COMMUNICATION TO THE PARENTS AND THEIR REACTIONS
Traditionally the heart is recognized as the main organ not only in a physiological sense, but also in a metaphoric sense, since many proverbial sayings recognize that the heart plays a role as the site of emotions and feelings. Moreover, everybody knows that, if the heart ceases to beat, life also ends. Therefore, all the medical communications concerning cardiac disease in general create more anxiety and worry than the communication of other diseases.
When the parents are informed of the existence of a cardiac malformation in their child and this, in the great majority of cases, occurs in the very first days of life, they perceive it as a catastrophic event. They have lived the months of pregnancy in joyful anticipation for a healthy child and the birth of a baby with a cardiac disease means the loss of a normal child. They have to accept this loss before fully accepting the arrival of a sick child. Often the parents feel impotent or enraged and try to blame somebody or something or to search for a cause which is, for most of the time, impossible to find.
Often they feel - with no reason - a sense of guilt for having created a situation for which they are obviously not responsible.
In this phase the parents need to be relieved of possible responsibilities and to have clear explanations on the health of their own child, on necessary diagnostic investigations and therapies and on the expected results, which luckily are very good in the majority of cases. Some parents might need psychological care, others will find a relief in talking with other parents who have already lived through the same experience.
The loss of clarity by part of the physicians and the lack of a serene acceptance by the parents can more easily create some psychological reactions which interfere with the childıs development. The most common of these is a state of over-protection, which taken to an excess of control could deprivate the child of his/her natural initiative and delay his/her psychological development towards autonomy. More seldom, parents develop feelings of aggressiveness and refusal towards the child.