I have been admitted to the hospital exactly
10 23 times, beginning in November of 2017, when my heart decided to start doing the Atrial Fibrillation Happy Dance. SInce those initial cardiac issues, fixed in 2018, I have been fighting Stage 3 Breast cancer, because of course I have.
I don’t mean to sound flippant or facetious about the whole experience, because I was scared out of my mind. The only thing that kept me sane was the absurdity of it all. In the midst of having to go to the hospital while I was having some severe cardiac issues, I still managed to be clear-headed enough to make sure my roommate’s cat was fed, that I went to the bathroom, and that I packed a bag. Can you believe it? Through the fear and the tears, I packed a freaking bag every. single. time.
Now, I keep a go bag packed and ready to go at my bedside. I try to keep it relatively lightweight, because there’s often nobody to help me leave the hospital, and there’s almost always a weight restriction upon discharge. It’s served me well through chemo and surgeries, too.
If you spend a lot of time back and forth to the hospital (or just want to be prepared), here are 13 things I always carry in my hospital go-bag:
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Previous visit paperwork
You’ll thank yourself, especially if this is for an emergency visit like most of my admits have been. Sure, they can look up the past visits, but if you carry them with you in an accordion file, they (and you) have that information when it matters in a trauma situation, and they don’t have to wait and guess.
You might want to carry a piece of paper in your wallet that has your meds, diagnoses, your primary care physician, and your next of kin on it, just in case you’re un-or-barely conscious.
A Notebook, a Magazine, a Pen, and a Book of Puzzles
You’ll be spending an awful lot of waiting time. Hospitals have notoriously shitty channels to choose from on the television, and who wants to read the magazines that have been sitting there since Nixon was in office? Having a book to read is good too, but that adds more weight to your bag. If you can do audiobooks, I use Hoopla and Overdrive apps, and get free audiobooks from my library – which might be particularly helpful if you’re incapacitated and tired of staring at the TV.
Trust me on this. Bring your own. Theirs are one-size doesn’t fit all, and they’re always ugly and uncomfortable.
Underwear + Comfy Bottoms
You never know how long you’ll be in the hospital, and you may find yourself without any way to score a fresh change of clothes. Having fresh panties and my comfy LuLaRoe leggings that my ladies’ group bought for me during my first recovery has been amazing. Sometimes those rooms are unreasonably cool, and nobody is in a hurry to bring a warm blanket.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
I shouldn’t have to explain this one. I can’t deal with un-fresh mouth, and waking up in a strange place with no tooth brush/paste just grosses me out. You don’t have to get out of bed to do this, so if you’re immobile, bonus!
Most hospitals have those really great baby/body wipes, but I never feel like those things are good for my face skin. I’m an aging female, and my skin is growing more delicate during the day, and yeah it’s vain, but it matters. I also don’t use body soap or body lotion on my face. It’s NOT made for delicate face skin. You can grab those face wipes for fairly inexpensively.
Hand sanitizer and lotion
It’s a hospital. There are germs. Hands crack and let the germs in when they’re too dry – which is why hot air hand-dryers in public restrooms are so freaking bad for you. Use the sanitizer, then use the lotion. Don’t touch your face.
This is especially important if you don’t have a toothbrush, but also in case you’re just too exhausted to brush your teeth more than once a day, or you have an upset tummy and permission to sip water until you’re better. Let’s be honest, you’re not gonna be dancing a jig.
Headphones and/or Bluetooth Headset
Especially important for keeping your phone conversations from disturbing your roommate, and for hearing your audio books. If you make them noise canceling, you’ll thank yourself.
Doesn’t matter if it’s rapid or not. The dollar store kind, in case it goes missing, is only a $2 investment.
Drink mix powders
If you can drink water, you can probably get clearance to drink flavored water. The hospital has limited choices, so take a few of these with you.
Cash/Change for vending machines, in case the cafeteria is closed
If you get to the hospital at 3AM, and you can actually have food or drink, you’ll want to be able to grab something. Also useful if you have visitors, because the hospital won’t feed them, too.
Contact lens case and solution, plus your glasses
Most surgical procedures require that you don’t wear contacts. You don’t want them taping your eyelids to your contacts, so take the stuff you’ll need to remove and save your contacts. The surgical team will remove them for you, if they catch it. If not, they might tape your contact to your eye. Your choice.
While I have you, I want to show you the bag I use for my hospital visits. I’ve been using it for years (through college, on overnight trips, etc.) and it’s still in perfect condition. It’s well worth the investment to have a well-made pack if you’re going to use it like this.
I also have a Wonder Woman backpack that my friend gave me when I started my cancer journey, and it goes with me to my day visits.
A few things to leave home
Extraneous electronics – don’t bring more than your phone. If you have kids, bring some coloring activity books and crayons. You don’t need the added stress of trying to keep track of lose-able, expensive electronics.
Your Medications. Every time I’ve gone in, they’ve made me take their pills and not my own.
Jewelry. Seriously, especially if you like having it. I have lost more cartilage piercings because nurses removed them for me for procedures, and they were just left somewhere I either couldn’t reach, or I was too dinged-out on anesthesia to put them in a safe place.
Ladies and gents, leave your wallets and purses at home, or at least as many things as you can stand to leave there. I take only my ID, my debit card, insurance card, and $10-20 in cash (small bills and change). You don’t need to risk everything walking away from your bedside, intentionally or not.
Did I miss something; do you have things that you always have to have with you in the hospital? Let me know in the comments below!