A further complication has to do with the length of time you expect to be in hospital – day surgery, overnight stay, a week or so – plus the reason you are to be admitted. Are you having a baby (in which case, what you need to pack is radically different and will not be covered in this story) or, like me, did you fall down the back stairs, suffer a massive concussion and get carted off by ambulance to emergency?
As you can imagine, a trip to the emergency department of a hospital is something you can’t really plan for, apart from heeding Mum’s words “Always wear clean undies in case you’re in an accident”. I never really knew what that meant until I had to change into one of those lovely, backless hospital gowns! Anyway, after a week in hospital with concussion and another separate 10-day stay for further treatment, I think I’ve got the packing thing sorted, except for the aforementioned husband.
Here’s what I recommend you take:
Admissions staff love forms and you won’t get far without (applicable) things like –
- Medicare Card
- Private Health Insurance details
- DVA card
- Pension/Concession card
- Safety Net or Seniors Health card
- TAC Claim details
- Workcover Claim details
- Cardio Card
- Your GP details
Useful stuff to have on hand includes details of illnesses, surgeries, and any allergies to medicines, foods or environment. And lastly, don’t forget a pre-prepared list of names and contact numbers of family and friends the hospital may call if required.
2. Scans, X rays
Having relevant scans and X rays with you will negate the need to double up on these procedures and, in theory anyway, will provide instant answers for treating doctors and specialists. However, with the availability of results online these days, this isn’t always necessary. Check first to save yourself the bother of lugging bags of film in to the hospital if they are not needed.
3. Essential medical equipment
This could be a sleep apnoea machine you need to keep you breathing at night. Don’t rely on the hospital having an identical one available so BYO.
4. All current medicines
Pack the medicines you currently take. These include prescription medicines bought at a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop, as well as vitamins and herbal medicines. Include the dose, time of day, and reason for the medication. The hospital will want to gauge what potential conflict you face if you are to be given added medications, or if dosage rates are to be altered.
5. Health Aids
If you use things like hearing aids or a walking frame in your daily life, take them with you.
6. Sleepwear & daywear
Now for the fun stuff. Opt for sensible over fashionable. Loose, easy in-and-out clothes are best. Wear something comfortable when going in to hospital and have another outfit ready for going home. The design of this will depend on what you are having done – you don’t want clothes that sit right over where you expect to have stitches in place.
Remember the essentials – PJs to cover length of time to be spent in hospital, bathrobe, sturdy non-skid slippers and casual shoes, appropriate to your stay. Remember also that you won’t be sitting around in PJs all day – you may well have a few visitors, so you’ll want normal (comfortable) clothes, makeup, shoes and so forth.
7. Spare plastic bags
Something to put your dirty laundry in and keep it separate from your clean clothes is not usually top of mind – until you forget to pack it. Obviously the longer your stay, the more helpful this is, particularly when you have family ferrying dirty washing home and replacing it with clean stuff on a regular basis.
8. Personal toiletry items
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, comb, hair brush, deodorant, razor – anything you are likely to use in the time you expect to be in hospital. When I was admitted to hospital after my stint in emergency, I had nothing with me at all. It was 10pm (hospital chemist was closed) and I could not believe how frantic my desire was to clean my teeth at any cost. Even though the nurses told me they couldn’t find a brush and toothpaste at that time of night, I insisted so much that one of them went to the children’s ward and came back with a Disneyland toothbrush and paste (new, not used) which I was more than happy to use.
As an adult, I was a little ashamed of my performance – I blamed the concussion – but the incident did teach me a new level of respect for the role a toothbrush and toothpaste plays in my daily grooming routine. A couple of other handy hints include taking and using moisturiser, lip balm and hand lotion. Hospital air conditioning can be very drying and you will feel better using these rehydration products.
9. Phone, tablet, laptop, chargers
Keep in touch with family and friends while in hospital. And don’t forget a charger for your devices. This is so obvious yet for some reason it is so often forgotten. If you love reading on your iPad, download a supply of books to keep you occupied. Otherwise, include hard copies in your luggage. Most hospitals these days allow easy access to the internet so if you’re not too sick or foggy in the brain, you’re bound to be able to keep yourself entertained one way or another.
No hospital canteen is open at 3am so having your own stash of snacks could be a lifesaver – that is unless snacking is restricted with your particular condition/illness. If it’s not, spare a thought for others if you are in a shared ward and don’t bring in snacks with lots of noisy, crinkly paper wrapping!
11. Eye masks, earplugs, cash
A shared ward can be bright and loud so something to help you turn off can be worth its weight in gold. Eye masks and noise cancelling headphones could be very welcome distraction block-outs in a noisy hospital ward (which they pretty much all are, particularly when you’re trying to sleep).
Another trick I discovered the hard way concerns cash. Hospitals will tell you not to bring in jewellery or cash – the former I understand but I took their advice and arrived cashless, only to discover that I really would have liked to buy a magazine from the trolley that is brought around on a daily basis – if only I had the cash to pay for it. My suggestion is to keep a small amount of cash with you for incidental purchases like this. I also noticed some patients who seemed to be in a better state of health than me were going to the hospital café for coffee, sandwiches, cakes etc. This would require either ready cash or a credit card. Note to self.
12. Keep baggage within limits
This is not a Mediterranean cruise you’re packing for so keep your suitcase to a reasonable size. Most hospitals ask you to limit your items to a small bag about the size of an airline carry-on suitcase or to a maximum of 10kg.
My own hospital room was tiny and contained only one chair. This meant it was a toss-up in my mind – use the chair to put my suitcase on or keep it free for my doctor? Needless to say, the doctor got used to standing when he came to visit me.
Sensible packing for a hospital stay entails preparation (unless you’re rushed to emergency) and packing only what you need and will use helps greatly. It will also assist hospital staff if they don’t have to deal with keeping your excess valuables safe. After all, the staff is there primarily to get you back on your feet, health-wise. Hospital is one place you don’t want to revisit unless you absolutely have to. No offence meant. None taken, I hope!!!