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My Top 10 Must-Haves When Packing for a Hospital Stay

I packed a ridiculous amount of things for my first surgery. Games, coloring books, knitting projects, books…the list was enough to fill the trunk and then some. Of course I needed all of those things. How was I going to pass the time during my estimated four to seven days of recovery?

When it came down to it, I had no mental focus to partake in any of the entertainment I packed. I played the in-room spa music all day and kept as zen of a room as possible. My days and nights were filled with wonderful visitors, laps around the hallway, constant interruptions from doctors and nurses, eating meals and lots of sleeping.

As I prepare for my second hospitalization, I plan to learn from my mistakes and pack only the must-haves. Here is my top 10 list:

1. Chapstick and lotion: This was the best advice from my Aunt N. Hospitals are super dry and these items can help remedy that and make me feel a bit more human.

2. Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, soap for the shower, deodorant, face wash…It feels so much better to bring your favorite products from home. Nothing beats a good warm shower when I am lying in bed all day.

3. Flip-flops: I need to get up and walk several times a day, and I won’t be bending down and lacing up my tennis shoes. I suggest bringing flip-flops to walk around in. You might also want to use them in the shower.

4. PJs, bathrobe, underwear, warm socks: You can certainly get away with just wearing your hospital gown the whole time. By the second or third day, I changed into my own PJs. It felt really good to put on “real” clothes. I went to Target and bought some super comfortable PJ sets. I bring something that is very loose fitting and has an elastic waist so it easily fits over my IVs and doesn’t put pressure on my abdomen.

5. Pillow: In my experience, the hospital pillows are really terrible. Bring your own for added comfort.

6. Loving friend or family member to sleep in my room with me: My husband slept in my room for the duration of my stay. They had a big chair that pulled out into a cot for him. It is so helpful to have someone there to be my advocate at all hours of the day and night. He was always there to go get a nurse if I needed something, to speak up and ask questions, and to be an all around good companion. Make sure to bring a pillow and a blanket for your guest if someone can join you.

7. iPad or laptop: This helps with keeping up with your blog if you have one and potentially watching Netflix if you have enough brain power.

8. Heating pad: My muscles were very sore from the hospital bed. There was also an immense amount of pain in my shoulders associated with leftover air from the laparoscopic surgery. A heating pad can help to alleviate some of that pain and relax the muscles.

9. Food for special diets: It’s ironic and almost laughable how terrible hospital food can be — not only the taste but the nutritional value. Find out ahead of time if there is a microwave and/or fridge on your floor for your personal use. Being on a low-residue diet, post-colectomy chicken soup became my new best-friend. My mom made homemade soup ahead of time and froze it in individual servings. We brought a Pyrex bowl and defrosted it in the microwave for me to eat. This was way better than eating the soup available from the hospital menu. When I was expected to drink a lot of liquid throughout the day, I got sick of water and wanted to spice things up. I had friends bring me Honest Tea and lemonade to keep things interesting for my tastebuds.

10. Clothes for the trip back home: You might want a clean pair of clothes to go home in. Remember you might still want to be wearing loose-fitting elastic clothing for several weeks post-surgery.

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Thinkstock image by Tatomm