Preparing for surgery – what to bring.

What to bring to your surgery small

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.


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.

Tip: 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 proactive 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”?

19 thoughts on “Preparing for surgery – what to bring.”

  1. Shave your hairy arms.
    I have hairy arms. Do yourself a favor and shave them before going in. Helps tape for IV’s stick better and easier to remove too.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • Posted by: Dona

      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.

      This is excellent advice.

      I spent my hospital stay in a ward – sharing a large room with three other people. Sometimes, they had guests that could be very loud and bothersome and sometimes you do need to let them know (through your nurse) that you need some quiet.


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