I have been admitted to the hospital exactly 10 times since November of last year, when my heart decided to start acting like now is the time to do the Atrial Fibrillation Happy Dance. And no, I don’t mean to sound flippant or facetious about the whole experience, because I was scared out of my mind. The only thing that kept me sane was the absurdity of all of it, and in the midst of that was the fact that as I was having some severe cardiac issues, I still managed to be clear-headed enough to make sure my roommate’s cat was fed, that I went to the bathroom, and that I packed a bag. Can you believe it? Through the fear and the tears, I packed a freaking bag every. single. time.
Now, I keep one packed and ready to go at my bedside. I try to keep it relatively lightweight, because there’s often nobody to help me leave the hospital, and there’s almost always a weight restriction upon discharge. If you spend a lot of time back and forth to the hospital (or just want to be prepared), here are 13 things I always carry in my hospital go-bag:
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- Previous visit paperwork. You’ll thank yourself, especially if this is for an emergency visit like most of my admits have been. Sure, they can look up the past visits, but if you carry them with you, they have that information when it matters in a trauma situation, and they don’t have to wait and guess.
You might want to carry a piece of paper in your wallet that has your meds, diagnoses, your primary care physician, and your next of kin on it, just in case you’re un-or-barely conscious.
- A notebook, a magazine, and a book of crossword puzzles. You’ll be spending an awful lot of waiting time. Hospitals have notoriously shitty channels to choose from. Having a book to read is good too, but that adds more weight to your bag. If you can do audiobooks, I use Hoopla and Overdrive apps, and get free audiobooks from my library – which might be particularly helpful if you’re incapacitated and tired of staring at the TV.
- Non-slip socks. Trust me on this. Bring your own. Theirs are one-size doesn’t fit all, and they’re always ugly and uncomfortable.
- 2 pairs of underwear and 1 pair of comfy pants. You never know how long you’ll be in the hospital, and you may find yourself without any way to score a fresh change of clothes. Having fresh panties and my comfy LuLaRoe leggings that my ladies’ group bought for me during my first recovery has been amazing. Sometimes those rooms are unreasonably cool, and nobody is in a hurry to bring a warm blanket.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. I shouldn’t have to explain this one. I can’t deal with un-fresh mouth, and waking up in a strange place with no tooth brush/paste just grosses me out. You don’t have to get out of bed to do this, so if you’re immobile, bonus!
- Pre-moistened face cloths. Most hospitals have those really great baby/body wipes, but I never feel like those things are good for my face skin. I’m an aging female, and my skin is growing more delicate during the day, and yeah it’s vain, but it matters. I also don’t use body soap or body lotion on my face. It’s NOT made for delicate face skin. You can grab those face wipes for fairly inexpensively.
- Hand sanitizer and lotion. It’s a hospital. There are germs. Hands crack and let the germs in when they’re too dry – which is why hot air hand-dryers in public restrooms are so freaking bad for you. Use the sanitizer, then use the lotion. DOn’t touch your face.
- Breath Mints. This is especially important if you don’t have a toothbrush, but also in case you’re just too exhausted to brush your teeth more than once a day. Let’s be honest, you’re not gonna be dancing a jig.
- Headphones and/or bluetooth headset. Especially important for keeping your phone conversations from disturbing your roommate, and for hearing your audiobooks. If you make them noise canceling, you’ll thank yourself.
- Phone charger with a long cord. Doesn’t matter if it’s rapid or not. Preferably the dollar store kind, in case it goes missing, it was only a $2 investment.
- Drink mix powders. If you can drink water, you can probably get clearance to drink flavored water. The hospital has limited choices, so take a few of these with you.
- Cash/Change for vending machines, in case the cafeteria is closed. If you get to the hospital at 3AM, and you can actually have food or drink, you’ll want to be able to grab something. Also useful if you have visitors, because the hospital won’t feed them, too.
- Contact lens case and solution, plus my glasses. Most procedures require that you don’t wear contacts, especially surgical ones. You don’t want them taping your eyelids to your contacts, so take the stuff you’ll need to remove and save your contacts. The surgical team will remove them for you, if they catch it. If not, they might tape your contact to your eye. Your choice.
A few things to leave home
Extraneous electronics – don’t bring more than your phone. If you have kids, bring some coloring activity books and crayons. You don’t need the added stress of trying to keep track of losable, expensive electronics.
Your Medications. Every time I’ve gone in, they’ve made me take their pills and not my own.
Jewelry. Seriously, especially if you like having it. I have lost more cartilage piercings because nurses removed them for me for procedures, and they were just left somewhere I either couldn’t reach, or I was too dinged-out on anesthesia to put them in a safe place. Ladies and gents, leave your wallets and purses at home, or at least as many things as you can stand to leave there. I take only my ID, my debit card, insurance card, and $10-20 in cash (small bills and change). You don’t need to risk everything walking away from your bedside, intentionally or not.
Did I miss something; do you have things that you always have to have with you in the hospital? Let me know in the comments below!