What’s in my bag: Hospital stay edition

What’s in my bag: Hospital stay edition

By Keri Blackwell

Needless to say, I feel like a veteran in the hospital stays department. When I was a child I spent more time inpatient than at home with family. As a young adult I have had some extended stays due to botched surgeries and some “surprise stays” where I’ve show up to a scheduled oncology appointment or to the emergency room for a “simple fix” and end up being admitted. At points in my life I’ve sadly called the hospital my home for some pretty long stays.

Over the years I’ve complied some must haves items for comfort and sanity that I have come to depend on. I think everyone has their phones filled with their favourite podcasts, music, and Netflix downloads, their journals to keep your medical notes from those lovely 7 a.m. rounds (or a recording app on your phone will also work), but here are my other essentials.

Unexpected stay

While in active treatment I like to keep a surprise bag in my trunk. a just-in-case bag. It doesn’t have all my comforts, but it has my basics that make  hospital stays tolerable. It’s an old backpack that I don’t have a need for so I don’t miss it, and the articles inside are something I need but don’t use regularly in my house.

In my surprise bag I like to keep:

Lightweight pyjamas
Short sleeved for IV access/blood draws, scooped neck for port access.

Zip-up sweater
In case you’re cold. The zip-up also helps with line accesses/lines and in case you need blood pressure cuffs attached (less of a pain in the caboose).

Slipper socks or sandals
Season depending. I just find they’re able to fold up in my bag easily and they’re no hassle.

Listerine breath strips
I maybe in the hospital but my breath is on point.

ChapStick
Lips crack, cute interns walk in.

Dry shampoo
Just a small can. If my hair is gone, I have some scarves, a ball hat/beanie. I’ve never worn a wig (personal choice).

Spare charger for phone
I also like to keep a battery booster and spare pair of headphones from dollar store.

Travel size toiletries
Toothbrush, toothpaste, an elastic, and hand lotion.

All these items are able to be left in my trunk not missed and are then ready to grab and go.

Planned stay

A planned hospital stay is a little different because I’m able to plan and be ready.  I’ll  always plan it out for a week’s stay (hopeful, but possibly realistic). I make my checklist and get to packing.

I pack BIG, starting with my suitcase; it’s oversized and on wheels. (I’ve never been understated.) In my suitcase I like to keep:

Comfort blanket
We all have one; mine’s always the first thing packed.

Pillow and an extra pillow case

Foldable laundry hamper from the dollar store

Zip-up hooded sweater
Again, it’s an easy access thing.

Comfy clothes
Ideally also used as pyjamas/lounge wear. Thing shorts, tank tops, and oversized tees. I also live in leggings. When I had my abdominal surgeries, I wore loose sun dresses that were cotton/jersey so nothing touched my tummy (they looked so much cuter then my jammies).

Normal toiletries
Toothbrush/paste, hair brush, shampoo/dry shampoo, my own soap/body wash (hospital stuff is YUCK),  lip balm, deodorant, a make up mirror, moisturizer (’cause the hospital makes your girl dry), and mascara.

Baby wipes
They’re amazing for when you want to wash up but can’t.

My medical journal and a pen
For myself, a family member, or sometimes my doctor to write down important things about my stay. 

Amazon gift card
It’s kind of fun to see what you order randomly when the meds kick in.

Pocket change
Not a big  amount, just enough for a soda or something at the gift shop (incentive to get up and walking).

Spare charger for phone
I also like to keep a battery booster and spare pair of headphones from dollar store.

Sandals
Easy, quick, and no fuss.

Physical photos
My phone has numerous amounts of photos, but I always like to have a actual picture of my loved ones ( and my fur babies, of course). It helps to keep me focused.

Affirmation cards
Made my myself or friends, just to remind myself to get up, kick ass, and repeat.

My going home outfit
Something comfy, but cute. You know someone is going to snag a photo, might as well try and make it a good one.

Remember, everybody’s hospital stays are different. If my essentials aren’t your essentials, I think the most important thing is to surround yourself with things that bring you comfort and ease.

Be gentle with yourself. Healing is a journey, a process that can be difficult and discouraging at times. As much as we all HATE hospital stays, be honest with your doctors, don’t rush leaving, and listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you.

If possible try and stay connected to groups like YACC while you’re isolated from the outside world during your hospital stay. Connection and sense of community is great for your mind set and in turn will help with your healing process.


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