The Mighty Logo

What's in My Hospital 'Go Bag' for Chronic Illness Emergencies

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The concept of a “go-bag” is often brought up in the context of childbirth. A few weeks before your due date, you back up all the essentials for your hospital stay and the new baby. You bring comfort items, toiletries, several outfits, diapers — there are so many things to bring.

In a similar way, my go-bag has all the essentials: entertainment devices, comfort items, warm clothing (layers on layers), and snacks — lots of snacks. But my go-bag isn’t for having a baby, it’s for those unexpected hospital visits so many of us spoonies experience. It’s for that day when something doesn’t feel right. And not the normal “things don’t feel like they should” feeling. It’s more of a “this is a different weird pain/sensation than normal” feeling. Being prepared for these times is key because going to the emergency room, with the potential of being admitted, can be an hours-long/multi-day event.

Over time, my go-bag has become more of a go-list. Now that I have learned my body a bit more and had lots of practice grabbing things on the fly, I feel more comfortable having my list ready, knowing where everything is, and shoving it all in a bag on my way out the door. But if you are someone who experiences fainting, brain fog, or can’t move around as easily, a go-bag is the perfect way to “go.”

My list has evolved over the years as I’ve had different experiences in the emergency room. Here are the items I always include in my go-bag:

Phone/Tablet — essential for entertainment.

Headphones — to block out the noise of the ER/hospital and create a calm bubble in your space.

Charger — bring your charger. Even if you think you will only be there for a few hours, bring it!

Medical information — I carry a comprehensive medical guide that I give to the head doctor so they don’t miss anything in my chart.

Extra set of clothes — you never know if you will have to stay overnight.

Comfy socks — to keep you warm and cozy.

Giant comfy sweatshirt — hospitals are cold.

Toiletries — again, you never know if you will be admitted.

Essential medications — they should have everything you need at the hospital, but it doesn’t hurt to bring them.

Hair ties/scrunchies — there are so many cords, so this makes it easy to keep your hair out of the way.

Food and water — depending on why you’re at the hospital and what is going on, you may not be able to eat or drink. But once you get the green light for food, you will be hungry. Bring some of your favorite easy-to-pack snacks like chips, pretzels, nuts, trail mix, cereal etc. and some water. I always bring Gatorade with me too.

Essential oils — I love my peppermint and lavender oils. They help me stay calm and ease tension.

Hand sanitizer — I like to bring my own and always have it on hand.

ID/credit card/insurance card — you will need these

Comfort itemblanket, stuffed animal, etc.

Pen and Notebook — that way you don’t have to touch the communal pens and you can take notes.

A friend/loved one/partner — they aren’t in my bag, but they are usually the one carrying it. It makes the biggest difference in the world having someone to support you while in the ER or hospital. Just make sure they bring a form of entertainment, a charger and some food as well.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Spoonie Life Hacks group on The Mighty mobile app. Click to join.

Also, leave any of your valuable jewelry or personal items at home. It’s not worth losing at the hospital.

I have become a professional list maker over the years, in part due to my Type A personality but also out of the need to be organized and ready for anything with my chronic illness. Being diagnosed with hyperadrenergic POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) completely changed my life. Having a chronic condition means this is something I will likely have to live with my whole life. I’ve learned to adapt, be prepared and expect the unexpected. I have come to terms with the fact that I may need more assistance and will need more doctor and ER visits than the average person. Being prepared has helped me cope.

Learning from and listening to my body has also been an essential part of the process. I know my body best and when something feels off, I have to trust myself and get help. And that’s OK! Having my go-bag and go-person ready is a great start to being prepared.

Originally published: June 24, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home