There and Back Again: What I Pack for my Hospital Stays

I don’t want this blog to turn into a showcase of my ailments, but I did want to share that I’m going back in for yet another operation on Wednesday the 20th… in case anyone’s keeping track.

It also occurred to me, while I was writing a list of things to pack, that it might make sense to share that, too, in case anyone might make use of it either for themselves or for choosing useful hospital gifts.

I’ve had five operations and five recoveries (You really want those to match up, btw). Most of my recoveries were at least a month long, if not longer, so I pretty much know what I need, what I like, and what I can leave behind.*

Here goes:**

Essentials:

Purple GlassesGlasses.  I don’t bother with contacts in the hospital.  I can’t wear them into surgery and they’re a pain in the tuchus to deal with afterward—I won’t be able to get to a sink at first and my hand-eye coordination (pun intended) will be shot anyway.

Robe. Nurses and PT staff will most likely want you to move around, bless their sadistic hearts, unless it’s contraindicated by your condition.  I can’t stress how much easier and less exposed it feels to walk around in a long, comfy robe, rather than in a second thin hospital gown worn like an inadequate jacket. Plus, vinyl-covered chairs, (wheeled or stationary) can be flippin’ cold or dangerously adhesive.

Lost SocksSocks-with-treads or soled slippers. See above, re: “blessed sadistic hearts”: hospital floors are cold and slick.  The hospital does usually provide socks, but if you’re vertically challenged like me, hospital toilets and commodes can be too tall without thick-soled slippers… just saying.

Q-tips. I know it’s weird, but ears don’t stop producing wax when you’re recovering and you can’t get regular cotton swabs for love or money in a hospital.  And when you want one, you want one. All the staff can give you are those swabs on long wooden skewers, which frankly scare me to death.

Lip balm.  Hospitals don’t supply this, either, and my lips get really dry, especially if I’m put on liquid restriction.  I like Hurraw! lip balm the best; I use mint, because tooth brushing in the wards can be sporadic.  I also like Glamour Dolls lip jelly; it doesn’t wear off easily.

Hand cream and/ or body lotions. Hospitals make me itch and they smell funny; or is that just me? Either way, I’m bringing my second favorite  Crabtree & Evelyn magic to brighten up my aura.***

pencilpaperhand1-w640h480Pen and notepad. There’s always things to write down–phone numbers, test dates and times, things I keep forgetting to ask my doctor—and never anything to write it down with. This time, I’m going in armed.

Phone and extra, extra long charger cord. I use my phone for reading, music, calling my parents, texting friends, playing games, etc., and being hospitalized doesn’t change that.  So I’m not kidding about the length of the cord: my phone is my mental health lifeline, so I get antsy if it has to charge outside of my reach, just because I’m not allowed to pull the plug on my nearby wound vac or feeding pump. Nurses also hate being called into your room just to fetch a phone. Trust me.

My fairy godmother.  Because love and hope (and dear friends who send fairy godmothers) are the very best medicine.

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Thanks, ‘mausi!

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Good-to-haves

hair-brush-clip-art-29Comb or brush. The hospital can usually find one of those cheapo plastic barber combs, but I like my brush better and it doesn’t take up much room. My hair is short, but I might still toss in some headbands, and/or hairpins, if you’ll be staying a few weeks; like ears, hair has its own agenda.^

Toothpaste. I’d only bother if you need special toothpaste, like Sensodyne. Otherwise, the hospital will give you a tube of the basic stuff. Same with a toothbrush—leave the electric one at home; it’s too high maintenance and the vibrations won’t be kind.

DeodorantDeodorant. Your condition may vary, but I’m usually not allowed an actual shower more than once a week, if that, depending on my medical baggage. Sponge baths are okay, but sometimes, it just doesn’t  cut the pit funk. The hospital will provide a roller ball deodorant but it might as well be sticky water for what it does. I’m bringing my industrial strength spray Dove.

Dry shampoo. Sponge baths come with the option of a sort of showercap shampoo; they wet the inside of a lined, soap-infused showercap thing and massage it on your head.  It…works?  Sort of?  I’m bringing my Ouai dry shampoo foam as an alternative, though they’re still welcome to massage my scalp!

Micellar water and cotton pads.  The hospital does provide baby wipes on request, but when it comes to cleaning my face or behind my ears, I prefer micellar water to plain water or regular soap.

14055372411033652634crutch_Jh.svg.hiMoisturizer and eye cream. So, so extra. But again, I get dry and itchy—and if I’m going to use micellar water, anyway, what harm is a little, light skin care? Give the aging, sick woman her crutches…

Shower stuff. In the event that I’m actually allowed a Real Shower™, the first thing I want is a razor and the second is a decent bath gel that rinses well. So I bring my own.  If your personal hair care products aren’t optional for you, bring travel bottles (I suggest leave-in, mist conditioner). Oddly for someone who has Opinions about dry shampoo, I don’t usually bother.  The hospital stuff is good enough for me.

Nail file and clippers. Because I can’t bring painted nails to my surgery  (something to do with oxygen monitors, I think), these really aren’t optional for me, not the way my nails shred.  The tube of cuticle oil might be, but I don’t care.

Glass nail file

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Optional/Entertainment

I already have my phone, and the TV in my hospital has some serious premium channels, but I’m adding my headphones, in case I want an audiobook or to play something at a weird hour. I’m also bringing a print book I’ve been desperate to finish (if I can hold it) and my knitting, because it wads up small and my hands stiffen up if I don’t exercise ’em.

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I could bring my coloring books and pencils, Sudoku, puzzle books, etc., but I know I’m going to have trouble sitting up enough to use my tray table at first. If I want them, I’ll ask my husband later.

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Forget Thems

1basic-iv-gown_smStreet Clothes. Gowns are provided. Underwear, in my case, can get in the way of bandages and drainworks.  I’ll be staying a week or more and I could change rooms at any time, so why bother cluttering up the place? My husband will bring me clothes when he comes to take me home.

Makeup. Nope.  Don’t want or need to bother. Nurses and loved ones don’t care. And honestly, if I’m well enough to want to struggle with eyeliner,  I’m well enough to go home.

comic-book-swearing_3421243Work. I always think I’m going to write or edit but I’m usually too tired—or in such pain, I just keep hitting that morphine button. If I do come up with an idea, that’s what the pen and pad are for. I refuse to beat myself up about it.

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If there’s anything you think I missed, let me know–quickly, please!

I obviously won’t be posting for a bit, unless my recovery is a lot quicker than anticipated.  But I promise to be quicker about it, this time!

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*Until I give in and beg my husband for whatever it is I thought I wouldn’t need. It happens.

*Please note that this list is how I roll with my own recoveries from my own particular condition, which centers mostly on my lower front torso.  Take what makes sense to you and leave the rest at home.

***My first favorite is Gardeners Hand Therapy. It’s heaven, but unscented.

^I lost a lot of hair last year (lord, 2016 righteously sucked) because of a med or two, paired with a pretty heinous weight loss.  The hairpins helped me cover up the thinning patches until it grew back.

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First Signs of Autumn

Outside my window

It rained all Sunday, Mother Nature paying what she owed us this Summer in a lump sum, rather than the bimonthly installments we would have preferred.

The temperature has dropped over the past few days—Nature giving us a heads-up on the rain delivery—so I put blankets into the dryer  for a few minutes last night and tucked the kids in toasty warm.

Sunny and Jane have been poring over a Halloween Costume catalog and begging for hot chocolate and popcorn and wigs and wings and Monster High heels.

And my mild sore throat, which I assumed was a combination of weather change and too much choir rehearsal yesterday morning, refused to be drowned by gallons of hot tea or soothed by an unscheduled afternoon nap.  Instead, it’s spread its prickly warmth to my upper chest, started aches into my muscles, and produced sneezes that give me chills—also signs of Autumn.

The confused trees outside my window haven’t changed much, yet, but the cat has, pulling his furry, inkblot self into a primly wrapped knot and sneaking under the covers to purr against my tummy as I stay home from work with a box of tissues and a mug of warm soup.

Because I’ve never mastered the art of typing while laying down, I’ve tucked a legal pad and a pen under my pillow—a sign of baseless optimism that I might work a little this afternoon, until the kids get home from school.

See you tomorrow.

What are your signs?

Random Thursday: “HIchop!” “Gesundheit!”

I’m home sick today with a sore throat and the general muscle aches and fever that have been going around the library, so if things get even more surreal around here than the usual Thursday oeuvre, that’s my excuse.

I’ll probably be fine by tomorrow, but just in case, does anyone know if the burning of sage wards off strep throat?  

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First, a Poll

If you read this blog through a feed, could I ask you to drop in and take a look at what I’ve done with the place?

While I loved the old theme, it simply wasn’t wide enough for some of the things I wanted to do, so I searched for a couple of days until I found this one.  It has most of the features I wanted, but it might be a little . . . too much?

Whaddaya think?

Be honest—I can take it.

Suggestions are also welcome, though mean ones will be severely mocked.

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I See a Scary Silhoutte of a Hut

Bohemian Cantina

Oola-girl, Oola-girl, better dance the fandango!
Rancor hatch is widening—very very frightening  me . .  .

No, seriously, if you’re secure enough in your love of Star Wars to embrace intelligent parodies—as opposed to my sad efforts—check out Blue Milk Special.

They know what they’re doing and they snark with such love.

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Separated by Uncommon Language

Separated by a Common Langauge

Hey, Downith? What do Canadians say?

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The Federation has Mondays, too

Worth it for the Red Shirts alone . . . 

The Bad Days series is part of Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, which explains the cameo . . . sort of.

(psst, Mike: try Superman—the bit around 1:08 reminded me of you)

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Brief Actual News

The winner of the Libraries are Awesome poetry contest will be announced tomorrow!

Sorry for the delay—it’s been a heck of a week.

Whatever Clock

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Trekkies, represent

Dude . . . there are no words.  ‘Cause I can’t speak Klingon.

But Jen Usellis can:

As Jane said, “It’s a very [scurfing up a giant loogey sound] language, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

Poetry Wednesday cancelled due to viral interference

unexpected hitch
The virus I thought I’d faced down last Monday had an older brother, who held me down while Pestilence smacked me upside the head with his polo mallet.*

In a further stroke of irony—see what I did there?—I’m gonna miss my ‘flu shot today.

My brain has melted and is draining through my sinuses, leaving nothing but an empty, hurting space. So, if I commented on your blog today, I apologize for whatever it is I probably said. And  also for the spelling, which is usually the first canary to fall off the perch in the Mine of Malaise.

On the plus side, all this coughing is working my abs and obliques something fierce.  Ow.

Watson suggested—from a safe distance—that I hold a Snot Poem writing contest in lieu of content, but I’m afraid y’all will try it.

Instead, I’m going to direct you to another blog.  John S, who comments here sometimes, recently posted a poem of his, “Whetting,” that immediately fired up my imagination, as good poetry is wont to do.

Please go read it.  And while you’re at it, take a look at his other poems and posts, too.  Good stuff.

Meanwhile, I’m going back to bed with a fresh box of tissues and a mug of hot tea.

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*What else would an expert Horseman use?

There’s a virus inside us

Yesterday, the kids and I woke up with slight fevers and sore throats.  We stayed inside and did chores in the effort to bore the virus to death.

In retrospect, this might have been the wrong strategy.

By evening, Jane—who is given to bouts of bronchitis—was doing her dreaded seal impression, I was trying to cough the tickle out of my throat, and Sunny, who is normally a coloratura soprano, was clearing her throat like Isaac Hayes.

I was caught up in edits  and e-mails and went to bed a little later than was wise, only to be woken  at 1:30am by Sunny, who wanted a drink of water.  Since my husband had abandoned the various tweets, hoots whistles, and bear calls of my slumbering respiratory system for the couch, I did my motherly duty and stumbled into the kitchen to run cold water over my empty hand because I’d forgotten to pick up a cup.

After a hydrated Sunny was retucked into bed, I went back to my own pillow and wrapped myself and the cat into the quilt and the comforter.  It was pure bliss.

Until 3:45am, when Jane pulled off my covers and, in a way that let me know she’d been trying to get my attention for several minutes, said, “Mom, I can’t sleep.”

In one of those masterful strokes of Perfect Parenting for which I am so well known, I whined, “That doesn’t mean can’t—go back to bed.”

Oddly enough, this worked.

Two hours after that, my husband came back to bed and snuggled close, like my own personal heating pad . . . and my alarm went off.

I got up, stuck the thermometer in my ear,* looked at the readout and called in sick.  Then I went back to bed, asked my husband to take the kids to school, and slept until ten.

When I woke up, both kids were in their footie pajamas watching old Hanna Barbara cartoons in the living room.   I made peppermint tea, commandeered a corner of the sofa, and was soon enmeshed in the ongoing Perils of Penelope Pitstop, who is, in our family’s considered opinion, dumber than hair but fun to watch.

Jane is breathing with her entire body when she’s not trying to expel a lung, refused cheese toast and cocoa.  and is taking a voluntary nap.  Our parental alarms went off, and she has a pediatrician appointment in an hour.

Sunny has a fever and a cough, but no perceptible loss of energy—naturally.  She’s drawing pictures and bouncing around  to show them to everyone.

I myself am not entirely present on this plane of existence, but am holding down the fort, more or less—with the help of my MIL, who is in her element, with sick children to cater to, and Watson, who spent an hour trying to track down a copy of George of the Jungle though libraries, bookstores, and the four Best Buys within reasonable driving distance, because we all agreed that it was the perfect thing for a houseful of sick people to watch and none of us own it—while my husband takes a deserved pre-pediatrician nap

Five minutes after he’s awake, I won’t be.  So I thought I’d write this up and tell you why there won’t be a post today.

How’d I do?

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*I don’t know who invented the ear thermometer, but may great bucketfuls of good karma fall upon them for gifting us with something that has two buttons, a big digital readout, takes all of two seconds, and can be easily used by someone laboring under minimal sleep and coordination, even on the squirmiest kid, without risking physical or psychological trauma.  I salute you, ma’am or sir.