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Perhaps up until now your mind was rife with questions about your operation; how will they anaesthetise me, what if I wake up halfway through, what are the risks (that I completely forgot to ask about in the consultation room the other day), how long will the recovery take (will I recover…?). Sometimes the mind goes into overdrive and it can all seem a little overwhelming. The focus is on survival and recovery so it is inevitable that the practical things can be overlooked.
We thought we would make your life a little easier and develop a practical ‘what to take into hospital’ checklist. Because, the odds are, you will survive and we want to make your recovery in hospital a little easier. And incidentally, anaesthetists are really rather good these days. The likelihood of you waking up mid-surgery is similar to getting 5 balls in the lottery (a 1 in 11,098 chance).
This list is not exhaustive and we would love to hear from you if you would like us to add anything.
The first thing to remember is that space is limited. Your bag should ideally be something soft that can be squeezed into small spaces.
Your own pillow – this is not to say you will be deprived of a pillow to accompany your hospital bed, it just might be comforting if you are someone who has that ‘perfect’ pillow that you struggle to sleep without.
Personal items – Maybe tuck some photos or even a stuffed toy into your bag. Having something personal from home can be a huge comfort at times when you really need it.
Ear plugs – Let’s face it, a hospital ward is not exactly the paradise of peace and quiet. Prepare for night time beeps and chattering at the very least
Eye mask – as above but imagine bright lights on the ward when you are trying to get some important shut eye.
Wash bag with all the trimmings – think toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, moisturiser, comb or hairbrush, lip balm (to combat dry lips post-op), shampoo, razor, soap, sanitary towels or tampons, or any other essentials to keep you feeling fresh.
Slippers – you want to have some grips on the bottom of your slippers or comfy socks but they should be loose fitting as your feet may swell after surgery.
Mobile phone – Unless you’re still in the age of the dinosaurs, this may well serve you well for keeping in touch with the outside world while you are an inpatient. Just don’t forget your charger!
Headphones for your personal device (phone /iPad /tablet) – These will act as a distraction when boredom strikes. Think about what you might like to have – it could be a podcast, some preloaded movies or a favourite TV series to help lighten the mood. Perhaps this is an opportunity for worried well-wishers to get involved by creating a playlist, or putting together a selection of your favourite programmes to keep you occupied during your hospital stay. It may help them feel like they are contributing to your recovery.
Books, magazines, crossword puzzles – Variety will be the spice of life when it comes to your hospital stay. Anything to take you away from the ‘mundane’ for just a little bit. Sometimes concentration can be affected after major surgery. Try to keep your mind active. A bit of brain training is a good habit to get into.
A notebook – this is so useful to write down questions to ask healthcare professionals sometimes they can appear when you least expect them, and that element of surprise makes you forget that crucial question you had been holding in the forefront of your mind all day. Write these questions down as and when they arise. For the more tech-savvy amongst us it may be worth downloading a notebook app instead. You might even take some inspiration from a potentially tough time and channel it into becoming the next Stephen King….or maybe just a bit of blogging or diary writing for yourself. It is also a good way to track your own progress. Make a note of how many steps you have walked, how many circuits of the ward you have done, how you are feeling or your pain score. That way, when you go home, you have an objective marker of progress.
Medications – bring the medications that you typically take with you along with a written list of what you take and when. Your clinical team should be able to tell you what to continue or stop prior / after your operation.
Night clothes, dressing gown, loose-fitting day clothes and clean underwear – all the usual suspects here. No harm having a fresh change or two. Changing from night to day clothes may help restore a sense of normality. Short sleeves are also good in case you need an IV line.
Money – you might fancy the newspaper or different snacks to what’s on offer from the hospital trolley occasionally. Just a small amount for your bedside locker is no harm just in case.
Glasses, hearing aids, dentures, crutches – Think of those pieces of equipment that will help you to communicate and get by as smoothly as possible.
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