The Discomfort behind Teens Recovering from Pectus Excavatum Surgery


The recovery period for Pectus patients is usually a long, challenging, and uncomfortable one. However, the community surrounding parents and patients is abundant with information and assistance. When asked what tip one might give to someone in a similar position, a former Pectus patient said, “Remember why you chose to have surgery because your life is so much better now.” A parent-to-parent tip stated, “Every child reacts to the surgery differently and has a different level of pain tolerance.” An expert physical trainer who works with recovering patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Lauren Niehaus, said the care team’s “goal is to limit the things we know will be harmful but promote the things that will help them heal.”

Niehaus also suggested patients explore meditative and mindful exercises. Since she and her team “actually don’t teach them [patients] any exercises to make them stronger for the first twelve weeks,” it is important to keep a positive outlook. Although “we control a lot of pain in our head,” says Niehaus, it can be a lot easier to improve if “you can get your mind into the right place.” Some hospitals, such as Roswell Park, have started integrating art, music therapy, and animal therapy as recovery tools for patients. Khurshid Guru worked closely with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to bring an art gallery into the facility. Many patients find it difficult to take their mind off the pain, emotional stress, and physical disabilities after treatments. Roswell Park found a way to integrate a peaceful space for their patients to release some of that burden. Chris Eberle, a woman in the middle of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy recalls her visit to the space as a relaxing coping mechanism. She said, “It was peace. It was quiet. It was instant stress relief, sitting on a bench and staring at a work of art.” The gallery provided many long-term hospital-stays a place of serene disconnect from the patients’ current treatments and maladies.

Considering the effect of a temporary getaway, Pectus Excavatum patients might also be interested to hear about in-transition housing. One former patient looks back on their surgery, saying, “it was just a small bump in the road and you can get through it.” Considering the recovery process as a temporary situation may help relieve some anxiety behind one’s situation and keep a hopeful eye towards the future. Similarly, one might take inspiration from programs offered to teens transitioning out of the foster care system. The Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home “offers older adolescents training and support to successfully transition into adulthood and, in many cases, exit successfully out of child protective services, youth court or correctional services” (Youth Homes). They focus on helping teens work towards a GED, employment opportunities, and advocate for personal responsibility. The Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home provides access to community services, therapy, health care, and recreation to ease the teen through transitory life periods. Although the program does not necessarily focus on teens who have gone through surgery, the foundation examines important social, emotional, and forward-thinking goals for teens who are unsure of their future. It also points out the importance of routines and independence for developing young adults. Similar tactics might help someone going through a temporary health problem such as Pectus Excavatum patients.

Overall, a major surgery such as Pectus Excavatum challenge teens on both mental and physical levels. Since the surgery is usually performed on a person during their teen years, it is interesting to consider the many different factors which play into a speedy and comfortable recovery. This time period could be an important piece of the teen’s development as they are already beginning to transition from adolescence into adulthood while facing a major health hurdle. After evaluating the many pain points patients face during recovery, it is crucial to consider which areas can be improved and tweaked to be more comfortable. One would assume a recovery could go faster and smoother if carefully planned around the patients’ emotional and physical comfort.