Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there are a few things I would have done differently going into hospital that, on reflection, would have made it easier and more comfortable during my stay.
As with most things, until you have had the experience you don’t fully know what to expect and there is only so much advice you can receive. However, I am hoping the suggestions below will help in the event of any time spent in hospital and afterwards.
Some of this may seem obvious, but when you are in the moment planning, preparing, and generally sorting things out with family and everything else, it’s easy to forget simple things and you may not be thinking straight anyway.
The checklist below is designed to make you as comfortable as possible and can be tweaked to your own preferences.
It is advisable to only bring a small bag with you as it’s less to keep track of and, if like me you get moved around a lot, it’s simpler. If you need more stuff for personal comfort, I would suggest getting visitors to bring in the extra bits rather than having a bigger bag.
Take loose fitting clothes that you find comfortable, and a second set of everything to change into. I suggest the following items:
Shorts – the wards seem to be very hot so a nice comfy pair of easy fitting shorts, preferably cotton, works well. I got my parents to bring some in two days into my stay when it finally occurred to me, and as soon as I put them on I regretted not having had them from the start.
I did wear the green hospital trousers and gown provided but found them uncomfortable after a while. With the lack of movement, other than the occasional shuffle up the bed, they often got twisted around the thighs which was most unpleasant and irritating. If shorts aren’t your style a nice pair of joggers will be the next best thing.
T- shirt – a loose t-shirt with a wide neck, something like an oversized style or if you prefer, sleeveless. Again, as it was hot, an easy fit helped and the relaxed nature of a t-shirt improves comfort. It was especially important for me as the type of surgery I had meant I couldn’t lift my arms. To change a top, required an unusual over the head maneuver which I eventually figured out, and could only be achieved with a loose t-shirt and I would rather have a clean t-shirt on than not because it just makes you feel that little bit better. Alternatively, a shirt is a good idea as there is no need to lift over your head, and is also best if it’s loose fitting.
Cardigan – for after the operation care I would also recommend cardigans for the same reasons as above. They are easy to put on, loose and comfy. With any operation that leaves you with minimal movement afterwards, being comfy in clothes will help your wellbeing and healing loads. Like being on a long haul flight, a change of clothes can make all the difference to the way you feel!
Footwear – Loafers, sandals, slippers, plimsolls – any easy slip-on footwear works as it’s likely you won’t be able to bend down. Make sure they have some grip on the soles as the hospital vinyl floors are very slippery when washed. I stuck to bare feet, which again on reflection wasn’t the best thing to do.
For me, one of the saviours was being able to shower, wash and shave. In every sense this little luxury counted for a lot and made me feel human again. Bringing in your own products as a ‘treat’ is definitely worthwhile. If like me you prefer being well groomed and maintaining this even at your lowest, then it makes all the difference and will boost your mindset tremendously. I had grown a substantial amount of stubble after the first two days when I was mostly unconscious, so on day three being able to cleanse, shave and moisturise made me feel fresh and human. Even if I still looked and felt shot to hell, this simple process of maintaining a sense of acceptable appearance made me feel better. I also went for a fresh haircut the week I went into hospital to ensure that was in order for as long as possible, knowing I wouldn’t be able to leave the house for a while afterwards.
Depending on how wiped out you’re feeling you may feel bored enough to want to watch a film, go on the Internet, read or listen to music etc. The following devices are best suited and easy to transport; iPad/tablet, Kindle, and any small portable music player. Remember to bring headphones as mutual patient respect is a must! I brought my laptop in with the intention of watching films and passing the time by. I only managed this once on the morning of the day before I left. Throughout the rest of the time I was far too out of it to even bother, see Chapter 18 – Memories as an example. I put on Lord Of The Rings to take me up to visiting hours, although I couldn’t really focus on it and found the whole experience quite bemusing as I didn’t know what was going on. The type of surgery, quantity of medication and length of stay should determine all the above for you. I would suggest not bringing in a laptop as it’s a bit too big and clunky with chargers etc.
This is a big topic and depends on many things so I shall keep it brief. Personally I couldn’t stand the ‘food’ that was provided (Chapter 20 – The process of Recovery). Depending on what you are allowed I would suggest getting a nutrition shake (not just your normal off the counter one) to help top up the good stuff your body needs. Solid food is better but it’s whatever you feel you can manage at the time. I did seem to have the odd craving as well, so go with what your body tells you. When you get home eat as much as possible to restore any weight loss and energy levels.
I would suggest getting some big cushions for when you’re at home to aid with sleeping and also comfort. Not just sleeping pillows from the bed, large cushions for support. Being propped up at an angle helped with my breathing and unless you have a bed which can raise automatically this will improve comfort dramatically.