This was written long before the advent of COVID19. You may well be restricted as to the physical items you are allowed to take in with you. Please check with the hospital.
I had been meaning to do this for a while. I compiled my list of ten things I learned would make life easier during my more recent stays in hospital (UK NHS – 2 bowel operations; 1 emergency admission with 2 weeks recovery). I wanted to pass them on in case it helps to improve your “end user” or “patient” experience. I reckoned that if you were already an old hand at the hospital game you could, no doubt, add at least another ten so I posted the link to this list on the Crohn’s Forum (www.crohnsforum.com) and some “old hands” got in touch with “at least another ten” items for adding. Thank you – xxSophiex, IHurt, CDJ, UnXmas, acc929, SickofCrohns.
Here’s the updated version which has now grown from 10 to 18. I’m not suggesting you take all the physical items listed below with you in one go. I’d go for a phased introduction as your recovery progresses.
One possible risk to bear in mind is not being able to keep your expensive technology securely whilst you’re in hospital. The wards I’ve been on have discouraged the bringing of valuables into hospital for this reason but realistically everyone will want their mobile phone with them. The ideal solution would be for each bed to have a patient lockable drawer/cupboard but I’ve never seen one in the NHS. There may be a ward safe that you can ask for valuables to be stored in but the nurses won’t thank you for wanting access several times a day.
No.1 MOBILE PHONE – it goes without saying that you will have your phone with you but not so long ago you weren’t allowed to use them on the wards. There may still be restrictions in certain sensitive areas. Don’t forget your charger!!!
No.2 HEADPHONES – there are lots of times when you really want to be able to drown out the surrounding ward noise. Take in an iPod, or similar device, and a pair of headphones. Preferably two pairs – in ear and over ear. Over ear will give you the best isolation from the ward noises but you can’t comfortably lie on one side with them on and your ears tend to get hot! The in-ear ones aren’t as good for keeping out external sounds but you have more choice in your sleeping position. (If your budget stretches to it then a good pair of noise cancelling ones would probably be a good idea).
No.3 EYE MASK – like the ones you have for air travel. It’s very rare to have all the lights off in a ward and even if they are, the nurses will be frequently checking on the more poorly patients so the over bed spotlights will be going on and off throughout the night. That’s where the mask comes into its own.
I haven’t actually tried a mask so have found the best time for dosing is during the mid-morning lull. That’s the bit between the doctors doing their ward round; the beds being made ward round ; having a shower and then lunch being served.
No.4 SHOWER GEL/SHAMPOO – sometimes these are available in the hospital but there’s nothing like having your own, favourite brand to keep you in touch with home. It’s said that smell is the strongest sense for recalling memories. There is one particular shower gel that I bought ready to go into St.Thomas’ and I’m still using that “flavour” today. Every time I catch that fragrance it immediately transports me back to the first shower I had post operation, a happy time despite the surroundings.
No.5 SOCIAL MEDIA – if you want to keep in touch with the outside world using SoMe then you’ll probably use your phone but if you are trying to write any lengthy items a smart phone can be limiting due to the screen size. I suppose the ultimate is to take your laptop but it’s quite a large item to store safely in a bedside locker so an iPad is a good compromise.
When I knew I would be going in to St.Thomas’ in October 2010 I bought a basic iPad and a wi-fi hub at that has kept me blogging throughout my hospital stays.
No.6 PYJAMAS AND DRESSING GOWN – the admission instructions may ask you to bring in your night clothes but I have found that pyjamas are usually available anyway. That’s fine if you’re not fussed about the colour. After my reversal operation I was issued with bright orange pyjamas so it looked like I had just escaped from Guantanamo Bay. I try and use NHS pyjamas for a few days after an operation in order to give anything that might be oozing a chance to stop oozing and then it’s into my very stylish M and S ones for the rest of the stay.
The dressing gown is a must. Not only can it give you a bit of extra warmth when sitting about but also covers up that embarrassing gap up the back of your medical gown where you haven’t quite managed to do the tie-ups.
No.7 BOOKS AND MAGAZINES – there will be times when you’re not dozing but you really don’t want to watch the truly appalling daytime TV so a decent book or some magazines, preferably with lots of photos and no difficult text, are a good way to pass the time. I was given a volume of Sherlock Holmes short stories and found that each story was just the right length to read before needing a rest.
No.8 CASH – taking a large amount in with you is not a good idea but it is worth having, say, ten pounds in case you want to buy a magazine or some toileteries from the trolley that visits the ward every couple of days. I expect everything is now contactless anyway
No.9 MAKE-UP – I’m a bit out of my depth here because I’ve never worn make-up,. I’ll quote directly what acc929 said :
“ I think this is probably a bit more on the girly end of things, but I’ve found that taking good care of myself (when possible of course) in hospital helps keep my morale up. I think the sicker you look, the sicker you feel, so if you have the energy it’s worth making a little effort. I bring my nice robe so I don’t need to wear the hospital gown, my favourite perfume, and my own shower stuff in little bottles. I bring a tiny bit of make up so that when people visit I don’t need to deal with them telling me how tired I look (I’m in the hospital, duh!) Bottom line, having your own things makes everything feel better.”
No.10 FAVOURITE SNACKS – after an operation or maybe a bad flare-up you may need something to help you get your appetite back. If you have some favourite snacks or chocolate bars etc. pack a few in your bag. Some hospitals have will provide snacks anyway but I don’t know how common it is. The two wards I spent time in at St.Thomas’ always had a good selection freely available. You only had to ask!
No.11 SANITISING WIPES – with all the nasty infections that appear in hospitals nowadays – such as Mrs.A – sanitizing wipes to wipe down any surfaces or objects that you can’t be certain have been throroughly cleaned or disinfected. (May have been superceded by COVID precautions)
No.12 HAND CREAM AND LIP BALM – the atmosphere in the wards is often very dry so creams and balms will help you keep your skin feeling good.
No.13 LISTS – pen and paper – or you could use an app on your phone or tablet. I have always found it useful to write down any questions I want to ask the consultants on their ward rounds. I’ve tried keeping a list in my head but when you are confronted by the consultant and a gaggle of junior doctors, early in the morning, it’s easy for all thoughts to just disappear.
No.14 PAIN – if you start feeling pain or a different pain don’t be brave and keep it to yourself TELL THE NURSE. It may be nothing and you can be given painkillers to help. On the other hand it could be something that needs attention and the sooner that attention starts the better.
No.15 INHIBITIONS – try and lose any inhibitions you may have about discussing the more intimate details of your condition with the medical staff. You may notice something different about your body or what comes out of it. Again it may be nothing or it might need further attention.
No.16 CANNULAS – if you have to have a cannula and, let’s face it, it’s pretty much a certainty, don’t let a doctor put it in. No matter how much practice they claim to have had they are never, ever, as good as an experienced nurse. In the past I have actually said to a doctor ‘”Are you sure you are good at inserting these?”. He assured me that he was but an hour later I had to have it redone as there was insufficient flow through it. This has happened on several occasions so I stand by my “never trust a doctor with a cannula” statement.
The positioning of the cannula is governed by where a good vein can be found but if at all possible try and avoid having it on the bend of the arm as you will frequently be interrupting the flow when you move your arm. If you get a choice of which arm to put it in remember you will have eat meals and manage in the bathroom with it connected.
No.17 PHARMACISTS – when it’s time to be discharged I can guarantee that you will be ready to go but will then have to wait several hours whilst pharmacy get the correct medications up to the Ward and you can finally leave. If you make friends with pharmacist on their daily ward rounds you can preempt that wait my persuading them to make sure the necessary tablets, in the correct numbers, are in your bedside locker ready for discharge.
If you live near the hospital you may be able to go home and then get someone to return later to pick up your medication. You may even find that you’re being prescribed over-the-counter tablets anyway, such as paracetamol or Ibuprofen, so it would be quicker to go into your chemist.
No.18 SENSE OF HUMOUR/COURTESY – not always easy to keep hold of this when you’re drugged up to the eyeballs, have got tubes coming out of every orifice and your future is uncertain but if you can do your best to keep your sense of humour and treat the doctors, nurses and other patients with courtesy then it will make your stay a lot more bearable. Of course you may be one of those unlucky individuals who has had a humour bypass in which case you should get on well with some of the doctors I’ve met!
That’s the revised Top Twenty One. If I had to choose just one physical item to take in with me it would still be the headphones as they give you the chance of getting some sleep in a noisy environment. The one behaviour I would adopt is a combination of the above but can be summed up as “acceptance that a hospital regime will probably be completely alien to your usual way of life but you do not need to lose your sense of dignity, humour or courtesy”. If you feel any of these are being compromised – complain.