Preparing for surgery – what to bring.

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I’ll be heading in for my second surgery soon.  This time it will be to remove my rectum.  For my ileostomy surgery, I brought a lot of stuff to the hospital – too much, in fact.  So this time I’ll be trimming down what I bring based on that experience.  Here are some things that you should bring or may want to consider bringing during your next hospital stay.

Necessities 

It goes without saying that there are certain things that you MUST bring to the hospital – stuff that you can’t simply have a family member drop off during visiting hours once you’re admitted and recovering. Those things include:

  • Health card,  hospital card, insurance documents.   Depending on where you live, you’ll likely need both a health card and hospital card to be admitted for surgery.  You may also need your insurance card/documents if you’ve requested a private or semi-private room or extras that your insurance company covers.
  • Ostomy supplies/medical supplies/medicine.  While hospitals do carry these things (you’d hope!), they may not carry your particular brand or specific medication, so make sure you bring anything that you’ll normally be using at home. Since your expected time in the hospital may vary, it’s important to bring enough supplies to last at least a week longer than you anticipate.  It’s also important to make sure that extra supplies left at home are easily accessible by a friend or family member in case they need to bring you more in the event of an extended stay.
  • Toiletries. Things like toothpaste and a toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, lip balm, feminine hygiene products and skin moisturizer.  The hospital will likely have a generic soap and shampoo, but they may contain animal-products and you’ll likely want to bring something you already use and trust.  Travel-sizes are ideal.
  • Clothes.  Here’s where I really over-packed on my last hospital stay. I brought enough clothes to last for a week-long camping trip, and I only needed one change of clothes – the clothes I was going home in. My entire stay was spent in the hospital provided gown.  One thing I will note is to make sure you have enough underwear.  During my last stay, the hospital provided these very thin, cotton underwear, which were comfortable, but if you aren’t given those, it’s best to bring your own.  Since my next visit is for a rectal removal and anal closure, I can only imagine that I’ll be wearing the underwear they provide.  Of course, you may also want to bring extra socks and slippers.
  • Hotel reservation printout. If you booked a hotel to stay at the night before your hospital visit, you should bring the reservation confirmation to make sure things go smoothly when you check-in.

Nice things to bring

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect that the anesthetics I was given would affect me as much as they did.  I was extremely drowsy for WEEKS after my ileostomy, so my 6-day stay was mostly spent sleeping.  Depending on how you react to the meds you are given (and what pain level you are at), you might want to bring something to pass the time in the hospital.

  • Books/magazines.  If you enjoy reading, there’s no better time than the quiet time you get in the hospital.
  • MP3 player/Cell phone/ipad/laptop.  I only brought a smartphone on my last stay – a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  I love that phone – it does everything I could want and it was a life-line for me while I was in the hospital. Bring something that you know you’ll be able to enjoy, whether to play music, play a game, read with or watch a movie with, keeping your mind entertained is something you’ll want to do.  DON’T rely on the TV in your room because they may not be working – two out of three of the people that were in my ward couldn’t get their TV’s working for many days, despite them making many calls and even having a technician come to the room… and they didn’t bring anything else to entertain themselves with.   Bring headphones!
  • Snacks.  Yes, you’ll be fed while in the hospital, but it may not be something you’ll like. I was put on an ileostomy diet and I specified that it must not contain animal products.  That pretty much left the entire menu reduced to mashed potatoes, crackers, applesauce and orange juice. Fortunately, I discovered that they could provide potato chips – yes, the desperation was strong at that point. My wife brought me organic juice and soy milk (the small packs with straws that don’t need to be refrigerated), but she could have also brought crackers, cookies, and other non-perishable items.  Keep in mind that depending on your surgery, you may be restricted to eating certain foods.  For my next surgery, both the hospital menu and what I’m able to bring from outside won’t be so limited.  MAKE SURE you let the hospital know that you’d like a vegan diet (you’ll likely have to explain that dairy, chicken, and fish aren’t vegan foods…).  There’s nothing worse than being served something that you can’t eat while you’re in pain and nauseated to begin with.
For more information on how to manage hospital food, check out THIS article.

Things to consider

  • Earplugs.  For some, the sounds in a hospital aren’t conducive to relaxation.  If you are in a ward, like I was, you may be in a room where people snore or talk loud, or perhaps they fell asleep with their loud TV left on all night.  In a private room, perhaps the buzzing of your IV pump may drive you crazy… either way, earplugs might be a good option.   For me, I was able to play some soothing rain sounds on my phone and together with my headphones, I was able to get some very enjoyable nights of rest!
  • Sleeping masks. These will come in handy if there’s too much light for you to sleep or if you want to have a nap during the day.
  • Leave your jewelry at home.  You don’t want to lose your wedding ring or necklace, and your hospital won’t be responsible for your lost items.
  • If you aren’t sure about certain things allowed at the hospital (like a cell phone), call in advance to make sure that they’ll allow you to use it.  You should be able to get information during your pre-op, but it’s best to be pro-active and ask questions – don’t assume that you’ll get all the information you need.  I’m surprised by how many ostomates go into surgery or have surgery without knowing anything about the procedure, the hospital policy or other important details.
  • Don’t forget your chargers.  If you’re bringing any electronics.
  • Teddy bear/stuffed animal/pictures from home.  Some people become home-sick, scared or lonely in hospitals. It might help to bring a favorite stuffed animal or photos from home.  For kids going in, this may be the most important stuff to carry.
  • Let your family and friends know. You may not want visitors at the hospital, so politely ask friends and family not to come.  I had several family members visit me after my ileostomy, but I was too tired to enjoy their company.  Rest while you’re there – you’ll have plenty of time for visits when you’re feeling strong and healthy again.

I hope this short list gives you some ideas on what to bring to your next hospital stay.  Your doctor may give you a booklet of things to consider as well.

QUESTION: If you’ve been in the hospital overnight, what are some things that you’ve brought with you?  Have I missed any “must-haves”?

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Dona
Member

So true, Linda. I am glad someone took you seriously and they found that infection. Very scary.Its hard to fight for what you know is right when you are sick , weak , and recovering. The thing that saved me during that first recovery is that they found c-diff in my remaining rectum and put me in a private room! Silver linings, I guess.

Linda Knelsen
Member

Hey Dona…you are right about that. I had to complain about a nurse one time. She would buzz by my bed during rounds, and she refused to take my temperature one day, saying oh, your always a little warm. I tried explaining to her that I usually never run a fever even when I am sick, and I insisted that something was wrong. When the head nurse came around I told her what that nurse had said and she told me that it is her policy to listen to the patient before anything and anyone as they know there bodies best. I was so happy she said that, and then she took my temperature. I was about 103 degrees. The head nurses eyes lit up and she said she was calling the doctor. I had no pain at all. It was through the blood work that they discovered an infection. By the end of the week I was on three different antibiotics, and feeling very unwell. I never saw the sassy nurse again for the rest of that stay. The point here to all is that if you feel something is wrong, it does not hurt to press the issue, and I always recommend talking to the head nurse. She got there for a reason and I have always had great respect for them. Things like having a TV on up the hall that is so loud you can hear it in your room. There is no reason for that in this day of head phones and ear buds. All patients should have enough respect for others by using them no matter what they listen to. Expect results if you complain about something within reason, and also ask your own guests to be respectful of others that are not well in the room.

Dona
Member

PJS018,Good luck on the upcoming reversal and recovery. This will I hope be a swift recovery for you as you are hopefully going into it healthier than when you got the first surgery and stoma and had been dealing with the illness.Anyway, good luck. Positive outlook never hurts either.

Dona
Member

Hi Linda,Yes.. by the time I had surgery I had gone without sleep ( another horrible effect of IBD) for over three years. I was SO ready to sleep! I had my shiny new stoma and a catheter and a morphine drip! I was all set until the party started. Main message here is:Don’t be afraid to complain to the staff about the noise/light/ pain or whatever is causing you not to recover as quickly as you can.

Linda Knelsen
Member

Dona…you must of been so drained to be at the point of tears. I think it is fair to worn people  that emotions can be a little tricky after surgery for some. They are for me every time. I do always carry several packs of ear plugs with  me, but also bring a used pill bottle along to store them in.They will be clean and kept in a top drawer, handy I also angle my little night stand towards my bed a bit so I do not have to over reach very far to access what I have in the top drawer . another hing do is I take 2 pieces of ribbon, sewed them to the back inside of  my heels, long enough pieces to tie together then hang over the rail of my bed. I chose ribbon because it is flat and can easily be tucked into the slipper for safety when walking. This saves searching someone out who can get on there knees and nab them from under the bed. As experience goes, house keeping most always stashed my slippers under the bed. Not sure the spelling, but a grograin ribbon does not slip in the bow s easy as silky does, I also usually always bring extra along because anyone one else who has had surgery wants some of there own, so I am glad to help them out & yes also carry the thread and small scissors to they can stitch it in. Use  polyester thread, it is harder to break then regular cotton thread.  After surgery you should not be crawling or reaching under your bed to retrieve them. I can not express enough to drink as much fluids as allowed after surgery. I can not drink tap water so we figured out how many bottles of H2O I drink a I could a day and my hubby brought up a new supply every day. With a black marker, I wrote my initials near the bottom to identify them and the room number. They were only swiped once before that, but that was enough. The journal was something I started in 1996, it was a fabulous thing to have. I am glad you liked that idea,  journaling food is something I took very seriously when I started having bowel blockages. It was so good to figure out what did not work well for my system. One more of my secrets…bring along a small LED flashlight with a single bulb in it, or a regular flashlight if you can find it, then when the nurses make the last visit in the evening, you can use that to get around and read or write in a journal. As Dona experienced, it is a polite thing to do. Try your best to close your end of bed curtain and sides at night, it is a  feeling of your own room and may help you relax a bit better. It also keeps you from accidentally blinding your roommates. In general you will get a red rose type black tea, I also always bring a Ziploc full of my favorite teas. If your allowed salt and pepper bring along a small Tupperware set with your own. It you wait for it from the  kitchen staff or nurses, you will get it when they have time. By then your meal will be cold. One last of my secrets. Hospital food is not usually cooked with a lot of salt if any, so prepare for that. If you do not have a container go to your fav. restaurant and ask to purchase several packs from them. Go armed with a baggie and even ketchup if you need it get thru a meal. These are a fewofmy favorite secrets. I do not share them often, but hey, we are on the same team here. pjs018, don’t forget extra batteries and listen to the Doctors orders for limitations. I ended up back in the hospital 8 days after surgery onetime from folding towels while sitting down. Bored or not…read a book instead.  I am sure you will heal well, make sure you have extra batteries. And a black out mask is not a bad idea either if you are thinner then usual, you may not have enough fat on your eyelids to block out all the light and your rest is essential while recovering. All the best to anyone having surgery, sorry this is long but these are things I wish I had known. :)

pjs018
Member

I will bring my kindle & headphonesmy reversal surgery is January 14

Dona
Member

a journal is a GREAT idea.Also, most recovery rooms and hospital rooms are not quiet and not dark.I had a noise canceling head set or you could bring ear buds and music. Also I wish I had brought a sleep mask. I had a shared room during  one stay and my roomie kept the light and TV on until midnight! Ouch.One person even had a loud party in the room with six extra people .. that went on until a nurse came in to check my vitals and I burst into tears ( we are sometimes less in control of ourselves than we would like to be). Funny in hindsight!

Linda Knelsen
Member

P.S. I am 60 and I still carry with me a teddy bear my hubby gave me when all this started! Comfort when you need it,  is comfort. :)

Linda Knelsen
Member

These are all really good suggestions, however, I also brought along some cross stitch and a word find/cross word puzzle book. They do help pass the time with little concentration which you may discover you have little of, after anesthetic. I would also suggest to anyone to bring along a journal of sorts so that you can keep track of tests, doctors visits and what was said, and questions you want to ask, symptoms and what went on in the daytime and night.  This was helpful to my hubby as he would ask these questions and in my fuzzy frame of mind I found it much easier to hand him the book then to try and explain it myself. You can add to it information passed to you and suggestions by visiting stoma nurses.  I had been so sick that even ten years later, time lines were not what I remembered, but in finding my journals not so long ago, I was a bit amazed at what I remembered and what was written down. Good luck to anyone going under soon, may the best of health be your goal, physically and mentally. Acceptance is a really big thing with these wonderful ostomies. If you do not have a name for your stoma already, be sure and name it, if you have trouble with that as I did, you can usually bet that your stoma will help you discover its personality and suggest its own name! Mine did three times. From Mt. Vicuvious sp? to little B….to her permanent name Rose, because it really is a beautiful thing. Health, happiness, and a sense of humor to all.

CatEyed22
Member

I have this floppy eared stuffed dog I got for Christmas when I was seven whom I immediately named Slippers. He used to be pink and now is a weird gray, with patches and bald spots, but after 23 years I suppose that’s to be expected. To this day, he goes where I go. He’s coming with me this time, no doubt about it, just as he has come with me to all of my other surgeries. Oh if he could talk I’m sure he’d have some stories to tell.

sutton
Guest
sutton

I like how you talked about bringing books and magazines to pass the time after colon surgery. My husband is going into surgery next month. I appreciate the suggestions on what to bring to the hospital.

Viv
Guest
Viv

Books! I was in hospital two weeks before my surgery happened then a week post op / iPhone and laptop helped but you don’t want laptop lying around when you go for tests or the surgery as unfortunately people wander in and steal things! My nurses warned me so I sent my laptop home with family rather than keep with me! Books are ok to favs lying around and keep the mind active as it’s easy to get disoriented to Time and day of week etc – when you’ve been there for weeks!

Nyx
Guest
Nyx

When I was in hospital both for my stoma surgery, and the last time I was in for a massive infection, I brought a portable dvd player and movies…it’s much cheaper than having to pay for the hospital’s tv service. Plus, remember to bring gum or hard candies. Both will make your bowels work faster without actually eating.