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5 Essentials for the Hospital During Your Child’s Open-Heart Surgery

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It’s been almost six months since Hannah’s open-heart surgery, so I’ve had some time to reflect on our hospital stay and how I survived it. We were inpatient for five days, went home for nine, and were then re-admitted due to pleural effusions for another five days. Even with our re-admission, we had a short stay compared to many other heart parents. Nevertheless, there were several things that would have made it much harder if I didn’t have them with me!

These are in no particular order, and it was hard to narrow it down to just five, but I think as long as you have clothing, and the things listed below, you will have as pleasant of a hospital stay as possible.

1. Hoodie/sweatshirt/sweater.

Hospitals are cold, and it never seems to fail that the guest bed is directly under the vent. Even with the two sheets and four blankets I had, I would have still been cold with just a T-shirt. There were also a lot of middle of the night wake ups, so those blankets served little purpose. The waiting room we were in while Hannah’s surgery was being performed was chilly as well, so I was thankful I had it there. After several hospital stays, I have learned to never go to the hospital without a hoodie.

2. Socks/slippers.

This might seem like a no brainer if your surgery is in the winter, but I suggest taking a couple pairs of socks or a pair of slippers even for summer surgeries. The floors are cold and hard, and you really don’t want to have to put on shoes every time you get out of bed in the middle of the night. I was so glad I could just hop out of bed without having freezing cold feet, or having to find my shoes and slip them on while half asleep.

3. Toiletries.

Being in a hospital for days on end can definitely take its toll on you. Neither of the hospitals Hannah stayed at had toiletries for the parents, aside from what could be purchased in the gift shops. Taking a shower, and being able to wash with my own shampoo and soap was so refreshing, and it really made me feel like an actual human (I’m sure the nurses and doctors appreciated it, too). If you wear contacts, be sure to take extras, a case and solution. I forgot all of those during one of Hannah’s other hospitalizations and the gift store was closed, so I ended up wasting a perfectly good pair of contacts. I will never forget them again! Some of my other essentials would be shampoo and conditioner, soap, at least some mascara, extra hair ties, a razor and shaving cream, tooth brush and toothpaste, a brush, face wash, chapstick and lotion. Hospitals are very, very dry, and my hands and lips start to chap after a couple days. I slather on lotion and chapstick every time I stay at the hospital.

4. Family or friends.

Have a support system there with you. During Hannah’s surgery, my in-laws and husband were there, and a pastor from our church stopped by for a bit. I didn’t feel much like carrying on conversations, but just having a few close people around kept me balanced. Check with your hospital beforehand to see if they have restrictions on how many people can be in the waiting room with you, but otherwise, have as many people as you need. There were a couple of families at our hospital who had 10+ people with them. I personally only wanted a couple, but everyone is different, and you know how many will be beneficial for you. Just make sure you’re not sitting in the waiting room by yourself, staring at the clock (which is exactly what I would have done). After the surgery, have someone there with you as well. Sitting in a hospital room by yourself is very lonely, even with all the nurses and doctors constantly coming in. Have someone who can stay with your child while you shower, eat or take a nap. I hated the thought of leaving Hannah by herself, even with the nurse right outside. I always felt better knowing someone was with her when I couldn’t be.

5. Kindle/book/iPad.

The times when I was by myself, my kindle was my best friend. I spent a lot of time reading and streaming TV shows. It can be hard to sleep with all of the monitors, alarms and people coming in and out of the room. When I couldn’t sleep, I just pulled out my kindle and read until I passed out. I’ve also taken just a good, old fashioned book before and was content with that as well. Just take something to keep yourself entertained during any down time you have, and be sure to take headphones if you plan on listening to music or streaming anything. Also, don’t forget to take the charging cord if you take a device.

Ultimately, you know what will comfort you during such a difficult time, but the things listed above are at least a good starting point. Hopefully this list helps, and I hope your child’s surgery goes well!

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Getty image by kdshutterman

Originally published: February 6, 2018
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