Massage and Aromatherapy for a Pediatric Patient
Written by e3 guest blogger: Susan Tyler RN, CPN, CPEN (CNS intern pediatrics). She explains how massage and aromatherapy soothes and calms her pediatric patient.
A special little boy with a big spirit and how he challenged us caregivers to think outside the box
I was first asked to see 3 year old Henry (name changed for privacy) on a Tuesday by a colleague for a light hand massage. I didn’t know much about this child except that he was very sick. On this day he was having withdrawal symptoms and was agitated and quite probably psychotic. I went into the room with my coconut oil and talked briefly with Grandma who was at the bedside. I began the hand massage paired with soothing language (nice and comfortable, nice and easy, that’s right, good job, when our bodies relax and rest we feel better and calmer because that feels so good) and he calmed down, even closing his eyes at times.
The next day I came back and mom and dad were at the bedside. I demonstrated the massage on mom encouraging relaxation breathing. I told her she could massage Henry when he needed it. I went in and massaged Henry’s hands and feet. He again responded by slowing his movements and closing his eyes. Day three he was very agitated and there were several people at the bedside. Henry was resistant to the massage that day so I backed off.
As I was leaving the room, Grandma told me how he had self soothed the night before by massaging his own legs and toes. I was shocked by this. How did he know to do this?
On day 4, I massaged Henry and he fell asleep for the first time. I used a technique similar to progressive relaxation after massaging his hands and feet by lightly touching and saying night-night toes, night-night feet, night-night legs and so on up to his head and eyes. I was so happy to see that massage was so calming for him. Over the weekend I encouraged the family to continue the massages and left them a supply of coconut oil.
When I returned on Monday Henry was still having withdrawals and aromatherapy was suggested. I talked with the doctor and told her our policy didn’t include pediatric patients. She wrote an order with the hopes that massage and aromatherapy would help soothe him.
Massage and Aromatherapy Helps!
The staff from 6S came over and we decided to try Mandarin because of its calming effects and it would be a familiar scent. Mom described how Henry would be in the grocery store smelling the produce and how this was enjoyable to him. I began the massage and then introduced the Mandarin purposely pairing an already pleasurable stimulus with the oil. He leaned over the medicine cup and took a big breath in. I used soothing language with him and he nodded yes that he could smell it. I was concerned about his sense of smell as he had a trach and tubes in both nostrils. He had also been receiving chemotherapy. He became relaxed quickly. Before I left I waved goodbye and blew him a kiss. He waved goodbye and blew me a kiss too.
During this time the doctors, staff, and family talked about how Henry would massage their hands and arms. He would continue to massage himself when stressed. I am amazed at this sweet little boy. He then became nauseated from chemo and was dry heaving. I brought in peppermint essential oil for him to inhale to decrease the nausea. Again I paired the oil with the pleasurable imagery of candy canes. He again leaned over the little med cup and took in some deep breaths. He got immediate relief for the nausea. He used the Peppermint several times over the next few days until the nausea subsided.
I have been involved with Henry for the last 2 weeks. He is doing better every day. He is spending more time out of bed to increase his strength. He is playing and learning to communicate without his voice. He smiles, waves, and gives a thumbs up or high five when he likes something. He has beautiful blue eyes and looks right at you. I am blessed to be involved in his care. I appreciate that so many people were open to integrative therapies, such as massage and aromatherapy, for comfort. He has given me so much more than I could ever give to him. He is truly a special little boy.
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