on their health status.
  • Before going to the operating room, most children are given an oral medicine. Your anesthesiologist will determine the type of medicine that is best for your child. The medicine may make your child sleepy and unsteady. For the safety of your child, we ask that once the medicine is given, your child not walk around independently.
  • You will have the opportunity to speak to the surgeon and anesthesiologist and ask questions or discuss the procedure before your child goes to surgery.
  • Once your child has gone into surgery, we will take you to the waiting area where your child’s surgeon will look for you once the surgery is over.

Types of Anesthesia

It may help to ease some of your concerns to understand how the various types of anesthesia work to make the experience more comfortable for your child.

Anesthesia is broken down into thee main categories: general, regional and local, all of which affect the nervous system in some way and can be administered using various methods and different medications. Here’s a basic look at what each type of anesthesia:

General Anesthesia. The goal is to make and keep a child completely unconscious (or “asleep”) during the operation, with no sensations, pain, awareness or memory of the surgery. General anesthesia can be given through an IV (which requires a needle stick into the vein, usually in the arm) or by inhaling gases or vapors by breathing into a mask or tube.

If your child is having general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will be there before, during and after the operation to monitor the anesthetic medications and ensure your child is constantly receiving the right dose. With general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist uses a combination of various medications to:

  • Keep your child asleep
  • Stop pain during surgery and relieve pain afterward (using drugs called analgesics)
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Relax the muscles, which helps keep your child still
  • Block out the memory of the surgery

After the surgery, the anesthesiologist reverses the anesthesia process to help your child “wake up.” It typically takes 45 minutes to an hour for kids to recover from general anesthesia.

Regional Anesthesia. An anesthetic drug is injected near a cluster of nerves, numbing a large area of the body (such as epidurals given to women in labor).

In kids, regional and general anesthesia are often combined, except in very special circumstances. Regional anesthesia is generally used to make your child more comfortable during and after the surgical procedure. If regional anesthesia is appropriate for your child, this will be discussed during your conversation with your child’s anesthesiologist. The amount of recovery time varies depending on the type of regional anesthesia used.

Local Anesthesia. An anesthetic drug (which can be given as a shot, spray or ointment) numbs only a small specific area of the body (for example a foot, hand, or patch of skin). The numbing medicine will wear off in 2-4 hours.

Will My Child Get a Shot?

Often, anesthesiologists may give children medicine to help them feel relaxed before surgery. Kids who are getting general anesthesia may be given a medicine through a special breathing mask first and then given an IV after they're asleep.

On the day of surgery, your anesthesiologist will meet with you to discuss any questions or concern you and your child may have. Sometimes, illness such as colds may cause problems during surgery. For the safety of your child, your anesthesiologist may feel it is best to postpone surgery until your child is healthy.