Monday, December 1, 2014

Must Haves For More Pleasant Hospital Stays

Hospitals are extremely useful places; let's state that right out of the gate. I have the utmost respect and love for these facilities and the people who work in them.  If you are sick or in need of surgery,  hospitals are the ideal place to be, because taking care of the sick and the injured is all they do.   There's 24 hour care, and you don't even have to get out of bed if you don't want to do so.  Someone will bring you food at regular intervals, and if you need anything, all you have to do is press that Very Special Button on your bed.  Someone will show up and take care of you.  That's some serious laziness right there--the nurses will bring you a bedpan if you can't be bothered/are unable to get out of bed, and they will clean you up if you happen to miss.   Not that that has ever happened to me. *cough*
Of course, the downside of being in a hospital is that one doesn't necessarily get to enjoy the enforced laziness, because you're sick/injured/both. I stayed in a hospital when my son was born, but that was years ago.    Last week was different.  Last week I had a mastectomy. Then I had some of those lovely "complications" that you hear about on the television shows, where some doctor named Dreamy or McSteamy shows up to save the day. Long story short, I was in the hospital three days.  Three whole days of nothing but sitting on my butt in a bed.

Three. Whole. Days. 

I had a lot of time to think while I was in that hospital bed, because my husband would not allow me to access the hospital's unsecured WiFi.  One of the topics I thought hard about was how I might provide my fellow person with some sort of helpful survival hints regarding hospital visits.  If I had to suffer, at least the next person would be able to benefit from my wisdom.  It took me a few minutes to narrow things down, but here are my top bits of advice.  I hope that none of you ever need to be hospitalized for anything, but if you ever are, here is what you will need to make your stay less likely to result in mayhem. 

1. A private room.  I didn't think about requesting a private room; I was so completely overwhelmed by the idea of having a mastectomy that it slipped my mind until they wheeled me into the room.  Meh, I said.  I can get along with just about anybody, I said.  I'll deal, I said.  That was obviously the drugs talking.  My roomie turned out to be a 62 year old woman suffering from kidney stones, among other ailments.  I know way more about this woman than I should because She. Did. Not. Stop. Talking. Ever.  And all of what she said was TMI.  The privacy curtain that my husband pulled between us was taken as a suggestion rather than a blatant hint. She even commandeered MY doctors when they came in to check on me, and they had to hear about the size of her kidney stones and pain levels while I mouthed "I AM SO SORRY!" on the other side of the curtain.  When this wonderful lady wasn't talking, she was praying over me.  Then I felt guilty for wanting to punt her out the window, but only a little bit. The silence once she was finally discharged was golden, and I have learned my lesson.  A private room is now a nonnegotiable. 

2. Stuff to do.  You may want to sleep the entire first day that you're in the hospital, and that is okay. You're doped up on anesthesia and pain meds.   After a certain point, however, you're awake and then what?  I planned ahead, and brought my phone, my Kindle, and some crochet to work on.  You won't remember much, so a hospital stay is not the time to read anything more fluffy than the latest sleezy romance novel or your favorite movie.  Something entertaining, but not involving deep thought. That way, if you don't remember any of it, you won't feel cheated.  I also brought power cords for those items, and my husband found an extension cord that could go from the wall to right next to my bed.  You really don't do much deep thinking on morphine, no matter what they tell you.  So crocheting something simple, like a scarf, is a good idea.  If you are a mom, like me, it would also be of benefit to bring a few activities for children, such as coloring books or checkers.  Otherwise, you might find yourself cringing as your "cooped up in school all day" son runs all over, pressing all the pretty buttons, pulling all the shiny levers, climbing all the furniture, and raising a ruckus in a place where ruckuses are generally frowned upon.  On the other hand, the nurses suddenly showed up with chocolate pudding for everyone, because you have to be quiet and sit still in order to eat chocolate pudding correctly.  
3. Ear plugs/eye mask. The hospital provided these items for me, and boy was I grateful.  You would not believe the number of lights and sounds that are inconveniently located in your room, but you will discover every last one of them once it's lights out.  Such as the machine that massages your legs to prevent blood clots.  Or the IV pump that lights up and sounds the alarm when you run out of morphine.  Or the television above your roommate's bed that has to run because she's so busy talking that she can't sleep.  That's not including all the times that various people come into your room to poke you with needles or take your blood pressure.  I put that eye cover on and those ear plugs in and was off to slumber land for at least the four hours before shift change.  A white noise machine or app that muffles some of the strange sounds around you can also help. 

4. Comfy clothes.  Depending on your type of illness or surgery, you may be allowed to wear certain items of clothing, like underpants.  It will depend on where your stitches happen to be.  Once I had on underpants, I didn't care as much about whether anyone could see my back when I got out of bed.  I didn't feel as awkward.  I was comfy, and a comfy patient is a happy patient.  If it makes you happy to have your own slippers or your own robe, bring those with you to the hospital.  Avoid items that are tight or constricting, like those skinny jeans.  If you can get away with not wearing a bra, I would leave it at home and just put on a t-shirt.  Also know that you will need help getting dressed when it is time to leave; you may not be able to bend or lift your arms.  Plan accordingly.

5. Essential beauty items.  Not a single person expects any hospital patient to look their very best. You're supposed to look like the aftermath of a three day binge in Vegas, not like you're about to head onstage for a Miss America contest(they still have those, right?).  However, a few items might help you feel like yourself, such as deodorant, a toothbrush, etc.  You may not be able to take a bath or shower for a couple of days due to your stitches, for instance.  There are these wonderful wipes that you can purchase at Walgreens or CVS that are specifically for people who are bedridden or unable to bath.  No water required, and the hospital will warm them up for you if necessary.   A toothbrush and toothpaste will also help you feel more human during your hospital stay.  The main item for me is dry shampoo.  I feel the crappiest when my hair feels oily and stringy and itchy and just plain icky.  By the third day I am ready just to shave my entire head, if only to feel semi clean again.  Dry shampoo, which doesn't require water, helps me feel semi-normal again.  In a pinch, baby powder will do; you just need something to soak up a bit of the oil on your scalp. 

6. Sense of humor.  Look, for whatever reason, you're in the hospital.  You're doped up on morphine, you're attached to an IV on a pole,  which curtails any unsupervised potential bathroom trips. You've got some sort of tube coming out of your chest that is draining strange liquids that you didn't even know your body could produce.  There's a roommate who has been chattering repetitively and nonstop in between fervent prayers for your immediately healing.  A bunch of medical personnel are poking and prodding you at random moments to make sure you're still breathing.  And the biggest excitement of your day is the fact that you get to eat jello or chocolate pudding.  If you can't find the humor in all of that,  you might need more than just a hospital stay.
After my first night at the hospital, I was ready to go home mentally, but not physically.  I had to be patient. I hate being patient.  Needless to say, when my doctor finally did say that I could go home, I nearly kissed him right on the lips.  My husband nearly kissed him right on the lips, too.  I was dressed and ready to go so quickly that I didn't want to wait for that wheelchair ride to the lobby; I practically ran out of the joint and into our SUV.   The nurse marveled at my amazing healing powers; I was just eager to get home. 

It's good to be home.  


  1. I am so glad you're home and comfy. I agree with your entire list... especially the extension cord... Tony brought me one also. You have no idea how many things need plugs. And the few times I was able to take a shower the smell of my shampoo was a GOD SEND. Even the nurses commented on how nice it was.

    Tony also brought me my own pillow from home. :)

  2. Just so glad you're home and comfy.

    It's a great list and once again you amaze me withe your willingness to write about it and share these tips with others. But you amaze me just by bring you most days. Xo

  3. I do love that you are keeping your wonderful sense of humor and wit. I'm glad you're home too.

  4. Hahahahahaha!! I'm just ROFLMFAO (yes, us Aussies LOVE our abbreviations!). Probably because it brought back memories of the 6 days I spent in hospital for major surgery a few years ago. I think I faked being sicker than I was pretty well because a) the Doctor allowed me to stay an extra day (just LOVED that press-the-buzzer-and-someone-will-come-and-attend-to-all-your-needs thing); b) I lost 6 kg (about a stone) so the kitchen kept bringing little treats to 'tempt' my non-existent appetite; c) my bowel motion boot-camp almost became a matter of public record; and d) my sister baked me a cake for when I got out! Luckily for me, the Tour de France was on while I was languishing in hospital and because it's on the other side of the world, I got to spend those sleepless nights watching tight buns pumping pedals through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Sigh. I miss it sometimes :D Seriously, glad you're home - but play those pains for sympathy while you still can!


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